Monthly archives "March 2012"

Honey, germs and mud

The winners of the 2012 Eat In awards have just been announced, and Earthshine‘s kale chips have won the Innovation Award. If you haven’t yet tried their two delicious flavours – the milder Cheezy Herb (it’s a vegan cheeze), and the feistier Zesty Chilli, don’t wait! And for those of you who’ve been asking about the shortage of organic kale recently, I’m sure Earthshine are partly responsible. It’s tough being a farmer when for years kale is seen as a poor substitute for spinach, to be planted is a distant corner of the fields, next thing it’s seen as a nutritional wonder in its own right, and then suddenly again people are making chips with it.

I seem to remember my first exposure to the word “germs” being a television ad, and years later they still seem to be the basis for selling personal hygiene products, usually anti-bacterial soaps. With every surface flashing red with danger, an anti-bacterial soap is the only answer. Well, no. Another study published this week looked at the severity of disease in mice living in sterile conditions, compared with those exposed to more germs. Those living in a sterile environment were far more severely affected. Auto-immune diseases are more common in the developed world, and this is believed to be related to overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial products, as well as less playing outside, in the dirt.

Childhood exposure is particularly important, and it was found that this could not be completely made up for as an adult. So children really can claim playing in the mud is both fun and healthy, while us for us adults, it’s mainly just fun.

In the US, it’s been found that most supermarket honey isn’t honey, and I’ve heard some horror stories locally as well. Many varieties contain no pollen at all, and are even mixed with high-fructose corn syrup, or other cheaper sweeteners. To remove the pollen, honeys are ultra-filtered, heated and then forced through tiny holes at high pressure.

Without the pollen, there’s no way to trace the source of the honey. This has been done in part to facilitate dumping Chinese honey in other parts of the world. Chinese honey has notoriously been frequently laden with antibiotics. Ultra-filtering is also done to prevent honey crystallising. Natural honey will always eventually crystalise around the tiny pollen particles – how long it take depends on factors such as how much it was heated, the current temperature, and how finely the honey was filtered. All honey is filtered (otherwise you’ll get bits of bee and bits of wax in the mix), but the degree varies.

Luckily we’re blessed with four varieties, all of them real!

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

The Baboons of Citrusdal and a field day with a server

Those that tried to order on Saturday night and Sunday would have noticed we were down. Our server in Denmark crashed and needed to be replaced. Fortunately most people seem to order on Friday, to secure the products that sell out quickly, or at the last minute, so the weekends are quiet and I could use the opportunity to do some tidying up on the server as well as restoring access.

Everything is running smoothly now, and hopefully there are no more sunspots hurtling towards Denmark.

Human Rights Day
Wednesday is a public holiday this week. It won’t affect your deliveries on Thursday, but it will mean that you should place your order as soon as possible, as some of our suppliers won’t be able to deliver on Wednesday, and will not be available for ordering if you leave it to the last minute.

The Baboons of Citrusdal
The baboons must have read my previous newsletter, as they enjoyed a field day amongst the maize and sweetcorn, ensuring there wasn’t much left for the rest of us. The origins of the term “field day” were originally entirely positive, being a rare day in the fields at first for soldiers, and later also for schoolchildren released from their classroom boredom for a field trip, and now for baboons.

Somehow, in the Victorian era, the fields took on a negative slant, becoming associated with scandal and the press having a field day.

Personally I think we all need more field days, scandalous or not.

GM Labelling
Many of you may have seen newspaper articles about the tests done on various brands to see whether they contain genetically-modified material. Celeriac infant cereal, Pronutro and Impala maize meal were all tested and found to be largely GM. I didn’t understand the outcry at first, as I’ve been assuming that everything containing maize and soya in particular will be GM, but it looks like I’d missed the new legislation meaning that this now needs to be prominently labelled.

Labelling is critical, and I’m constantly amazed at how people respond to labels. The outcry when a high-sugar cereal could no longer claim to be “good for you”. Avoiding the chips stating “Contains Tartrazine” in prominent writing, while going for the brand with equally nasty ingredients in the fine print. Or vegetarians choosing the brand of yoghurt prominently displaying that it contains live AB cultures, while not noticing it contains animal products (most yoghurt contains gelatin).

Labelling can be a minefield, but a minefield with too much information is far better than one with none at all. Congratulations to the African Centre for Biosafety for arranging the tests and the subsequent publicity.

Have a great week, and remember to place your order early.
Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us onFacebook and on Twitter

Back again

Our server is back and everything seems to be running smoothly again. Note that Wednesday is a public holiday, so some of our suppliers will be delivering on Tuesday, and so not everything will listed on the website till Tues 2pm. Get your orders in early!

Server crash

Our server crashed on Saturday night. It’s been replaced by a new server, and we’re still busy restoring everything. Hopefully we’ll be back accepting orders by later today

Maize, onions, and a trip to the Himalayas

Thanks for all the queries about the missing newsletters. It’s been gratifying to hear that many of you appreciate them.

I have been feeling quite burnt out recently, so haven’t been feeling inspired to write too many 3am missives. The common cure for burnout is to go and sit in the Himalayas, so that’s just what I’ll be doing, come April. But I hope to get a few more newsletters in before then.

Toxic Baby

In this week’s video from TEDWomen, filmmaker Penelope Jagessar Chaffer became curious about the chemicals she was exposed to while pregnant, and in particular atrazine, a commonly used herbicide used on maize. View it here.


We’re offering three varieties of maize this week. Yellow sweetcorn, white maize – hard and starchy, and my personal favourite, and white sweetcorn, falling somewhere between the two in sweetness and softness. Yellow sweetcorn, albeit most likely a genetically-modified atrazine laden variety, is the only one commonly found in the supermarkets, being the most popular for those with a sweeter tooth.


Onion season is in full swing right now, and if you can’t tell your Rossa lunga di Firenze from your De Genoa, help is at hand. Regular brown onions have the highest eye-watering sulphur content and generally keep their distinctive flavour when cooked. Red onions are better for raw dishes, as they’re milder and sweeter and your host won’t be offended by your tears while you tuck in.

If brown and red are a little mahogany for you, we also have small pickling onions, and Drift farm have supplied us with three unusual varieties. The Rossa lunga di Firenze has a big shallot, long bulbs, is also great raw, and won the RHS award for the sweetest onion in 2008. The round, red-skinned De Genoa has a tender, consistent red/white flesh, and is ideal both for eating raw and making onion pastes. Finally, the medium-sized Ramata de Milano has round golden bulbs with white flesh, and stores well.

While our dry produce is normally relatively easy to manage (bar the occasional exploding chia seeds), fresh produce can be more challenging. Those of you that ordered potatoes last week would have been notified about them in advance, while our recent batches of peaches, Jekyl in the warehouse, have turned into Hyde by the time they got to their destination.

Remember, if your peaches are peach jam when you get them, or if anything else goes wrong, we will happily refund you.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

To order, head on over to to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter

Toxic Baby

Filmmaker Penelope Jagessar Chaffer was curious about the chemicals she was exposed to while pregnant: Could they affect her unborn child? So she asked scientist Tyrone Hayes to brief her on one he studied closely: atrazine, a herbicide used on maize. Onstage together at TEDWomen, Hayes and Chaffer tell their story.