Monthly archives "November 2010"

Candy beet and spaced out art

Tomorrow, Saturday 27th sees the world’s largest solar picnic happening in Cape Town, co-ordinated by 350.org. There are 15 venues in the world, and two in Africa, hosting eARTh, large-scale art human art formations billed as the first art exhibit large enough to be seen from space. Volunteers are needed for the event tomorrow, featuring highly reflective solar cookers which will later be donated to schools in the community. It will be held at the Khayelitsha stadium, Corner Kusasa and Palma road. For more details see the article on Urban Sprout.

Candy-striped beetroot
This week we have candy-striped beetroot available from Drift Farm in Napier. Candy-striped? Another marketing term far-removed from reality? In this case, it actually describes the beetroot fairly accurately. It has pink and white stripes that do look like the kind of thing you’d find in a candy store. Raw, you need to slice or grate the beetroot to see the stripes, while when cooked the beet goes a pinky colour, much lighter than normal beetroot.

Not everyone knows that beetroot leaves can be eaten. They’re highly nutritious, similar to spinach. So next time, although the worms in your compost heap would appreciate them, I’d sure your stomach would appreciate them more. We also have candy-striped leaves available too. I don’t know what they look like – normal green leaves, or with candy stripes too, but we’ll have photos up next time.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to www.ethical.org.za

A tough business

Farming is a tough business. You’re at the mercy of the elements, where a hailstorm at the wrong time can destroy the season’s crop. You’re at the mercy of international finance and geopolitics, where a crop subsidised by huge European subsidies suddenly gets dumped on the market, and no wants to buy your “expensive” produce any more. One of the unintended side-effects of food aid in many African countries has been to destroy local agriculture. Food aid is either given away freely, or stolen and sold at lower prices – either way, no one buys the locally produced crop. Whether and what sort of support farmers need is an ongoing debate, and access to markets is one of the key areas. It’s no good if a farmer spends half their day on the side of the road trying to sell their produce, or sells the entire crop the one week, and then the next week sees it rot in the fields, unwanted.

Some of our farmers have been oases in the wilderness, spreading organic farming among sometimes suspicious and conservative (often with good reason) farmers, and it’s great to see some of the farms that began small becoming more established. Ultimately, it’s all thanks to your support by buying the produce. Remember you can always find more information about who the farms are, and where they’re situated, by clicking “more info” in the product description.

Bluefin tuna
The Bluefin tuna is one step closer to extinction this week after the European Union decided to ignore scientific evidence that the fish is catastrophically overfished, and bow to pressure from its fishing industry. Most of the largest bluefin fishing fleets are European, and many have kicked up a huge fuss about their livelihoods. The existing quotas, already set too high, are all but ignored as everyone tries to grab a larger slice of the pie before it’s all gone.

The world needs us to do what we love and what can help, but fear of not having enough, or greed, keeps us from doing so.

Misubishi, the Japanese conglomerate, is stockpiling bluefin tuna, and the more endangered the fish becomes, the higher the prices go. Should the tuna go extinct, Mitsubishi’s stockpiles will be worth billions.

Market Madness
In the case of the tuna, the market incentivises the speeding up of the destruction. Less tuna means more money. Similarly, in South Africa right now, every supplier has an incentive to stick an organic label on their product. There’s no legal meaning to the term in South Africa (although this should be changing soon). But at the same time, there are small farms growing in the true organic spirit, who will not be able to afford organic certification, and who will soon lose out on any benefits once the legislation is passed.

There’s no perfect system. Until we are acting from love for others, not from greed and fear, the same story will continue. And there’s no better place to start than with ourselves.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to www.ethical.org.za. We had a problem with our server this week, so some would have had difficulty ordering on Friday morning. Hopefully all is in order now.

Labaneh and Laurels

In much of the English-speaking world, the term “Greek yoghurt” has come to mean strained yoghurt, even though most yoghurt eaten in Greece is not strained. On one of my rare forays to the supermarket, I was looking at the ingredients in yoghurt. Most flavoured yoghurt contains aspartame, the genetically-modified sweetener associated with various health ailments. And almost all supermarket yoghurt, even the plain kind, contains gelatine, derived from the skin and bones of pigs and cows.

