Monthly archives "November 2008"

Juice, beets and trucks


I’ve eaten healthily (at least I like to think so) for quite a while now, but have always been less than keen on the greens. That’s all changed with the arrival of Oscar in my life.

Oscar is a juicer, and it coincidentally arrived a few days after doing the Elements of Health course, facilitated by Soaring Free Superfoods, where scrumptious juices were a big part of the menu, and the benefits of juicing were highly touted.

Juicing is a great way to get live enzymes, as well as minerals, trace elements and vitamins, into the body. I was never a great juice drinker, preferring to eat the whole plant, including the fibre. But juices are extremely healing, especially for those of us who’ve eaten a diet high in processing and low in nutrition in the past. Juices are extremely easy to digest, usually being assimilated within fifteen minutes of consumption. The fibre is harder to digest, and many of the nutrients are not as well absorbed if they’re still part of the fibre when consumed.

Juicing is also great for the bones. Most processed and popular food is highly acidic when it metabolises in the body, and the body compensates for this excess acidity by getting hold of the best alkaline source it can find – calcium from the bones and teeth.

Contrary to common belief, taking loads of calcium won’t help counteract this. It’s best to reduce the proportion of acidifying foods in the first place. The calcium needs to be absorbed, and magnesium and vitamin D are particularly important here. Other things may reduce absorption, such as smoking and calcium. Excess and poorly absorbed calcium can all too easily end up causing calcification, or hardening of the arteries, instead.

Vegetable and fruit juices are highly alkalising, and not only does the body not need to compensate by leaching the bones, they contain a variety of essential nutrients and minerals for preventing osteoporosis.

Speaking from my own experience, I’ve felt significantly more energy since starting to juice! As my 5-year old son says, “I love Oscar”!

If you don’t have a juicer, you’re out of luck through, as our popular Elgin apple juices are now unavailable until next year’s harvest.


Beetroot is one of my favourite plants to juice. It’s quite high in sugar, and so shouldn’t be overdone, but is great for sweetening vegetables (especially green vegetable) juices.

Beetroot is particularly supportive of heart health, and drinking the juice has an almost instant effect on high blood pressure. There’s reams of evidence that it’s highly effective in preventing cancer, as well as being an effective boost to the immune system. In fact, it started off being used as a medicinal plant by the Greeks and the Romans. Many of the murals of Romans drinking “red wine” are now thought to represent beetroot juice instead. Not everyone agreed with the health claims though. Pliny, the noted Roman naturalist, said beets were “more harmful than cabbage”. Scary.

It’s also, like most healthy foods, considered an aphrodisiac, and is high in boron, which helps produce human sex hormones. The saying “take favours in the beetroot fields”, a euphemism for visiting prostitutes, was apparently popularised by British Field Marshal Montgomery as he exhorted his troops to do so in an attempt to increase morale.


After a long break, the Camphill cheeses are in stock again. Their tasty sweet milk cheddar cheeses include plain, cumin and madagascar pepper varieties.


Our relatively new truck was involved in an accident yesterday. Everyone is fine, apart from some slightly squashed strawberries, but the truck will be out of action for a while. Thank you to everyone who got into their cars and bakkies to make this week’s round happen. Since we’re probably quite far down the line for a government bailout, and Sani Obacha’s nephew still hasn’t deposited the promised millions into our account, we hope that you’ll bear with us as we make alternative plans, and that if your veggies are late and you’re feeling down, you won’t have to resort to cavorting in the beetroot fields.

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
the Co-op team

Melting coconut oil, biodynamic vinegar and natural paint

Summer’s here. I may be stating the obvious, but if, like me, you spend too much time indoors, and are in danger of letting it slip by, one sure-fire way of noticing is that the coconut oil starts melting. It has a melting point of 26 degrees, so in winter you need to dig it out with a spoon, while in summer it can surprise you by turning into a liquid.

It’s also the time to be spent soaking up some Vitamin D with sundowners on the beach, rather than inside surrounded by electronic smog. At least that’s the message I seem to be getting, with my landline down, my cellphone misplaced, my TV broken, and my car in for repairs. I barely managed to get this newsletter out after having baptised my laptop with a smoothie when being bitten by a mosquito.


