Flavour trees: making flavours fun!

Flavour trees: making flavours fun!

Flavour combinations … we’€™ve all had that amazing moment when you take a bite of a meal and suddenly realise you have the most amazingly perfect combination of flavours in your mouth.


Nailing a flavour combination takes a reasonable amount of skill though, so how can you teach kids who are learning to cook about flavours? How can you explain which combinations work and which don’€™t or how a cook can use a few simple herbs to conjure memories and tastes of a country on the other side of the world?

One of our favourite ways to explain flavour combinations to kids is using a flavour tree.

Imagine that the different herbs of a flavour palate are the roots, they grow together in the trunk and then sprout out branches that are all different combinations of the flavours… recipes!

If you take Thai food as an example (and it is a great one because it has distinctive flavours and is quick and easy for kids to cook, plus it’€™s delicious) you would create a flavour tree by putting ingredients like lime, garlic, chilli, white vinegar, soy, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and Thai basil as the roots, and you could then have recipes like massaman beef, green curry and a whole variety of stir-fries at the top.

It’s fun and exciting (as well as educational) for kids to imagine the flavour combinations and then experiment with them.

And who knows, if you spend an afternoon making a flavour tree they might even have cooked you dinner by the end of it!

The Five basic Tastes: Salty,sour, spicey,bitter sweet,

They need to see a map of the country when looking at the flavours. Some countries border on so many countries that the influences for cooking come from the border countries plus the conquerors of that country. For example, Thailand has French influence as well as shifting from cooler to tropical.

Flavours: Made with spices and herbs.

Thai –€“ Lime, Bird’s eye chilies, white vinegar, basil, Fish sauce, palm sugar, soya sauce, garlic, lemongrass.

Chinese -€“ onion, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, five spice, bean sprouts, carrots, shallots.  (North, South, East, West styles of food).

Japanese -€“ onion, sesame seeds, soya sauce, mirin (like a sake), soba noodles.

Indonesian €- curry powder, coconut milk, peanuts, carrots, sambal oelek.

Indian -€“ curry powder, cardamon, coriander, turmeric, Asafoetida, cumin, fennel seeds.

Italian –  Parsley, oregano, sage, garlic, ginger, vanilla.

Instructions for making a flavour tree:

  • Fill in main Herbs & Spices for that country/style cooking at roots.
  • Look for recipes with these in them or create your own.
  • Write recipe on paper, fold and stick to tree.
  • Hang tree on board or in kitchen to use.

Below is a full sized Flavour Tree template for you to print out.


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Not all gas is bad…

The word gas tends to conjure a multitude of images ranging from your heater to, well … let’€™s just call them – smells!

In fact, when it comes to ripening fruit and vegetables ethylene gas, a naturally occurring ripening hormone, really is your best friend.

Did you know that no avocados ripen on trees? It is the action of picking that ‘triggers’€™ the process that ripens the fruit. They are sent to the market unripened to assist with transport and to prevent them from bruising.

How then can you turn your unripe avocados into ‘€˜Guacamole’€™?

The thing that helps avocados ripen and in fact lots of other fruits and veg, is ethylene. It is naturally omitted when plants are ripe, damaged or stressed. You know that old saying ‘One bad apple spoils the barrel’€, well that refers to the fact that a rotting apple emits ethylene causing the others to ripen quickly. When we touch a pallet of mangoes they are warm as they are naturally ripening.

Ancient Egyptians and the ancient Chinese both recorded farming techniques that used natural ethylene to ripen fruit such as bananas, mangoes, tomatoes and avocados.

Large supermarket chains use an ‘artificial’€™ ethylene gas to ripen. The reason being is so that they can control their supply chain. Into cold storage and limbo, then out to ethylene chambers to ripen the produce quickly. This is why the fruit and veg doesn’t last very long on the shelf and in the fridge.

