Culina Market

Mirabelle, France

Delicately perfumed, sweet and juicy, the Mirabelle plum is the real star of the Lorraine region in France. This mouth-watering fruit is small, oval shaped, and possesses dark yellow colour skin that becomes flecked in appearance.

There are no less than 250,000 Mirabelle trees in Lorraine, supplying 80 percent of the world’s production. The combination of chalky clay soil and ideal climate produce perfect growing conditions for this glorious golden fruit. Since 1996, the French Mirabelle plum production has been protected by a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) to guarantee its authenticity.

Fragrant and fleshy, Mirabelle plums sing in tarts, clafoutis, compotes, and jams. It’s little wonder that Jean-Pierre Coffe, the noted French chef and food critic, once said of the Mirabelle plum, "Happiness exists and I've met it. It weighs 14.3 grams and it comes from Lorraine."

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Bouchot Mussels, France

Bouchot moules is the only mussel in France that has the coveted Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) designation. Given to food whose characteristics are uniquely related to its place of origin, these mussels are considered a luxury ingredient in France, and other parts of Europe.

They are harvested between July and January in France’s Mont St Michel Bay where the water spans the borders of Brittany and Normandy. The bivalves grow on wooden pillars (bouchot) anchored into the seabed. At high tide, they thrive underwater, while at low tide, they are exposed to the salty ocean air, hence their delicious briny flavour. The small to medium-sized mussels have plump and firm orange-yellow flesh. Cook them with white wine, chopped garlic and parsley, and serve with French fries.

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Spanish Picota Cherries

The Spanish love their cherries - or as they know them, the cereza. After all, Spain is the second largest producer of cherries in Europe.

The jewels of the Jerte Valley, Spanish Picota cherries are protected by a denomination of origin (DO) status – which means they can’t be grown anywhere else. Following a century-long tradition, these highly sought-after cherries are grown on terraces carved out of the high mountainsides, amidst crystal-clear springs and fresh air. Carefully hand-picked and placed into traditional chestnut-wood baskets, it is also the only variety that is harvested without its stalk.

Picota cherries boast a characteristic sweet flavour and pleasantly firm texture. Besides being absolutely delectable, these deep reddish-purple hued stone fruits are also bursting with flavonoids, vitamins and powerful antioxidants. Eaten fresh on their own, or in sweet and savoury dishes, Picota cherries are a delicious summertime treat – so be sure to catch them while you can!

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French Apricots

A cherished part of French cuisine, apricots have been grown in France for thousands of years. With its skin ranging from pale orange to a red-tinged sunset, its succulent flesh is intensely sweet, reminiscent of a cross between the finest honey and wild, sun-kissed berries. Apricots’ short season makes them doubly alluring – they arrive in June and are but a fleeting memory by late August.

Delicious as they are, popped straight into your fruit bowl, and equally so when cooked to accompany poultry such as duck.

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French Flat/Donut Peaches

Known for its unique round, flat shape with a dimpled centre on either end, donut peaches are tender and juicy, with a candy-like sweetness and notes of almond. With hues of ivory, rose and rouge, these peaches are covered with a velvety finish and are best eaten fresh as they are. Slice and toss into green or fruit salads, or serve over cooked meats to savour its natural sweet flavour.

Donut peaches can also be poached, grilled or made into compotes and syrups. Pair with other stone fruits such as apricots and cherries for a healthful snack, or with cheeses such as parmesan, ricotta or burrata for a sweet-savoury dessert.

A seasonal delight, these peaches can be kept at room temperature for up to four days. Once ripe, they can be stored in the refrigerator for an additional day or two.

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Summer Fruits, France

Whether you prefer apricots, peaches, nectarines, or cherries, nothing says summer (June to September) quite like the sweet, juicy flavours of mouthwatering stone fruits. France may not be the biggest producer in Europe for stone fruits but the varietals it offers are second to none. From the French countryside come breeds like the rich, golden orange Nancy apricots or the Burlat cherries.

Burlat cherries are native French cherries that are similar to medium-sized California Bing cherries in terms of taste and appearance but they are generally softer. It’s easy to see why Burlat cherry is one of the most popular cherry cultivars in France: the hardy Burlat tree has a high crop yield and its glossy, heart-shaped fruits are super sweet instead of pukeringly tart, thus making them easy to like. Cherries are extremely versatile and are the perfect ingredients to work into a flambéed cherry jubilee, clafoutis, and cobblers.

With their sweet taste and juicy flesh, peaches and nectarines epitomises summer. They are the same species, even though they are regarded commercially as different fruits. In contrast to peaches, whose fruits present the characteristic fuzz on the skin, nectarines are fuzz-free. You don’t need to do much with luscious peaches and nectarines, simply cooked to caramelised gooiness and serve with ice cream.

For stone fruits, pies are just the beginning. These juicy cherries, apricots, nectarines, and peaches lend themselves well to baked crumbles, on top of decadent tarts, as a sweet accompaniment in salads, icy popsicles, and cocktails. You can also cooked down the fruits to a jam and scoop on top of waffles and ice cream. Stone fruits are easy to work with— you’ll just need to pit them before using them in a variety of dishes.

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Manjimup Truffles, Australia

This dark, knobbly ingredient with a distinctively intense and earthy aroma is the ‘fruit’ of fungi. Found in places like France and Italy, truffles are also grown in Western Australia’s south-west region of Manjimup.

The Western Australian truffle industry is predominantly focused on the French black truffle or Périgord truffle (tuber melanosporum), which farmers use to inoculate their oak and hazelnut trees. It takes about five years for the truffles to develop, and the harvest period is from June to early September. Western Australia is now the biggest producer of black Périgord truffles outside of Europe.

To use, shave this luxurious ingredient over creamy scrambled eggs or risotto. Keep them dry, tightly wrapped in paper towel, and in an air-tight container. It can be stored in the fridge for one to two weeks.

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Mara Des Bois Strawberries, France

Carefully developed in France, Mara Des Bois strawberries are round, conical-shaped berries in a deep red. Glossy in appearance with prominent seeds, its sweet flavour and intensely fragrant aroma are perfect in fruit tarts, shortcakes, and crepes. Alternatively, serve it simply on cheese plates or with fresh cream. Mara Des Bois can be cooked down to make sauces, syrups, and fillings for macarons, croissants, sorbets, and ice cream. Macerated Mara Des Bois can also be used in beverages such as mimosas, cocktails and summer spritzers. Mara Des Bois have a very short shelf life and should be consumed as soon as possible.

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Gariguette Strawberry, France

Available between March and August, this delicious spring strawberry is an old Provençal variety that’s prized by top chefs for its lovely perfume and exceptional flavour that’s reminiscent of wild strawberries.

Shaped like elegant pointed cones, enjoy the delicate sweetness of these berries with a flute of chilled champagne. For a simple dessert, dress them with a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar or serve them with sweetened whipped cream. Not sure what to do with the excess? Make a homemade strawberry jam that pairs perfectly with scones and clotted cream.

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