Monthly archives "July 2011"

Citrus, mushrooms and macadamia

It may still be citrus season, but it’s the end for some, and the beginning for others. The shaddock season has run its course, and this is your last week to order kumquats – as I write this, we have only eight left, so, as long as the night owls leave some behind, there should still be some for the early birds on Monday.

Someone asked a while back about whether their naartjies were actually satsumas. Confusion reigns on the farms as well, but the best explanation I heard was that it’s called a naartjie on the farm, and a satsuma in the shop. That said, there are a whole range of citrus that fall under the name “naartjie”. The traditional one has a thicker, orange skin, while there are others that have thin skins (and are often distinguished as “satsuma”).

To add to the confusion, and for this week only, we have “blouskil” naartjies. Blouskil, or “blue peel” naartjies are so-called not because that’s their name when they go mouldy – rather, the skin does actually have a blue tinge when ripe. The “traditional” naartjie is still available as well.

Another new citrus this week is the Seville orange. Be warned, this is not an orange that’s popular for eating, or juicing. It’s bitter, and is most commonly used for making marmalade, or using the juice as a marinade. Still, I remember being surprised when first encountering people eating lemons off the tree, so maybe I’ll discover a legion of bitter seville fans.

Finally, you’ll notice that the minneola’s this week are more accurately described as minneola tangelos – half grapefruit and half tangerine. Nothing to do with oranges at all as we’ve been listing them for the last five years!

New this week
Mushroom fans have enjoyed king oyster and shiitake, but this week we’re offering grey oysters as well, and at a price well below the other varieties. Grey oyster are named because of their similarity in shape to the sea oyster, and their greyish blue colour.

We also have both raw and roasted macadamia nut butters on offer from Kitchen Garden to add to their tahini and almond butters.

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

Snow and oranges

The Atacama desert in Chile is the driest desert in on earth. There are weather stations that have never received rain, and the average is 1mm a year. The same tests that were used by the Viking landers on Mars to detect life were used in parts of the Atacama, and also failed to find any trace of life in the hyper-arid soils.

But, extreme weather events are becoming a norm now as our climate adjusts to years of abuse, and this week saw an Antarctic cold front break through the formidable Andes rain shadow and dump 80cm of snow on the plateau. Suffice to say the locals weren’t prepared and it’s caused widespread mayhem.

We can’t expect to return to the days of relative predictability – even the mildest models see an increase in extreme weather and drastic events, so we’re in for interesting times. Perhaps our Namibian counterparts need to get their snow boots ready…

Apologies to those who didn’t get their fresh tumeric or black radishes last week. Nothing to do with snowfall. Naturally Organic have assured us they will have sufficient tumeric this week, while unfortunately we’ve seen the last of the black radishes from Camphill this season.

Orange Harvest Special
This week, and until the end of July, Envirotouch are running an “Orange Harvest” special. Orange peel oil is used as a natural solvent in their plant oil finishes, so all their wood sealants are at a reduced price – up to R100 for their outdoor wood finishes.

The orange harvest is not only going into natural solvent! The pinky-fleshed cara cara oranges from Kleinjongenskraal in the Cedarberg are finished, but the mineola oranges are now in season, as well as the washington navels, tiny, tart kumquats, sweet grapefruity shaddocks, naartjies and lemons.

Citrus has always been known as a good source of Vitamin C – one to two oranges will supply your daily recommended dosage according to most systems, but what’s often forgotten in a world that specialises on breaking things into smaller pieces, and missing the connections, is how the nutrients in a citrus fruit work together to provide much more benefit that a high synthetic dose of Vitamin C. Magnesium is important for regulating energy levels, and people with low magnesium actually use more energy for doing the same tasks than those with higher levels while folate is a critical nutrient, especially for pregnant mothers.

Oranges aren’t particularly high in Vitamin C – many fresh fruits and vegetables have equivalent or higher levels, but for those looking for a real boost, try camu camu or amalaki, both exceptionally high in Vitamin C, and available in our dried and powdered foods section.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

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Newlands Spring test results

There have been some suggestions that the Newlands Spring water was not safe to drink, and an anonymous test was published showing very different results to the previous tests. Since we’re now distributing the water on behalf of our members, and all of the tests were from last year, I had the water tested again.

The test results are back and can be viewed in full here.

There are updated, stricter standards for 2011. According to these standards, Total Microbial Activity (TMA) should be less than 1000 colony-forming units (cfu) per ml. Newlands spring water measures 10. Total coliforms need to be less than 10 cfu/ml. Coliforms are bacteria that are found in soil, plants and digestive tracts of animals and humans. Newlands spring water measures 2.

