Our earth reached a milestone this week, with carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reaching 400 parts per million. The last time carbon dioxide levels were this high, long before humans existed, there was no Arctic ice, the poles were about ten degrees warmer than today, and sea levels ranged from five to forty metres higher than they are currently.
Our children and grandchildren are certainly in for interesting times, one where it won’t just technology changing at breakneck speed, but our natural systems too. Adaptability and learning to work with the changing environment will be vital skills.
Pesticides and bees
It’s very likely that the recent drastic drop in the honeybee population, particularly in Europe and the US, has been due to neonicotinoid pesticides, a highly toxic pesticide commonly used around the world in conventional farming. The European Union has just banned neonicotinoids, in the face of a frenzied campaign to put the blame elsewhere by Bayer and Syngenta, the two main chemical companies producing the pesticides.
So, good news for European bees and farms, and in countries that have banned neonicotinoids for a while now, such as Italy, France, Germany and Slovenia, bee populations appear to already be recovering. However, in the US, where honeybee levels have reached a 50-year low, corporate control of food and farming policy gets ever stronger. Sulfoxaflor, which has a very similar mechanism to neonicotinoids and is acknowledged by the US Environmental Protection Agency to be highly toxic to bees, was given ‘emergency approval’ for use on cotton until 2015, and is now being touted for widespread use.
Commercial beekeepers say that in heavily contaminated areas, such as California, they expect commercial beekeeping to be extinct in five years. Since some crops, such as almonds and broccoli, rely entirely on commercial beekeeping, these foods could also be disappearing along with the bees.
The madness is not restricted to the US. While parts of South America are showing interesting progress in restoring the balance, here in Africa, the same corporations are looking to extend their control, and we need to be vigilant to avoid falling down the same hole.
Too big to be true
We had a visitor to our warehouse in Philippi a few years ago, and he expressed doubt that some of the products, being so big, were actually organic. So I was pleased to read the story of the record-breaking South African pumpkin, grown recently in Worcester and weighing in at a sprightly 417kg. The farmer’s secret? “Look after them nicely” which he described as growing organically and looking after the soil.
If you’re looking to grow something similar, we don’t have the same Atlantic Giant seeds available, but if you’re happier with something slightly smaller, there are Hokkaido pumpkin, boerpampoen, Queensland Blue and Red Etampes varieties available for planting. And if, like me, you don’t whether it’s time to plant pumpkin or peas, peppers or parsley, we still have a few winter rainfall planting calendars available too!
We have a new batch of water bottles to use for the Newlands Spring delivery service, and these come with an optional tap. The taps are only available with a new bottle. The water bottles we use to carry the precious spring water are all type 2 plastic, which are the best plastic to use for water, with none of the risks associated with most plastic water bottles.
When you buy a bottle it is new and has never been used by anyone else. When you return it for refill, it still belongs to you and is used by you exclusively, and you are responsible for keeping it clean.
We’ve noticed some older returned bottles with mould on them. Mould in water can have risks, so you don’t want to drink water from a bottle with any green inside. The best suggestion is to prevent the bottles going green at all by keeping them away from sunlight at all times. Once the water is used, empty the bottle carefully and leave it with the top off so that it can thoroughly dry. If the bottle does go green, I can’t recommend any solutions personally, but I have heard that vinegar (5% dilution) works. Others have suggested bleach, but I don’t think you want this anywhere near your drinking water! If you know of a safe and effective cleaning method, please let us know in the comments below.
If you want us to refill weekly for you, we need to have your returned bottles in our warehouse by Tuesday afternoon. The logistics of this is specific to how you order, so please ask us for details, but generally you will need two to three weeks supply of bottles.
We also love to re-use the cardboard boxes, 1 litre and 500ml glass bottles and egg boxes, so please return these too if you can.
Last week in Texas, USA, a fertilizer factory blew up, with devastating consequences for the surrounding area and people. The reason for the explosion was poor handling of the ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in both commercial fertilizer for conventional farming, and bombmaking.
The tragedy again reminded me how conventional farming is a system at war with our planet, a system based on greed and exploitation with no regard for future generations.
Compare that to a visit to an organic farm, where the food is healthy and the farm bursting with life and vitality!
It’s been a while, but at long last we have our own brand of rice back in stock. We have lots of everybody’s favourite fragrant basmati, both white and brown, as well as long-grain brown rice at a very nice price.
More colourfully, we also have wild rice, with its long, thin grains, and brightly coloured red rice available too.
