Monthly archives "February 2010"

Hummers, mushrooms and quinoa

The pretty Hummer
The poet John Keats wrote:

What is more gentle than a wind in summer?
What is more soothing than the pretty hummer
That stays one moment in an open flower,
And buzzes cheerily from bower to bower?

It’s fairly certain he wasn’t referring to the Hummer, General Motor’s gargantuan gas guzzler. Environmentalists though were celebrating this week at the imminent demise of the car everyone loves to hate. GM have announced that they have been unable to find a buyer for the brand, and the vehicle, which began life in the US-army, may soon be a museum curiosity from the Age of Excess.

Shimeji mushrooms
Fans of the mushroom section would have noticed the quiet arrival of two varieties of unusual mushrooms. Shimeji mushrooms are rarely seen as they are difficult to cultivate. Native to east Asia, they grow slowly, have a longer than usual shelf-life, and a somewhat bitter taste raw, but become sweeter when cooked.

They haven’t been well-studied, but there is evidence of their effectiveness in inhibiting tumours, similar to their shiitake relatives. We have white shimeji, brown shimeji, shiitake and king oyster mushrooms available this week.

Most people have come across quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), the little balls of protein power. A superb protein, containing significant amounts of all essential amino acids, unlike some proteins quinoa is gluten-free and easy to digest.

But did you know that, just as maize isn’t only yellow, or carrots orange, quinoa has many different varieties (over 1800) and colours too. Until quite recently, red quinoa was almost extinct, but thanks to its rapid spread through health food stores worldwide, it’s now widely known and cultivated.

There’s very little difference nutritionally between red and white quinoa, with the red apparently being fractionally ahead in some nutrient levels. It’s got a slightly firmer texture after cooking, and a slightly nuttier flavour. Even better, it’s available this week at an amazing introductory price – R32 for 500g.

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team

Optimism heals, another GM maize application, and a vacancy

I read a report today on a study indicating that optimists are less likely to get heart disease. It’s an important study, because while many have known this intuitively or through personal experience, this is one of the first studies to find a strong link between positive emotions and good health. We may not be able to control everything that happens to us, but no matter how horrific the experience, we can always control our reaction to it.

There are those who seem strong no matter what happens to them, and those for whom life is always a struggle, no matter the opportunities they are given. It’s always possible to change, to go from a predominantly pessimistic to a predominantly optimistic attitude. I know I have.

GM Maize in SA
Syngenta has applied to grow a new genetically-modified maize, GA21. As with all commercially-grown GM crops, there are no benefits such as “feeding the world” or “increasing yields” or “reducing herbicide use”. Instead, this maize has been modified to be immune to Touchdown Forte, Syngenta’s herbicide, a similar model to Monsanto with their Roundup herbicide. Again, seeds are used as a vehicle to sell more herbicide, which in practice has led to higher levels of herbicide use due to the plant’s immunity.

Recent amendments to the law allow the Minister of the Environment to insist on an Environmental Impact Assessment in cases such as these. is running a petition requesting that this happen – lend your support at the website.

Free tickets to Natural and Organic Show

We’re not going to be exhibiting at this weekend’s Natural and Organic Exhibition, but many of our suppliers are, so it’s a great way to find out more. Urban Sprout are offering their readers free tickets – visit their website and follow the link from there.

Gojis, dates and other oddities
Organic dates have been almost impossible to come by recently, but we’re pleased to have some available again. They’ll go quickly, so get your orders in now. And, for goji lovers such as myself, who find that the 200g bag runs out half way up Table Mountain, we’re now offering goji berries in a 1kg bag. There’s also a variety of unusual fresh veg available – check out the site for more.

Admin and customer service ace wanted
We have a vacancy for an admin ace, with great customer service skills. It’s a fulltime position, available immediately. Go here to find out more.

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team

Looking for a customer service and admin ace

We’re looking for a customer service and admin ace.

  • you’ll be the key point of contact for customers, dealing with them warmly and professionally both by phone and email.
  • you’ll also be holding the office together, helping out in the areas of finance, admin and logistics.

The pay’s not great, but you’ll be working with a passionate bunch of people in an open and transparent environment, making a substantial contribution doing something you love.

If that appeals, contact us for more information, or send your application to admin (AT) ethical (DOT) org (DOT) za, with the subject line ‘Admin Application’. We’re looking to hire immediately, so send in those applications nows!

Eggplant for India, a wonder pigment for the eyes, and some more green stuff

No GMO eggplant for India
India has placed a six-month moratorium on the launch of a new genetically-modified aubergine. The aubergine, which has a bacterium introduced that’s poisonous to insects, was rejected by the environment minister after strong opposition from state governments and the lack of consensus from scientists.

It would have been the first genetically-modified food crop to be permitted for cultivation in India (India grows GM cotton) and opponents feared it would have set a poor precedent of allowing more varieties through with the minimum of testing.

The pressure is building on India, let’s hope it holds.

Lutein is a carotenoid, an organic pigment found in plants. Carotenoids act as anti-oxidants in the body, and a diet high in carotenoids is essential for vibrant health.

There are over 600 carotenoids, and lutein is one that’s key for the eyes. It’s concentrated in a small part of the retina essential for central vision. High lutein intake is associated with a reduction in macular degeneration, the key cause of blindness in older people.

So which foods are high in lutein? Most of the green leafy vegetables have high levels, but there’s one that stands out. As I was told, if you’re looking for eye health, don’t think carrots, think… kale! Yes, kale tops the lot, a good reason not to go ”off yer kail”.