Harvest Hub produce has only being picked within days by the Grower which means, sometimes, the fruit might need to be naturally ripened. There is no supply chain – no storage. Just fresh seasonal produce. So go the natural and seasonal way by using nature’€™s ripening tool – just put the avocado in a paper bag with a ripe banana, apple or kiwi fruit and let the naturally occurring ethylene do its thing.

Now. Did someone say ‘Guacamole’?

Guacamole Dome with Tortilla Wedges (a variation on the theme)

Serves 6:

  • 1 cup corn oil
  • 8 corn tortilla, each cut into 12 slim wedges
  • 2-3 ripe avocados
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 -2 Jalapeno peppers, deseeded and finely chopped (replace with red capsicum if not want hot)
  • 1/3 cup of cilantro (basil) or flat leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced

In a fry pan heat oil over medium heat. Fry tortilla wedges in batches until crisp. With a slotted spoon transfer to paper towel and drain.

Cut avocados in half and remove pits. Scoop out avocado and put in a bowl to mash with a fork. Add onion, peppers, coriander or parsley, lime juice and salt. Mix well. Stir in tomato gently -€“ do not muddy colour.

On a platter mound guacamole in the centre with a dome, Place cucumber slices around the edge. Arrange tortilla wedges points up all over the dome in pincushion fashion. Serve.

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Baby turnips… a cunning plan indeed!

Lovers of Blackadder will know that his dung-covered man-servant Baldrick‘s ambition in life ‘is the acquisition of turnips’. Of course back in the 1700’s food – any food – was in short supply and so turnips were highly desirable.

From the onset of the industrial revolution the humble turnip went into terminal decline from which is never quite recovered… that is until the Grima brothers (baby vegetable specialists from the Sydney basin) brought out the baby turnip!

Super sweet to taste, baby turnips are low in saturated fat and cholesterol yet high in calcium, fibre, and essential vitamins and minerals including manganese,potassium,vitamin B6, vitamin C.

Far from being considered food for lower classes and servants, baby turnips are now highly fancied by upmarket restaurants for their incredibly sweet taste.

Baby turnips are delicious when sauted -€“ put a dash of virgin olive oil in a frying pan and put over medium heat. When hot add turnip, stir to coat and then add two tablespoons of water. Cover with lid to sauted, and cook for roughly 20 minutes.

You can also grate them and pop them in to patties, or eat them raw as part of a salad. And they will last for at least 2 weeks when stored in a crisper.

Suddenly joining Baldrick in the €˜turnip workhouse seems like a cunning plan indeed!


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The ABC and D of avocados

Ripen your avocados, then try our fantastic recipes!

  • A is for avocado
  • B is for beneficial to your health
  • C is for children (because they love avocados)
  • and
  • D is for delicious!

Avocados are amazing -€“ a complete powerhouse of goodness in a dark green skin, ready to open and eat at a second€™s notice.

They tick so many boxes in terms of ease of preparation and being good for you that, if they were a person, they would be one of those people who are nice, attractive and clever and make it all look easy..Super tagged! Aaaaahhhhh!!!   Lucky that avocado taste Incredible!

Let’s get specific… what makes avocado so good for you?

  • œ“high in fibre
  • œ“nourishing – Potassium (helps regulate blood pressure), Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K
  • œ“powerful carotenoid anti-oxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin (really important for healthy cells)
  • œ“gluten-free
  • vegan
  • œ“raw foods diet
  • œ“no cholesterol
  • œ“lots of healthy monounsaturated fat like an olive

Avocados are so full of goodness that it’€™s considered a super food. They are currently being investigated in association with prostate cancer treatments, are believed to help slow the aging process (don’€™t we all wish!) and scientific research has shown that people who eat avocado tend to have a healthier diet overall.

If you’€™re now imagining yourself as a youthful super being that eats lots of fruit and veggies, has low cholesterol, healthy cells, and low blood pressure, you’€™ll need to get eating some avocados ASAP and here are some delicious recipes to get you started.

