red gold

It seems my greater world has 2 concerns. In regard to one they are at the mercy of the elements but for the second there is tangible rallying to take control…

Last week, we took an extended Labour Day public holiday long weekend and went to check out what’s happening at Taylors Arm. There were 2 main topics of conversation. “We need rain”… in a tank water reliant village if it hasn’t rained in the past week, we need rain. In this case, it was a fair comment though as there’s been little precipitation, barely a frost or even dew since our visit in early August. With a hot, dry summer forecast with only tropical thunderstorms indicated in the way of water falling from the sky, the situation could become ‘interesting’.

We had an early indication of the second subject of concern-conversation. Our neighbours who were absent, upon finding out via the bush telegraph our arrival was imminent, telephoned us enroute “can you water the tomatoes, we’ve put in enough to get us all through Christmas”…

We called into the M.I.L.’s to be regaled with pending Christmas tomato price woes, and plans for planting despite previous years concerns over unsuitable varieties and messiness, as opposed to roses and pansies which are far preferable. Desperate times are allowing for the desperate measure of a flower bed given over to salad…

We ventured to the local Woolies to do a quick grocery shop, and with no growers markets happening grabbed our vege needs also. To be fair (& controversial) the arrival of that Woolies has lifted the local supermarket game. Its fresh produce has been a breath of fresh air in the captive environment of a local co-op catering to mostly OAP’s who shop by habit, and minimally.

Tomato prices were much as I’ve become accustomed to (other than the 3 tiny heirloom beauties I picked up a few weeks ago from Eveleigh Markets at $16.90 a kilo for a special occasion salad). Checking my Woolies till receipt revealed red capsicum prices of $12.98 per kg which I’d failed to see at the time of throwing a large one in the trolley. The G.O noted it cost more than his t-bone.

A phone call from my aunt who also lives locally confirmed the great tomato dilemma, necessitating 8 plants plus assorted greens to get them through the hard times. With their huge mango tree and avocado also, visiting with them will definitely be on our agenda.

Arriving at TA, the G.O. wandered over to the neighbour’s yard to find 4 lovely tomato plants which he dutifully watered. Of greater significance to me was the arrival of another neighbour with a shopping bag of freshly picked garlic for drying.

Yesterday, being Domestic Goddess Saturday because the G.O. unhelpfully was at work, I ventured forth to do a quick shop at our local city Woolies from which I generally buy only grocery items not fresh produce, but feeling unmotivated I grabbed a few fruit & vege items. Again to be fair (& controversial) my purchases were equal & better quality to my usual non-supermarket sources.

The rest of this post loosely links back to an interesting post by Marianne at East of Málaga about Comparing the Cost of Living. My fresh food costs seem higher. In addition to corned beef at an outrageous $12.99 kg from the butcher, fresh local Snapper fillets @ $32.99 kg which were delicious enough to validate the cost, from the fishmonger, I purchased…

Roma tomatoes @ $8.98 kg… deep breath… at a dollar less than the fancy in my opinion overrated Truss, are delicious cooked and fresh.

Green beans @ $5.48 kg were crunchy and delicious, slightly overpriced I think despite being marked as a special.

Yet another exorbitantly priced red capsicum @ $12.98 kg which I used some for salsa and cooked the remainder up with leftover eggplant, red onion and over-ripe tomatoes for the freezer.

Bananas @ $1.98 kg. In August last year they were $15 per kg. My sister put photos on Facebook during her U.S. trip of her eating bananas (never a good idea) she paid US$0.25 cents each for. Yesterday the banana rack was emptying quicker than they could fill it. Mind you if you wanted organic bananas – $4.98 kg thank you.

Potatoes at $2.98 per kg for a prepacked 2kg and offered at $3.48 per kg loose…

Mangoes for salsa to go with the snapper. I managed to resist the Kensingtons at $4.98 each and bought 2 x Nam Doc Mai Vietnamese mangoes @ $5.98 kg. I have popped one of the seeds into a jar with water & Seasol to see if I can get it to sprout.