Fans of Rawlicious’ agave sweetener may have noticed the change in colour last year. While both the original dark and the new light varieties are raw, the lighter agave has undergone even less processing and has a more neutral, honey-like flavour.
It’s also produced in Tanzania in a very similar way to the old Aztec method, gathering raw sap as it seeps from the plant, rather than processing the pressed core. It’s more labour-intensive, but retains much more of the nutrients. There are many ways of producing agave, most of them resulting in something far-removed from the original. Regular, highly-processed or chemically-produced agave is probably as harmful as high-fructose corn syrup (the diabetes-inducing sweetener added to most soft drinks), so rather stick to organic and minimally-processed.
Have a vitality-filled week,
Ian and the Ethical team
One of my favourite nutrition books is Udo Erasmus‘ ‘Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill’. It’s an entire, fat, book on fats and oils.
For cooking, it’s quite simple. Most oils become harmful when heated, so you need to choose an oil with a high smoke point. Coconut oil is one of the best for this purpose, as it only breaks down at high temperatures. Most other oils aren’t great for cooking. Even extra-virgin olive oil, which is commonly-used, has a relatively low smoke point and shouldn’t be used for cooking unless at very low temperatures.
But oils show their true benefits when fresh and raw. There are two essential nutrients in fats, omega-3′s and omega-6′s. Omega-3′s break down very easily in heat and light, so most people eating a high processed diet are very low in them. Flax is then one of the best oils, as it’s extremely high in omega-3′s. Flax is used in all sorts of therapeutic ways, but it shouldn’t be used over long periods, as its extreme omega-3′s, while good for restoring an imbalance, are not what the human body needs over the long term.
The oil produced by flax’s sister, hemp, has a mix closer to human needs, and is one of the only oils that can be used over a long period without causing an imbalance. Crede’s omega-3-6-9 oil is also a blend of oils aiming at an ideal human balance. If you want to make your own, flax mixed with a small amount of sunflower and sesame make a good combination.
Hemp and flax in particular should be used relatively quickly once exposed to air and light, and are best stored in the fridge.
Sadly, we’ve been given advance warning that the next batch of flax oil will be markedly more expensive, so we’ve filled our fridge with the current batch in case people want to stock up before the increase.
New and Old
This week there are three varieties of apples available, as well as green beans. It’s also going to be the last week for plums and quinces from Tierhoek, so order while you can. Tierhoek will be back again with apricots in November.
Udo Erasmus, acclaimed expert on fats and oils, and author of “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill”, discusses all things fat in this week’s video. The interviewer comes from a vegetarian and vegan perspective, but the information is as useful to everyone.
The video is ten parts long. Part one is embedded here, as well as part five, which discusses omega-3′s and omega-6 ratios, but if you find fats as fascinating as I do, the links to the followups are in each video.
With the changing of the seasons, new produce is starting to appear in the fields and on the trees. I once did a ten-day detox eating almost nothing but satsumas, and on the eleventh day was still wolfing them down, so I’m very pleased to see them back. There’s also fresh tumeric, radishes, avocado, sweet potatoes, mange tout and watercress rounding out the recent fresh arrivals.
Goldberry’s Wendy Crawford and Andrew Maclachlan are both seasoned farmers with years of experience in organic and biodynamic farming. They’ve been assisting the landowners of a fruit farm in the Klein Karoo to move to organic, and have produced a batch of fruit concentrates made only from spring water steamed slowly through the organic fruit. There are peach, pear, hanepoort grape and two varieties of plum available to try.
In this week’s video, Allan Savory discusses how to reverse desertification in grasslands. He once promoted culling, but now realised what a tragic mistake this was, and his more recent methods are quite different. View it at
Allan Savory once promoted culling elephants to preserve rapidly degrading grasslands. He’s realised what a tragic mistake this was, and is now devoted to restoring grasslands in a manner that actually works, and in this video presents his more recent findings.
A few weeks ago, it seemed that there had been relatively few price increases, and even some decreases, this year, in contrast to the dramatic food inflation of last year.
And then everyone made plans to put up their prices up at the end of the financial year.
To make sure your mixed box still lives up to its promise, with the large box providing enough for 3-4, and the small box for 1-2 people, we’ve had to increase their prices as well. The small box is now R100, and the large box R155. They’re still excellent value for money, containing approximately R110 and R167 worth of produce.
Remember that Thursday is Human Rights Day, so not all collection points will be open. If you want delivery, please make sure someone is at your premises to receive the order when it arrives. As always, you can adjust or cancel your order up until 2pm on Tuesday.