Guacamole Dome with Tortilla Wedges (a variation on the theme)

Serves 6:

  • 1 cup corn oil
  • 8 corn tortilla, each cut into 12 slim wedges
  • 2-3 ripe avocados
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 -2 Jalapeno peppers, deseeded and finely chopped (substitute with red capsicum if too spicy)
  • 1/3 cup of cilantro (basil), coriander or flat leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced

In a fry pan, heat oil over medium heat. Fry tortilla wedges in batches until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to paper towel and drain. Cut avocados in half and remove pits. Scoop out avocado and put in a bowl, mash with a fork. Add onion, peppers, coriander or parsley, lime juice and salt. Mix well. Gently fold the tomato in -€“ do not muddy colour. On a platter mound guacamole into a dome, place cucumber slices around the edge. Arrange tortilla wedges points up all over the dome in pincushion fashion. Serve.

Avocado and pomegranate dip

  • 2 ripe avocados, mashed
  • 2 tbs onion, finely chopped
  • 1 chilli, minced
  • 1 tbs fresh coriander, chopped
  • 3 tbs fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup pomegranate seeds (one pomegranate worth)

In a medium bowl, gently combine the mashed avocado, onion, chilli, cilantro, lime juice and salt until well mixed. Gently add in pomegranate seeds and stir to combine.

Avocado tips:

To ripen: To speed up ripening place avocado in a paper bag with an apple for a few days at room temperature and the natural ripening hormone, ethylene, will ripen it.

To freeze: Remove the skin, puree the flesh adding half tablespoon of lemon juice for every avocado. Place into containers (try an ice tray) then when frozen transfer into zip lock. Great for lunch boxes with biscuits. Freezes up to 4 months.


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Thai flavours and crying tigers

With limes, chilli and coriander (as well as lemongrass, ginger and so many other herbs for Asian cooking) appearing in the Harvest Hub Value Bag we’€™ve been thinking about, ‘All things Thai’.

Floating markets, elephants and stunning temples spring to mind, to name just a few… and don’€™t forget the fantastic food.

One of our favourites is ‘Crying Tiger’€™, a Thai-style char-grilled beef salad. The recipe is delicious but it’€™s the name we can’€™t stop talking about.

A crying tiger. It’s a pretty evocative image.

Why would a tiger cry? Maybe he has a thorn in his foot or he’s lost in the jungle?

Perhaps someone else ate the last helping of ‘Crying Tiger’?

No one knows where the name came from, so we’ve been letting our imaginations run wild and we’d like to encourage all of you and the kids out there to do the same!

Write a story (150 words or less) about why a tiger would cry. If the kids aren’t writing and want to tell the story just record them speaking, put on an MP3 file and send in. Send it in to us at info@harvesthub.com.au Subject: Crying Tiger and the winning entry will get a mixed box of fruit and vegetables to the value of $20 and we’€™ll publish their entry on this blog (see below for terms and conditions).

One thing we’€™re sure of is that no one would cry after eating ‘€˜Crying Tiger’€™, except perhaps for joy!

Crying Tiger recipe:

  • 450g beef steaks, trimmed (substitute with prawns)
  • Olive oil
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 Chinese cabbage (Lombok), shredded
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, halved lengthways, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1 cup coriander leaves
  • 5 shallots, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 2 tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 long fresh red chilli deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbs fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp tamarind puree

Preheat BBQ (or a frying pan) on high and add a dash of olive oil. Cook the beef for approximately 3min on each side or until cooked to your liking. Remove from grill, cover and let rest for 5 min before thinly slicing across the grain. Meanwhile, get a large salad bowl and combine tomato, cabbage, cucumber, coriander leaves and shallots. In small bowl combine vinegar, chopped coriander, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, tamarind puree and chilli and stir until sugar dissolves. To serve divide the vegetable mix evenly on to plates, top with sliced beef and drizzle with sauce. Serve with rice if desired.