Season-wise, we are in south eastern Australia mid-spring. However the north of Australia is slightly ahead of us in terms of growing season, hence the cheapness of bananas and availability of mangoes. To me, fresh produce prices seem go up and down with the seasons and availability. I’m not overly concerned about tomato prices at Christmas as the season is expected to be good, and in the past the prices have been ok unless there’s been an issue with the weather causing a shortage.

Like Marianne, I’m interested to know your thoughts and what’s happening at my virtual neighbours’ supermarkets globally.

quick mango salsa recipe
toss together & leave for half an hour before serving
2 x Nam Doc Mai mangoes (or 1 x Kensington) depending on preference for slightly tart or sweet, roughly diced. Variations are sweet corn, tomatoes or white peaches
big handful each of finely diced red capsicum, Lebanese cucumber and green shallots
dash of sesame oil (any type of good oil will do but I wanted an Asian style salsa)
sprinkle of raw sugar (optional, to taste)
grind of sea salt
big squeeze of lemon juice (or lime juice/vinegar/dressing)

27 thoughts on “red gold

  1. i love mango salsa but we sure cannot grow them out here, if I knew you were going to have tomato woes i would have popped a few in the post! how WONDERFUL looking forward to the spring and summer season.. I love the idea of a walk around the neighbourhood too .. c


    1. Thanks Celi. You’ll have to put mango salsa on your holiday list of things to eat in NZ. I thought of your lovely prolific tomato vines when I was listening to the tales of woe. If I had a city balcony that didn’t get drowned in rail ballast, I’d grow some myself but all will be well 🙂


  2. It terrible when healthy food prices are so high and the junk food is so cheap. It makes it hard to eat well. 😦


    1. So true. It doesn’t make sense. And, it means I spend a lot more time cooking up everything I buy so nothing is wasted and there’s leftovers in the fridge/freezer…


  3. Your season is gearing up and I’m getting ready to bid farewell to fresh tomatoes until next year. I hope to get more tomatoes one last time next weekend. I was lucky yesterday and hope my luck holds. Much of our produce this Summer was drought affected. I live in a corn producing state and corn wasn’t as good (sweet) but more expensive than in years past. Our area was, also, hit by a late, hard frost in the Spring and it really hurt the apple orchards. We’re literally paying for it now. Yet, peach season seemed to last and last — much to my happiness.
    I do hope your growing season is a good one with lower prices resulting. There’s nothing like the season’s first strawberry or tomato. One should be able to enjoy either without worrying about paying the mortgage. 🙂


    1. Thank you… I hope so too but I never stress about it and just adapt to whatever’s best & available. I hope one day (soonish) to have the time and space for it to be viable to buy and process tomatoes, and whatever I can lay my hands on, in bulk. Until then, the consolation is I’m only feeding the 2 of us and we both have paying jobs. I’m kind of glad the retirees of my world are panicked enough to get out into their gardens and grow something healthy to eat – beneficial in so many ways – they’re all far too fond of pre-prepared food. It’s an interesting phenomena. While we are trying to get back to basics (in many ways how they lived, cooked and ate as they grew up), they are embracing packets and convenience food even though they have more time than ever.


  4. Caps are at a hideous price at the moment (I love the red ones and usually go through one a day).

    The tomato issue has been roaring in Australia since 2010 as many crops have been poisoned by herbicide being injected into irrigation systems in QLD. Not only has this killed all the plants but also caused a shortage in seedlings to replant. They still don’t know who the culprit was/is – just a useless bit of information for you. I feel really sorry for the farmers 😦


    1. I remember now that about the tomatoes. Combined with the practical issue that it’s not the right time & place for us to have a vege garden, I like to support the growers also – good point, I feel sorry for them too. It was simply quite hilarious to witness the panic at the thought of price gouging tomatoes sending them into the garden. I think tomatoes rate as the great Australian salad vegetable (well, fruit) but you know what I mean…


  5. It´s interesting to have price comparisons between countries for food prices, isn´t it?

    I was so shocked to see that your red capsicums (here we call them red peppers, or in Spanish – pimiento rojo – but they are the same thing) were $12 98 per kilo. I buy lots of these and the price in my local supermarket on Saturday was €1.85 per kg ($2.36 AUD).