Many years ago in our appearance on Free Spirit, I mentioned that one of our aims is to encourage the local production of organic food, and specifically used tomato sauce as an example. It’s taken a little longer to manifest than I’d hoped, but we finally have a local, organic tomato sauce to offer. This is not a commercial tomato sauce, made from sugar and tomato paste (in that order!), but a mild tomato sauce using some of our own fresh tomatoes. Please send feedback on the recipe, as Tania is still experimenting.
Tania’s Voluptuous is also offering a corn and pepper relish, ratatouille chutney and a butternut chutney.
We love re-using, so please return eggboxes, punnets, 1 litre and 500ml glass jars and the cardboard boxes, and we’ll put them to good use again.
Kleinjongenskraal is one of our earliest suppliers, offering mainly organic citrus and introducing me to all sorts of unusual citrus I’d never encountered before. We’re sad to hear that a fire has hit the area and crossed much of farmer Les Abraham’s orchards. Les hadn’t yet had a chance to inspect all the trees when he spoke to us, but it’s likely that some of the trees were killed or be unable to bear fruit again, and will need to be replanted.
Citrus trees take many years to reach fruit-bearing maturity, so this is a heavy blow to the farm. We wish him and everyone on the farm well, and hope that they can recover quickly.
Soaring Free Superfoods Soaring Free Superfoods have recently released a range of new products, pre-made mixes for lazy people like me. There’s a Supergreen shake, consisting of African baobab, green grasses, hemp seed protein, African moringa and spirulina, a concentrated way to get those greens in.
There’s also a superfoods shake, consisting of lucuma, mesquite, raw cacao powder, maca, taheebo, cinnamon and vanilla.
Both are designed so that you can simply add water and shake, or use as as ingredients in juices and smoothies.
Peter and Beryn are passionate about their superfoods, and have visited most of the farms they buy from. Last year they visited a thriving organic goji farm in China, and sourced supplies. However, upon the batches arrival, they tested the berries and found, in spite of Chinese organic certification, two pesticide residues. They sent the entire batch back and were without gojis for much of the year, then a key part of their range. They struggled for a long time to secure proper organic gojis, finally doing so at the end of last year. Conventional gojis that they tested, and which are now widely available locally, contained nine pesticide residues.
It’s great dealing with farms and suppliers run by people who are offering products that are passionately investigated, that they enjoy themselves and are excited to share with others, and this is a key part in ensuring only the most authentic produce for us all.
Tierhoek Organic near Robertson is a family business and one of the few local farms that not only grows certified organic fruit, but also processes it, packs it and markets it from the farm.
The farm is supplied by fresh mountain water and use green technology where they can; an electric cart for transport, solar geysers, solar power and recycled old cooking oil to produce bio-diesel for use on the farm.
This week we’re offering yellow cling peaches, yellow sungold plums, quinces and plum tomatoes from Tierhoek, as well as their range of dried fruit; apples, plums, bananas, naartjies, mixed fruit and their “Zooty Fruit Strip”, five small packets of mixed fruit, ideal for lunchboxes.
For the sweet-toothed, there are also chocolate apricots and chocolate naartjies, as well as quince jam, apricot jam and peach jam.
Man of the organic farms supplying us love visitors, and Tierhoek are no exception, offering holiday accommodation in their cottages at the foot of the Langeberg mountains. The farm is also leopard-friendly, so if you’re lucky enough to visit you may even get to hear the call of a leopard in the mountains.
I am a little pea
As we move into March, it’s time to start planting broad beans, peas and turnips and we’re happy to be able to expand our organic garden seed range even further by offering more varieties. Theresa’s “I am a little pea” range of seeds are produced in the Cederberg and her family has been harvesting seed as long as she could remember. She started harvesting her own after she moved to the area in 2008 and realised how difficult it was to find organic seed. We’ve added celery, gooseberry, flat-leaf parsley, sunflower and victory lettuce to the mix.
Hopefully there’ll be enough to go around, as quantities are limited!
Please note that we’re no longer offering Friday collections at any of our collection points. Although this means the collection hours in some cases are more limited, we’d like you to get our veggies as fresh as possible. We receive them right up until Wednesday evening and pack through the night, ready to deliver them on Thursday morning, so we can’t bear the thought of them sitting uncollected for a whole day!
We love to get boxes and bottles back so that we can put them to good use. A reminder that many of our collection points and our couriers accept returns.