Congratulations to the Winner of ‘The Crying Tiger’ competition.
The Crying Tiger or how to cook Thai style

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
By the window in the night,
Puts the olive oil to drizzle
In the pan drops beef to sizzle.

For those distant pans and pots
Tiger slices all shallots
Followed by cabbage, coriander and lime
Red chilli, brown sugar and rice wine.

His paw dared to seize the meat
How he looks forward to his treat
Memories of Blake drift from his clasp
While Thai cooking reminds him of his past.

Again of lost jungle his tears did flow
Taking his feast to the table he did go
The best Crying Tiger – what a feat
His eyes dried as he took his seat.

(The Menzie family were inspired by with apologies to William Blake ‘The Tyger’€™)


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Minimising waste the Harvest Hub way!

We dream of having a waste free world? We imagine that we can have no packaging? Is this sensible or possible? We want to care about our environment? Mmmmm€! for so many of us life is crazy, crazy busy and, despite our best intentions, sometimes doing the ‘€˜green’€™ thing can be…a bit hard.

That’s why we were pretty blown away recently when we read about a family of three in the UK who produced just one supermarket bag of waste in a year. The bag contained a few broken toys, razor blades and a couple of empty felt tipped pens… a far cry from some of us (but not all) who produce, on average, half a tonne of waste per person per year*. Yikes! Feeling guilty right now?

Finding ways to buy food without excessive packaging is easier said than done. Most manufacturers are bound by delivery systems and regulations wrapping solid absolutely everything, so it’€™s sometimes a hard ask to be eco-friendly.

Reusable crates help minimise our recycling

When we first sat down to create Harvest Hub reducing packaging and waste was one of the things that was really important to us.

It has always been our goal to try to make it easy for our Harvest Hub members to minimise their waste too.

It’€™s one of the reasons why we decided to use re-usable insulation bags. It’€™s also why so much of our fruit and veg is delivered to the Hub in re-usable packing crates and then packed directly into your bag by your Hubster. After all, nature has already wrapped most fruit and veg for us!

As we introduce new grocery products we will do our best to minimise the wrapping. If you’€™ve tried our delicious cheddar you will have noticed it comes wrapped in a small amount of cling wrap (which you can keep using while it is in your fridge), rather than in large sealed packaging. You’€™ll note that for storing some items we do suggest into a plastic bag  – so an opportunity to recycle!

We don’t like food going to waste either so that is why you can adapt your seasonal bag and if at any stage you forget to cancel your bag while you are away, we make sure it goes to charity.

Basically, we want to make it as easy possible for you to make eco-friendly food choices!

We know we’€™re not perfect, so if you have any ideas for other ways we can minimise our waste, and help you minimise yours, please get in touch. We’€™d love to hear from you!

*NSW Dept of Environment and Heritage.

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A flying purple veggie eater!

€œIt was a one-eye, one-horned, flying€™ purple veggie eater….

This is the week that we can all turn into purple vegetable eaters (no promises on the flying bit though) because we have some delicious and incredibly purple treats coming your way.

Did you know that carrots were originally purple? It wasn’t until the 17th century that some enterprising Dutchmen grew a mutated orange version as a political statement to support the Dutch House of Orange and the struggle for independence… (If only Australian politicians would come up with such interesting marketing techniques!)

This week we have fantastic purple carrots so why not give them a try. They have all the health benefits of the orange variety and are also believed to improve vision and memory, protect against heart attacks and even help you lose weight.Purple carrots still grow wild in Afghanistan and tribesmen use them to make an alcoholic beverage so if you run out of wine this week perhaps you could give that a try…Also in season are the original and the best purple veggie, beetroot.

Unless you want everyone to know what you had for dinner last night, the best bet for peeling these little beauties is to wash them thoroughly then roast, steam or boil (roasting gives the best flavour) and, once cooked, put on a pair of gloves and gently rub the skin off the beetroot under cold running water.

