Monthly archives "May 2011"

Nuts and seeds

It was only a few weeks ago I was making plans to swim in the dam at Silvermine, but now the fireplace is working overtime and the seasons have undeniably shifted, with all thoughts of frolicking in the water put aside until spring.

It’s the time for the year for planting broad beans though, and we’ve just received a new batch of organic seed from Camphill. Our seed range is bigger than ever, but if there’s something we’re missing, let us know and we may be able to source it. So far only goji berry seeds have proven elusive – if anyone does know of an organic source, please share!

We also have certified organic macadamia nuts available for the first time. Macadamia nuts are apparently used by police to simulate crack cocaine in drug stings, as the ground up powder resembles the drug, but I think that’s about the only connection between the two. Macadamia nuts are relatively low in protein (although far higher than crack cocaine!), but have the highest level of beneficial mono-unsaturated fats of any nut.

They’re also poisonous to dogs (as are many common foods, such as avocado, chocolate and xylitol), so if you have a kitchen scavenger, be sure to keep them well away!

We have a new batch of coconuts this week – the watery green coconuts are almost sold out, but we have a good supply of the fleshier mature coconuts, as well as more dessicated and sliced coconut slices.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

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Failing brakes and exploding watermelons

When people ask me what I do, I usually say that I “deliver organic veggies”. Except that I don’t literally deliver the veggies – I normally do things like write newsletters at 5am.

That changed yesterday, when I got got a call in the early hours of the morning saying that the truck had broken down. The truck has broken down before – far too frequently in fact, but normally it’s on a more convenient day leaving us time to make alternative plans. No such luck today, as, with Gideon and Delphin on Suikerbossie hill, the brakes failed. Luckily they weren’t hurtling down the hill – they’d just pulled off – so no harm done to them, the veggies or the truck.

So, some of you may have seen me, looking a little sleep-deprived, dropping off boxes today. Thanks to Dan who also helped out at the last minute.

Some borax with your meal?
China has become notorious for lax food controls, from melamine-laden milk and infant formula, bleached mushrooms, cadmium in rice to a dash of arsenic soy sauce.

Even in China, many Chinese prefer imported food, seeing it as safer, leading to fairly common fraud where food labelled as imported is actually grown in China.

The latest symptom of a food-growing philosophy gone-wrong involved a number of farmers applying forchlorfenuron, a growth accelerator, to their watermelon crop in an attempt to get them to grow bigger and faster. The result? The watermelons did grow more quickly, but perhaps a little too much. The afflicted watermelons “exploded like landmines“.

They couldn’t be fed to humans so they were instead fed to pigs, making eating pork an even more explosive experience after the recent contamination of pork with borax in order to make it look more like beef.

Welcome to industrial farming!

New this week
We have quite a few items back in stock this week, including turmeric, coconut milk, brazil nuts and sesame snaps, as well as some new items. Arjuna and Brahmi are two herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine, the former for heart disease and the latter to promote memory and concentration, particularly amongst the elderly.

We also have garlic nibs in a grinder and another variety of Rapunzel’s organic chocolate.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

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Apples, snow and plum juice

Eskimo words for snow
There’s an urban legend that there are many Eskimo words for snow, referring to the Inuit of North America. Actually the Inuit have about as many words for snow as English – it’s the Sami of Northern Europe that have over 300 words for snow.

We may think we “know” snow because we know the word and have applied it a few times. But can we really distinguish 300 varieties?

So much of our knowing is nothing more than being able to apply a word.

Which brings me to apples. That most common of fruit, even the youngest of children “know” what an apple is. But do we know the difference between the various varieties? How a green Granny Smith has a completely different look, taste and texture to a Royal Gala.

If you’ve been buying apples or the mixes boxes, you’ll have seen both the tart green Granny Smith, and the sweeter Royal Gala, the most popular supermarket variety. This week though we’ve got Pink Lady apples. Oblong in shape, green turning yellow overlaid with pink or light red, they’re completely different to granny smith, and can’t just be dismissed with the word “apple”. They’ll be in the mixed boxes, or order them separately.

Real Breads and Real seeds
La Petite Boulangerie has a new name – the Real Bread Company. Still dedicated to producing authentic French bread, they use only stone-ground flour, traditional sourdough ferments and skilled artisan hands.

Our seed offering is expanding again, and we now have oak leaf lettuce, soup celery, chinese cabbage and detroit dark red beetroot back in stock, as well as the broccoli sprouting seeds which have been disappearing as fast as we can stock them.

Plum Juice
Bloublommetjies have put their plum juice concentrate on special this week as it comes to the end of its availability. Usually R48, this week 750ml sells for R23.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

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From mugging to organic farming

From crime to organic farming in Nairobi’s biggest slum.

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It’s a rainbow world

I once knew someone who said she stayed informed by skimming newspaper headlines.

I can’t think of a worse way to stay informed! I was reminded of this yesterday when I saw a headline “Bin Laden killing ‘justified’: Dalai Lama”. This seemed strange to me, so I read the original, and it was a fairly nuanced discussion of compassionate action, but nuances don’t make good newspaper headlines.

Headline-writers excel in taking politician’s comments out of context and spinning them into a headine that suits their angle. I can’t remember how many times I’ve read an article with a headline saying a person had “savaged” or “attacked” another person, when their comments have been the mildest of disagreements about another, all of which leads to others responding based on the original misinformation, and the ensuing mayhem also makes good news copy.

Luckily, it’s not a black and white world, where we can easily take sides – it’s a world full of all the colours in-between.

New this week
Hopefully most of the colours can be found on your plate too! After the April holidays there seems to be a new energy, and we have quite a few new items from our suppliers this week.

First up is avocados, one of our most popular items, and finally back thanks to Natually Organic. We also have very limited new supply of Rapunzel’s chocolate sesame snaps, yeast and soup stocks, as well as artichoke hearts from Sandveld. Artichoke hearts are bottled in cider vinegar with salt and lemon. It’s quite a labour-intensive job to prepare the artichoke hearts in this way, but judging from the way I’ve eaten through half the stock already, well-worth it!

Another staple unfortunately not back in stock is eggs (except in minute quantities sold out first thing Friday morning!)

Certified organic eggs are rare here, as certified organic chicken feed is rare and expensive. Free-range eggs are not quite as rare, although some are confused by the terms, and believe the terms are interchangeable. They’re not. Organic usually implies free-range, but free range eggs are still usually given feed consisting of genetically-modified maize and sometimes even animal by-products.

Also, free-range, much-like organic, has no legal standing here, so suppliers can sometimes be misleading in their claims.

So, we’re desperately looking for a reliable supplier of eggs, preferably organic, or at least truly free-range without genetically-modified or animal ingredients.

If you can help, please let us know.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

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