The radish's good looks are a big part of its appeal. A bright white interior is encased in a thin layer of skin coloured somewhere between hot pink and cherry red. Chefs consequently find this spicy little root just the thing to decorate a pretty plate, yet it has far more scope than its role as a garnish. When fresh and firm it has a bracing, bitter heat. It's great as a one-bite crunch; thinly sliced with raw or smoked fish; or julienned and added to salads. Freshness fades as the root ages and the flavour dulls. Radishes are sold in bunches with their tops still on, and the leaves start to wilt fairly quickly, so it's easy to judge how long it was since they were plucked from the ground. Bunches with leaves that look good enough to add to a salad are bound to be firm and tasty. In fact, don't try that - the leaves are a bit overwhelming raw, but they do cook down well in a soup or pasta sauce.
WAYS WITH RADISHES
Radishes pickle well, which is a handy tip for gardeners who find themselves with a glut. Boil up half a cup each of rice vinegar and sugar with a teaspoon of sea salt and pour over two cups of sliced radishes. Refrigerate overnight before using.
Peter Inderbitzen grows bananas at Lakeland Downs. ''If you don't know where that is, it's just south of New Guinea,'' he jokes. In fact, it's about 70 kilometres south of Cooktown. When cyclone Yasi wiped out 95 per cent of Queensland's banana crop last year, Inderbitzen's Swiss Farms was spared. The mad prices that went with the consequent supply squeeze handed Inderbitzen a windfall he has put back into the industry. He planted more bananas, built a new packing shed, hired more workers, and installed Australia's first banana monorail. This transport system reduces the waste caused by bananas being damaged between field and shed as they jiggle and jerk and mash each other on the backs of trailers. The new system sees the bunches slung over a suspended cable for transportation to the sheds. The bunches can hang until they are de-handed, packed and shipped out. Over the next few weeks, growers are expecting a spike in the production of Queensland bananas and that should mean good prices for shoppers.
Warmer weather means parsley is sprouting in gardens all around Sydney. This new growth is softer and milder in flavour than the hardy leaves that held on through winter. Cooks who are not already growing their own parsley can plant some now. Pots of seedlings bought from garden centres can be divided and planted into a sunny spot in the garden, or simply potted up into a bigger pot. Plenty of water, sunshine and occasional liquid fertiliser keep parsley's growth steady.
WHAT TO BUY
Apples Granny smiths and West Australian pink ladies were picked in autumn but are still firm and tasty.
Asparagus Australian and Peruvian bunches to choose from.
Blueberries The NSW season is under way.
Broad beans A lovely spring treat.
Broccoli One of the bargain greens of spring.
Cabbage Both savoy and drumhead types are good at the moment.
Gai lan Broccolini is pricey, but its parent is a bargain.
Mandarins A few different varieties are available to try.
Mangoes Early fruit from the Northern Territory is available.
Mushrooms Choose mild-flavoured buttons for salads.
Oranges The blood oranges are finishing up.
Peas Podded peas, sugar snaps and snow peas are delicious.
Strawberries Quality is still good.