    Our bananas are still working out a little cheaper than yours, even at your bargain prices!

    As for mangoes and tomatoes – I´m not sure of the exact price, EllaDee but I think that mangoes are around €3 for 2kgs (that´s less then $4 AUD) and tomatoes slightly cheaper again, but I would have to check later in the week to be sure.

    I´ll be posting another full price comparison sometime in November on my blog.


    1. Thank you – I was hoping you’d compare and confirm my belief that in general our fresh produce is exxier than yours. Mangoes and a lot of other things will get cheaper in summer, hopefully capsicums too – they should be no more than $7-ish kg tops. If I can manage to get an internet connection over Christmas, I’ll do a follow up post at peak season.


  6. I saw the post on East of Malaga and remember being confused about what she had bought and what was just the BBC type shopping basket. (About the only thing I buy from the Mercadona supermarket she used is beer, bread and saffron). However it did make me think I should do a comparison between Gib and Spain, which although so near are quite different. She lives quite near to me by the way!

    I was summarising this for Partner and he promptly said ‘Oh, you always said the veg in Aus was dear.’ And I put it down at the time to the fact that as I vaguely remembered from school you had extensive farming (fairly obvious with all that empty ground isn’t it?) rather than intensive farming. So your meat was always pretty cheap compared with Brit prices, but veg were through the roof. Leeks were the one that left me stunned. Two leeks nearly 30 years ago were a quid back them (or two bucks whatever the exchange rate was).

    I bought tomatoes for 60 cents a kilo a couple of weeks ago, but they are hovering around the one euro mark now. Not sure about pimientos as the last lot I got were given from next door. Broad beans were 1.90 a kilo.

    Anyway, you have reminded me that I was going to do the Gib/Spain post so I will jot down some prices, as we obviously all love reading these sort of posts.

    As for oldies planting out veg, I am writing a post about that very topic ……


    1. I’d be interested to see the Gib, Spain prices but not too happy at Australia’s fresh produce quality and cost disadvantage being confirmed. We do have heaps of farms, but anecdotally I believe less than we used to per capita. I think production and living costs for producers are reasonably high, and of course companies like Woolies do regulate it a lot and take a huge margin. I couldn’t fault the quality though of the purchases I made, which has been an issue recently from other places. I am so sick of paying good money for dodgy avocadoes. Leeks are still around $2 each.

      I much prefer farmers markets but those in the city are generally expensive – for a treat in the main, which is disappointing. Also a lot of greengrocers buy from the central markets at Flemington and it can be bulk produce or cold storage from God knows where. Much of the good produce is for export. The TA garlic is a prime example. It goes directly overseas and as it’s organic the grower gets $38 per kg. Imagine what it sells for. In our shops the garlic is from China.

      I try to buy local and Australian and obviously what’s in season, not cold storage but there is only so much time, effort & cash I can direct towards it. For this exercise I wanted to take piccies and post about items we eat regularly. One of the other reasons I chose Woolies is I was able to photograph without being questioned, which can be an issue at other places… and I will be able to use it for later comparison shops I have planned.

      I had a good laugh at the flurry of gardening activity. My aunt & uncle always have a vege patch esp in summer but the others except the G.O.’s poor B.I.L. run a mile at greens & would rather eat biscuits, and couldn’t have cared less except it was the sacred tomato at stake 🙂


  7. Here in Norway the prices on fruits and veggies are always high, because everything is either flown in, or grown in hot-houses. (tomatoes are always grown in hot houses) Add a 12% tax on top that and you end up with high prices and mostly low quality.
    When I first moved here twenty some years ago, the only veggies Norwegians ate were home-grown, like potatoes, carrots, turnips and brussels sprouts. Its better now but you can’t always depend on imported fruit to be fresh.
    We get plenty of rain but way too much cold…
    Thanks for the recipe, I love mango salsa… but it could take weeks before I find a mango in the store.