I wrote last year about the moves to declare leaded paint a group-one hazardous substance. Most paint manufacturers have ignored the voluntary commitment, made in the 1970’s, to minimise lead in their paints. Unfortunately there’s been little progress since last year.

Last week you would have seen a sample of one of EnviroTouch’s ProNature paints in your box. Lead gets most of the bad press, and as a result you’ll see quite a few “lead-free” paints. However, even these paints usually contain a host of unpleasant chemicals, such as petrochemical solvents, formaldehyde emitting biocides, acrylic polymers with TEA and N-Methyl Pyrrolidone – fingered for negatively affecting foetal development, ethylene glycol derivatives, alkyl phenol ethoxylates – endocrine disruptors, and many more. ProNature paints contain none of these, and a wide range, suitable for most conditions, is available to order.


Some of you would have noticed a sample bottle of Rozendal vinegar in your boxes this week. Rozendal is a small, family-run farm, situated on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. They’ve been farming without artificial fertilizer or pesticides since 1994 and biodynamically since 2001.

The word vinegar comes from the French words “vin”, or wine, and “aigre” meaning sour. It’s made when yeasts convert natural sugars into alcohol, and then a bacteria is added to ferment the alcohol into acid. As with other fermented foods, such as yoghurt and cheese, the bacteria culture is important, and provides much of the characteristic of the vinegar. Rozendal use an indigenous “mother?, originating from the first vinegar made on the farm in 1988, and used a blend of Merlot and Cabernet grapes.

Vinegar has a long history, being one of the most ancient drinks. It’s been found in Egyptian urns from around 3000BC. The Roman legionaries used vinegar, blended with water, and, if they were lucky, honey, as a basic drink.

According to legend, vinegar was an effective prevention for the plague. One version has it that, when the plague was raging through France, and many houses lay abandoned, many cities were beset by looters. In Toulouse, four looters were caught. It turned out they had been looting many abandoned houses, and the judge, rather than punish them, offered to set them free if they would share their secret for avoiding the plague.

They claimed a medicine woman sold them a potion of garlic soaked in vinegar, and variants of their recipe, called Four Thieves Vinegar, has been passed down till today.

You can view a video of their passionate vinegar maker on the fascinating process of making vinegar biodynamically on our blog.

To order, visit

Have a great week,
the Co-op team

Leeks, eggs, fluoride and renewable energy


Leek’s have been cultivated for centuries, and dried specimens have commonly been found in Egyptian archaeological sites, and seem to have formed part of the Egyptian diet from the second millennium BC. Leeks are also the national symbol of Wales, where, according to one legend, the Welsh King Cadwaladr ordered his soldiers to wear leeks on their helmets in order to identify themselves in battle against the Saxons.

It was also the favourite vegetable of the Roman emperor Nero, who apparently used it to improve his singing voice. The theory was first voiced by Aristotle, who credited the clear voice of the partridge to a diet of leeks. I’m not sure a partridge should be used as the model of harmony, but then Nero was known to be mistaken about a few things.

Nutritionally, leeks are often overlooked, while their super cousins from the allum family, garlic and onions, get all the plaudits. They share many of the same nutritional benefits, but need to be eaten in larger quantities to achieve the same effect. Fortunately leeks are milder and easier to wolf down in volume than either onions or garlic.

Leeks contain very good quantities of manganese, and good amounts of vitamin C, iron, folate and vitamin B6, which together are helpful in stabilising blood sugar levels. Compounds in leeks and other allum vegetables help improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of prostate, colon and ovarian cancers.

Fluoridated water

The trend to remove unneeded, and in many cases harmful, chemicals from our lives continues. In the US, yet another city is reviewing its decision to fluoridate their water supply. But this is no ordinary city – it’s Grand Rapids in Michigan, which was the very first city to add fluoride to its water supply, based on government assurances that it reduced tooth decay, and posed no serious risk.

With evidence mounting that this is not the case, the city has ordered a new review of the scientific evidence concerning the risks and benefits of the chemical. Grand Rapids has already removed chlorine from the water supply, which proved much less controversial.