Once safely peeled we can highly recommend chopping the beetroot up and mixing it with some feta, mint and baby spinach. Delicious!

And last, but definitely not least, in this week’s purple line up is to-die-for Ruby grapefruit. Don’€™t let memories of super sour white grapefruit put you off. Ruby grapefruit was created in 1929 and was pretty much single-handedly responsible for making grapefruit a commercial success. Its tart but in a good way.

Learn more … www.carrotmuseum.co.uk

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Chips Ahoy! The Tuscan Chip has arrived.

“€œMum/Dad. Can I have chips for dinner please?”

€…. and out from the sealed plastic bag in the fridge comes the Tuscan Cabbage. Full of Tuscany essence and dreams of great Italian cooking (plus it is actually good for your kids).

Although we are supplied by a local grower and don’€™t import our cabbages from Italy, Sam Vessallo from Freeman’€™s Reach has nurtured these bunches, producing great swathes of greenery with his ‘Italian’ flair for growing these cabbages.

Back to the chip making€… Tear some leaves into playing card size, put in a bowl and pour some olive oil and salt over them. Then place them on a baking tray, put in to a hot oven and cook until crispy – about 6 minutes. To serve – close eyes and taste. Heaven.

Tuscan cabbage is also an ideal leafy green for Asian-style stir-fries because it gives a chewy texture. It just loves being marinated in lemon juice before stir frying. Best of all it doesn’€™t disintegrate like spinach and holds its shape so there is greenery left after the stir-fry. Or simply shred it, quickly steam it, pour your favourite sauce ie. soy over it and pop over the top of a poached egg.

If you can’€™t eat it in time then simply freeze it. Cut the ribs out, then cut the leaves and blanch in boiling salted water. Drain, dunk into cold water, squeeze the excess and freeze in freezer bags.

And, yes it’€™s good for you – packed with antioxidants.

Maybe these were where the ‘€˜Cabbage Patch’€™ kids were started the Italian Version!

And why not dream of things Italian, perhaps of bike rides in the Florence Hills as suggested by Maria a member in Thornleigh. She makes a delicious Tuscan Cabbage Soup  – great on the colder days ahead.


  • Tuscan cabbage, de-ribbed & shredded
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 5 ripe tomatoes, skinned and mashed
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 potatoes, chopped and diced
  • 1 tbs tomato puree
  • 2 tbs virgin olive oil
  • 1 litre water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Favourite Italian sausage or choose beans
  • Parmesan cheese to garnish, shredded

In a frypan sweat onion, leek and garlic in olive oil. Then add carrots, potatoes, tomatoes for 5 minutes. Add beans or sausage. Transfer to a soup saucepan on low heat. Last add Tuscan cabbage with litre of water. Season. Put on lid on medium heat and simmer 8 minutes. Serve in bowls with Parmesan shredded on top.

Buon appetite!

What are your favourite Tuscan cabbage recipes or your favourite places in Italy?

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My goodness! Valencia oranges are re-greening in warmer weather!

Valenica oranges are ahead of their time. Re-greening in warm weather. Their skin goes a greenish tinge to protect it from the sun.  A built in sunscreen! Sun smart. Far too clever. It’€™s a natural process and the soil quality can also make this happen as well. Read more here.

We assume that green skin on fruit indicates that the fruit isn’t ripe. In the case of Valencia oranges, the juicing orange, the opposite is true – they are protected so that they are sweeter and juicier. Warm temperatures of the season may make the orange skin reabsorb chlorophyll causing it to look partly green.

The process of re-greening happens when an orange is left to completely ripen on the tree. The chlorophyll rises back to the surface of the fruit causing it to take on a greenish tinge. These oranges are really suitable for juicing.

Storing: Room temperature or refrigerator where no moisture gathers ie. the crisper. They will last about two weeks.