“Greek-style” yoghurts are similar in texture to Greek strained yoghurt, but are usually thickened with various thickening agents.

The traditional term for strained yoghurt is labaneh (or labneh), and we’re happy to have some available this week from the dairy of Camphill biodynamic farm. The process of straining removes some of the whey, as well as salts and sugars, leaving a high-protein thick and creamy yoghurt with a texture somewhere between yoghurt and cheese.

We have yoghurt from both Camphill, as well as Sandford Farm, a farm in the Hemel and Aarde Valley with a small herd of Jersey cows. All of our yoghurts are of course live, and high in probiotics, which aid in digestion.

Bay Leaves
The bay leaf is an aromatic leaf with a distinctive flavour, commonly used in briyanis and Asian cooking, as well as to flavour soups and stews. It comes from the Bay Laurel, and has a distinguished place in mythology. In Greek mythology, the nymph Daphne was changed into a laurel tree by Gaea in order to help her escape the unwanted attentions of Apollo. Apollo then declared the laurel sacred, and a symbol of honour.

The association with honour continues today in the English language. Poet laureates (Apollo was god of poets), and bacca-laureate for graduates. Athletic winners were given laurel garlands, and doctors were also crowned with laurel, considered a cure-all.

From this we get “rest on your laurels”, a warning to those awarded their laurels not to simply sit back and revel in the glory.

They’re also a great pest repellent – perfect in the pantry to chase away meal moths, those annoying moths that love milled grains. It’s coming to the time of year the moths surface to lay eggs, so it’s a good time to scatter a few.

And, if chasing away moths doesn’t sound so exciting, there’s also a legend that placing a bay leaf under one’s pillow on St Valentines day will cause one to dream of one’s future marriage partner. I can only vouch for their use as a moth repellent though.

We’ve had dry bay leaves available for a while, but this week are also offering fresh bay leaves, which offer great value. Fresh leaves should be left to dry for a few weeks to bring out their full flavour.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to www.ethical.org.za

Making a difference

We spend much of our energy trying to improve things on the outside, to improve systems. What’s the right economic system, education system, legal structure, constitution? But that only addresses a small part of the problem. A system only works as well as the people in it. Our consciousness, our levels of awareness and compassion, have much more of an impact.

I was struck by this thought seeing the concern about the recent US election, where large numbers of industry-friendly candidates in favour of the status-quo, of continuing to burn fossil fuels, and to use coal and oil, have been elected. The chances of systemic changes to our destructive behaviour, at least involving the US, on one level now seems more remote.

But at the same time, city-wide green initiatives are expanding, and renewable energy, recycling, health laws are better than ever.

An article in the recent journal Organizational Dynamics puts it well. “The cultural and moral shift that it’s going to take for climate change to become a social fact is on a par with abolishing slavery, a huge source of energy and wealth around the world in the 1700s.”

In the the 1700’s many people had no moral problem with the idea of some people owning others. They justified it in all sorts of ways. Those being owned were well-treated, and there were laws preventing some forms of abuse. Slaves were uneducated – they couldn’t possibly survive in the world outside the care of their owners. It was the natural way, the economy would collapse if slaves were no longer providing free labour. What could an individual do – best not to interfere.

There were of course large financial interests supporting the continuation of slavery, but as long as most people remained ignorant, or gave it their tacit approval, nothing got done.

It took brave action by a few leading to growing moral outrage by many to eventually end the practise, and only after the moral opposition became overwhelming did the legal system change, and the economy adapt.

Today, there are vast financial interests backing our continued reliance on fossil fuels. But, more importantly, most people don’t really think there’s too much wrong with it. A little smoky perhaps, but better filters, or more catalytic converters can take care of the ‘excesses’. Even those who do have the same excuses. What can an individual do against the overwhelming special interests. The economy would collapse, best to move slowly.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and one day we’ll look back at the madness, and wonder how people let it continue so long.

New and Old
This week we’ve got lucuma powder back in stock – the custardy-tasting fruit from Peru that proved such a hit in my smoothies, and we also have a new range of raw chocolates to complement the mix.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order head on over to www.ethical.org.za.