Most English-speaking countries fluoridate their water supply. It was popular in much of Europe until the 1970’s, but is now rarely carried out in continental Europe.


Eggs have been one of our most common product requests, but we’ve been battling to source organic, or even free range, eggs, and supply in the past has been erratic.

There are 22.8 million egg-laying hens in South Africa. 97% of these are battery hens. They have their beaks burnt off as chicks to prevent them pecking each other, as they spend their lives unable to move, cramped in a cage with up to seven other hens. Over half have fractured or broken bones by the time they’re sent off to the slaughterhouse, over the hill at 18 months.

This situation remains primarily because people continue to support the practise by buying battery-laid eggs. We’d love to be able to offer an alternative for those of us eating eggs, so if you know of any organic or free range suppliers, please let us know.

Renewable energy

An important bill will be put before parliament soon. The Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff Bill aims to allow people who are producing electricity (of an approved standard) from renewable sources to feed it into the grid and be paid for it. In other countries, this has been an important kickstart for renewable energy, as it empowers individuals and small businesses to use and support renewable energy, rather than having us continue to rely solely on large, polluting central utilities for our electrical energy. Read more, as well as how to support this initiative, at Urban Sprout.

Head on over to to order.

Have a great week,
the Co-op team

Countrywide deliveries, soy lecithin, and a planetwalker.

Country-wide deliveries

We know we have many followers in the rest of South Africa, outside of our greater Cape Town delivery area, and we’ve had regular requests to deliver upcountry. Last week, we finally started delivering, via courier, and selected dry products only, to the entire country.

To order, choose ‘place a couriered order’ from the log in page. Only the available products will be shown. Please make sure you are registered in the “South Africa – outside of greater Cape Town” area (although Cape Town customers can, if they really want to, order via courier as well). If you’re registered in the “Outside South Africa” region, you won’t be able to place an order. You can change your default region (as well as any other information, such as email address or telephone number) by choosing “Update your details” from either the log in page, or after you’ve logged in.

Only selected dry products are available, and we use an external courier service to get the goods to you. All goods are transported overland – we don’t use air freight.

Organic standards and soy lecithin

Organic standards and organic certification are a minefield, especially when it comes to processed products. Most people are unaware that there are large differences in the organic standards between different organic certification bodies – some are better than others. Standards also change over time, sometimes for the better, usually due to consumer pressure, and sometimes for the worse, usually due to industry pressure. The USDA standard, which is the official US government standard, and one of the weakest organic standards, currently permits non-organic soy lecithin. Up to 5% of a USDA-approved organic product can be made up of non-organic products, and these must come from products that are unavailable organically.

Soy lecithin is one of the permitted products, a legacy from when the standards were drawn up, and organic soy lecithin was not commercially available.

Soy lecithin is an emulsifier, used to blend products that don’t normally mix, and in particular to keep fats from separating. It’s usually extracted with hexane, and, like most soya, is usually genetically-modified. You’ll find it in most commonly-available organic chocolate bars, for example. Note that the Rapunzel chocolates we offer use organic soy lecithin.

Right now there’s a campaign underway in the US to remove soy lecithin from the list of permitted non-organic ingredients. Should it be successful, all soy lecithin used in USDA organic products will need to be organic, which would be a great step forward in both the letter and spirit of the organic laws.

In South Africa, we too often rely on others to look out for our interests. If the US standards change, that will help us here, as many of the products available locally are USDA-certified, but we should also be on top of the local standards, making sure that they are up to scratch too. Can we make a difference? In the spirit of the momentous election in the US, “yes we can”!

John Francis – planetwalker

On the blog this week is an inspiring talk by John Francis, who walked around the Americas for 22 years carrying a message of respect for the earth. For 17 of those years, he was silent. Now that he’s talking again, he shows us what he’s learnt from all that listening. See it here.

To order, visit

Have a great week,
the Co-op team

John Francis – planetwalker

John Francis walked and sailed around the Americas for 22 years, carrying a message of respect for the Earth. For 17 of those years, he did not speak. He earned an MA in environmental studies and a PhD in land resources during his monumental trek, and challenges us to go beyond our boundaries in this inspiring talk from TED.