    1. I will remember Norway next time I feel outraged about our f&v prices/quality. I’m actually calm about it all, as there are only the 2 of us to feed. I feel bad for people with kids – I met a friend in Woolies who had 8 punnets of strawberries, and with 3 kids, only a days worth! I love the Norwegian type veges but need summer salads as well. Salsa I do with almost any type of chopped vege/fruit. I make it with sweet corn, baked veges, pumpkin, olives, tomatoes … The G.O. loves baked sweet potatoes, dates, shallots, haloumi & walnuts and various combinations thereof. The appeal seems to be in the smaller pieces. Nuts and cheese, eg grated pecorini add appeal for him as he’s not too fussed on many greens but will eat micro salad… oh dear, we need a personal chef 😉


  8. I haven’t been checking the prices of anything, this makes me think I must start doing that. I really hope we don’t get a long hot summer, I don’t want that. 🙂


    1. I hadn’t been checking either. There is only the 2 of us, so it costs what it costs… I’d like a nice summer with no cylones or floods, and the occasional thunderstorm… that can be my Santa list 🙂


  9. Your prices are quite high. When I visited Oz in 2002 I thought everything was cheaper than here.
    Though the exchange rate was approx $3 to £1, I’ve just checked now and its half that 😮
    We’ve just been to our local supermarket, and with you post in mind, I’ve just checked a few prices
    Bananas 68p per kilo, tomatoes 98p per kilo, peppers £1 each, a kilo bag of charlotte new potatoes £1 (there are others loose and cheaper, but charlottes are my downfall).


    1. Thank you. Great comment – exactly what I was after. Well not exactly, I’m unhappy to hear how less f&v costs you… happy for you but gets me wondering about what’s happening here, if it’s a seasonal variation. Via the supermarket chain, city – country prices are the same. I also love new potatoes but the G.O. was making mash and the ones I bought are great for mash. I’m off to the green grocers to do my next shop and price compare 🙂


  10. The Man and I were having this very conversation today. It costs us a fortune to keep the kids in their favourite foods when we go to the supermarket. No, it is not chips and chocolate biscuits, they love bananas, apples and kiwi fruits. Kiwis are anything from 35c to nearly $1 each and number 2 eats multiple apples each day so I have to re-stock my fruit bowl more times than the budget would prefer!

    I am definitely thinking more seriously about a veg garden this year, it might have to be accompanied by an orchard as well!


    1. I think a lot of people are having this discussion… As a nation we should be able to afford to eat fresh fruit & veges. Usually buying in season sees us all through so hopefully it’s a good season. Your kids sounds like kids who’d enjoy a vege garden and orchard 🙂


    1. Thank you for commenting. Scary, yes and if the prices were entirely the result of production costs and seasonal availability I’ll could live with it but there’s a component of profiteering that is so wrong. A good farmers market is gold. The city ones near us are good but tend to expensive and boutique. The vege garden is the answer – a great Aussie backyard tradition 🙂


    1. Sounds like me. It was in the back of my mind but I’m usually in a hurry to get through the shopping and wanted to take photos but wasn’t too sure about it. Have fun with it – I’m betting your local Sri Lanken market is far more interesting than our local Woolies 🙂


      1. That’s for sure – but sadly, these days, like your experiences with Woolies, the supermarket often has fresher and cheaper produce – because, like Woollies they’re buying from source, leaving the little local markets and shops to haggle as best they can.

        I’ve managed some research on prices, now juggling camera and shopping bags will be the next challenge … 🙂


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