Idea for serving: Cut them into ‘smiling’€™ wedges -€“ the kids can make a fruit face.

Valencia orange smoothie: 6 Valencia oranges, 1 cup cold water, 2 tbs Greek Yoghurt (or if not using honey sweet plain yoghurt), 1 tbs honey and 2 cups of ice.  Blend together.

Freeze: Use ice trays to freeze and pop into drinks.

Composting: If adding oranges which are highly acidic just add crushed egg shells (alkaline) to counteract it.

Top tip: Did you know that if you put oranges in a hot oven for two minutes before peeling them no white fibres will be left on them.


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Perfect pomegranates

The local pomegranate season is in full swing and these delicious ruby red beauties have never tasted better.

Considered to be the world’s oldest known fruit, the origins of pomegranates can be traced back to northern India and Iran, and records show they first arrived in America in the 1500s.

Pomegranates have a reputation for being super healthy and it is certainly deserved. They are rich in Vitamin C (just what we all need as the cold and flu season approaches), folate (essential for expectant Mums), Vitamin K and potassium.

Plus they are high in polyphenols, the antioxidants linked to the prevention of heart disease and cancer.

Although they are incredibly good for you, trying to get the delicious seeds out of a pomegranate can certainly be bad for your blood pressure.

There are numerous ways you can try, including breaking the fruit apart in a bowl of water so the seeds sink and the bitter pith floats away, but in our opinion Jamie Oliver has got it right… cut the fruit in half horizontally, hold one half over a bowl (seed side down) and wack repeatedly with a wooden spoon until all the hundreds of delicious seeds fall out.

Pomegranates are popular in all kinds of recipes and can be added to salads for extra colour, desserts in lieu of berries, or juiced and mixed with champagne.

Unopened pomegranates can be stored in the fridge for up to two months but we’re betting they don’t last that long!

Sweet or savoury? How to do you use pomegranates?


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New season mandarins are finally here

Mandarins are finally in season and we are beyond excited. Easy to peel, tangy and delicious, mandies are a huge favourite around the Harvest Hub office.

To celebrate the start of the season we have searched the web to find the five most interesting and quirky mandarin facts around. Prepare to be amazed!

  1. Mandarins originated in China and were named after the officials of the Imperial court who used them for medicinal purposes.
  2. A single mandarin provides an adult with 190% of their daily Vitamin C intake.
  3. There are more than 2.3 million commercial citrus trees growing mandarins in Australia.
  4.  Last year we consumed over 70,000 tonnes of Australian mandarins* (by we, I mean Australia, not Harvest Hub, although if we keep expanding…)
  5. In traditional Chinese medicine the dried peel of the fruit is used in the regulation of ch€™i, and also used to treat  abdominal distension, to enhance digestion, and to reduce phlegm.

In Australia the mandarin season runs from April to October and Citrus Australia is predicting a bumper crop this year.

What’€™s your favourite mandarin recipe?

* Aussie Mandarins website.


Brussels sprouts – the world’€™s most hated veggie?

It would seem that that the world can be divided in to two groups – people who love Brussels Sprouts and everyone else.

Repeatedly voted the world’s most hated vegetable, people do tend to have VERY strong opinions on the humble sprout. But are they deserved?

Back in the day, the main cook in the home tended to cook Brussels sprouts by boiling them (not the best method – it makes them mushy and bitter) and then inflicted them on reluctant children.

Things have come a long way since then – the varieties that are around now are less bitter and people have become more creative about how they cook their sprouts (try baked, sauted with bacon and garlic, or steamed with a drop of soya sauce).

One thing your folks did have right was that Brussels sprouts are good for you. They’€™re high in fibre, protein, Vitamin C and K and are believed to protect against cancer.

So maybe it’s time to give them another go!

The season is just starting so why not check out some recipes and see if the humble sprout surprises you – but whatever you do don’€™t boil them!

Tell us your best or worst sprout experience.