Faecal coliforms are a subset of coliforms that are present specifically in the gut and faeces of warm-blooded animals, and the best indicator of whether water has been contaminated. There cannot be any detectable. E Coli are the major subset of coliforms. Unfortunately, when I had the test done, I misunderstood, and they only tested for e coli (of which they couldn’t detect any). When discussing the results with them, I realised the faecal coliform test is a different one, less specific than the e coli test, and I’ve asked them to retest for this.

I also asked the labs specifically about giardia, a parasite which some believe they have caught from the water. They do not test for this specifically, but apparently the presence of faecal coliforms and e coli is an indicator that other harmful microbes may be present, which is why they are tested for.

The water looks in great shape so far, but unfortunately I missed the one key test – I’ll update with those results when they’re available.

After speaking to Swift, they suggested there wasn’t a need for a separate test, as the results were very good and it would be very unusual to have faecal coliforms with the other results as they were.

Instead, I will do another test in a few months, so that we can be sure the water maintains its quality.

The Scramble for Africa and a Savoy cabbage

The world this weekend welcomed its newest country, and the 193rd member of the United Nations, with the independence of South Sudan, which separated from the rest of Sudan.

If ever a child has been born into a challenging situation it’s this one. The area faced civil war from 1955 to 1972, followed by a second civil war from 1983 to 2005. Approximately one third of the population were killed in these devastating wars, and more than half internally or externally displaced. Although the area has seen relative peace recently, there are still at least seven armed groups active in the country, affecting nine of the ten states, as well as unsettled questions with Sudan over oil revenues, borders and foreign debt.

A challenge indeed.

But before the country has even been born its land is being leased out. There has been much criticism of huge land deals in Africa recently, with foreign corporations and countries buying or leasing large tracts of land, either to grow food or to exploit minerals. Many of these have been arranged by political elites in the country, with no consideration of, or benefit for, the people living on the land.

In South Sudan, a Texas-based corporation has leased up to a million hectares for the next 49 years. The lease allows them all mineral, forestry and agricultural rights on the land, without limitation. The cost of the deal? $25,000.

The lease was signed with the Mukaya Payam Cooperative, a fictitious co-operative consisting of a local paramount chief and a group of influential locals, who’ve signed the agreement behind the backs of the community.

The new scramble for Africa is taking place not through armies of occupation, but through shady land deals. Similar deals in Ethiopia and Congo, which have been trumpeted as bringing welcome investment, have simply resulted in smallholders, who have farmed it for generations and only have customary rights, being pushed off. In Madagascar, an island rather pressed for space unlike sparsely populated South Sudan, a deal was responsible for the downfall of a government. The African Union is trying to draw up a code of conduct to limit such abuses, but the people of Africa’s newest country are already being burdened with such abuses.

Savoy Cabbage
In Cape Town, the term “Savoy Cabbage” is probably better known as a restaurant, but it’s also, unsurprisingly, a variety of cabbage.

A descendant of the same wild cabbage family that’s brought us broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower and kale, it’s a nutritional powerhouse, Savoy cabbage is regarded as the sweetest and most tender cabbage variety, with none of the sulphurous odour sometimes associated with other (usually overcooked) cabbage. It’s also relatively tender, and one of the easiest cabbages to eat raw.

New this week
This week we’re offering new goats cheeses from the delightfully named Wilde and Roare in Swellendam (gouda, cream cheese and feta), as well as tahini and almond butter, both raw and roasted, made from certified organic nuts and seeds here in Cape Town by Kitchen Garden.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

Place of Sweet Water

Cape Town is blessed to have an abundance of great quality spring water. Much of it has been blocked, built on, or left to empty into a river. The spring in the city centre that once quenched the thirst of visiting sailors is now embedded in the Golden Acre Mall. This same spring pours 2.4 millions litres of water each day, almost a litre for every person in Cape Town, straight into the stormwater system.

Organisations like Reclaim Camissa (Camissa is the ancient Khoi name for Cape Town, meaning “Place of Sweet Water”) are doing fantastic work in researching these forgotten springs, and integrating them into a future sustainable Cape Town.

Many of us collect water from the Newlands Spring, or other similar springs. We’ve had numerous requests to deliver water with our orders, so, starting from this week, that’s what we’re doing!

The water is freely available for anyone to collect from the Newlands spring, but we’re offering the service to collect it for you, and deliver it with the rest of your order. It will come in a 10 litre re-usable water bottle, which will be included as part of the price.

In future, we’re hoping to be able to refill it for you without the need of buying another one.

Gaia Market
We haven’t been at a market for many years now, but this weekend we’ll be attending the Gaia Food Market in Constantia, a new speciality market dedicated to authentic plant-based cuisine. If you’re in the area, come pay us a visit at the Alphen Hall from 9am.

New Wellington collection point
We’ve recently added Newlands and Noordhoek collection points, and this week it’s the turn of Wellington. You can now collect your boxes from Bloublommetjieskloof Farm shop near Wellington.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

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