But that’s not the only green stuff we’ve got. New on the site this week is spirulina. At the UN World Food Conference in 1974, spirulina was declared best food for the future. It’s a fantastically healthy food, brimming with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. 65% protein by weight, and 12% more digestable than beef, and grown right here in the Western Cape. Available in powder or tablet form, and the tablets, unlike most, don’t contain any binder, just pressed spirulina.

Spirulina suffers, deservedly in my opinion, from a reputation of being rather unpleasant to taste. The thought of spirulina juice makes even kale juice seem delectable by contrast. So, it goes best with other foods, and is disguised extremely well by chocolate. A regular diet of chocolate-spirulina smoothies should have you glowing with joy and health in no time!

To order, head on over to – there are a few other new products lurking this week as well.

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team

Rhubarb rhubarb, is bigger better?

How big is too big?

We often hear about banks that are “too big to fail”, or car manufacturers that must “survive at all costs”. Usually, it’s for our own good. Only large, well-captitalised companies can implement the important changes we need to make to thrive in the 21st century, right?

Quite the contrary.

Real innovation so often comes from small groups and the young upstarts tuning into the times. Literary movements can be three of four highly influential people. Political tsunamis occur because of the works of one writer, or a few, seemingly chance meetings. History is written in terms of people, not only because we understand it best that way, but because huge social changes are so fundamentally affected by key people at key times.

As the now cliched Margaret Mead saying goes, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

That works both ways around. Where many see shadowy forces behind much of the world’s ills, you can equally say never underestimate the power of a few thoughtless and greedy people to change the world.

When it comes to the environment, we see the same pattern. While the large companies or organisations, with bloated bureaucracies, can’t seem to get the simplest things done, small, innovative people and companies are changing the world quickly.

Greenpeace regularly publishes a guide to greener electronics, listing the environmental efforts and sins of the various manufacturers. It caused an outcry when it first came up, with Apple Computer listed at the bottom, but Apple, to their credit, have implemented some of the most critical changes, and now sit at the upper end of the scale. Nintendo, Microsoft and Lenovo are at the bottom, Nokia and Sony Ericsson at the top.

However, a small Indian company, Wipro, has trumped everyone else and produced a computer completely free of hazardous PVC (polyvinylchloride) and BFR (brominated flame retardants), right down to their power cords.

In cars, while General Motors killed their electric car in 2006, and Chrysler canned theirs shortly after using it to get US government bailout money, a number of small companies have been successfully selling electric cars for a while, mainly in Europe and Asia. The most well-known is Tesla, with their sports car capable of going 217 km/h.

How are you making a difference?

Rhubarb rhubarb
I have a soft spot for rhubarb, as it was the first edible plant I ever grew, on a tiny plot in my parent’s garden. Not that I ever ate it. The tart, sour taste was too much for my custard and ice-cream trained pallette. One of the tragedies of a modern diet, high in refined sugar and other sweeteners, is that we lose our appreciation for the other tastes. Bitter, sour, astringent – these are tastes, not unpleasant horrors to be avoided at all costs.

Rhubarb is pleasantly tart, and a very good source of Vitamin K, calcium, potassium and manganese. The traditional way of describing the benefits of a food are in terms of their components. Vitamin A is good for the eyes, zinc for the brain, and so on. While this is in some sense true, there’s usually much more complexity, and it’s more important how things work together. Just as pesticides, tested individually, may seem safe, in untested combinations, it’s very unlikely the body welcomes them. Similarly, while the various vitamins and minerals, tested individually, all show certain effects, their effect together is is much more important.

Rhubarb however is perhaps an exception. While most think of calcium as being good for the bones, and it is, taken in isolation as a supplement it can do more harm, as the body may be unable to utilise it properly, leading to calcification in the wrong places, even while the bones remain weak. It’s all about that digestive system again, and how we utilise what we eat. A good dose of sauerkraut may do more good than popping lots of pills. Rhubarb, however, is really good for the bones. Vitamin K, calcium and manganese are all important for bone health, and rhubarb contains them in ample supply.

Perhaps more people though have heard of the phrase “rhubarb rhubarb” than have tasted fresh rhubarb. The term apparently began when stage directors would instruct crowds of extras to say “rhubarb rhubarb”, giving the impression of general hubbub. There was even a 1980 film, “Rhubarb rhubarb” where the only dialogue uttered was the word “rhubarb”, over and over (and over) again.

Talking of digestive systems, this week’s video is by the dynamic David Wolfe, on the topic of Candida. View it on the blog.

This week we have coconuts new on the site. They’re young green coconuts from Mozambique, which means they’re high in water, and low in the coconut flesh, perfect for drinking. We still have coconut oil available too. It’s one of the only oils to be cooking with as it has a very high heat point, and doesn’t have harmful side-effects when heated for cooking, like most other oils. Of course, you can have it raw too – it’s a great ingredient in smoothies.

Don’t forget
People are quite frequently leaving cold items behind at collection points. Remember, your cold items will be stored in a cooler box at the collection, and are marked separately at the top of your order sheet. Please don’t forget them!

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team

David Wolfe on Candida

David Wolfe is always a dynamic speaker, and this video is a small segment from the 2009 Longevity Experience seminar in California. Here, he talks primarily about candida.

I suggest viewing it in fullscreen, as the video size unfortunately isn’t customisable.

The video is originally from the Longevity Conference site, where you can also find more details about the full video.