Chamber pots and missing zeroes

Millions and Billions
I mentioned two week’s ago how 1 billion trees had been planted in India in a single 24-hour period, a world record. I was led astray by the BBC source for the news, and a reader pointed out that it should have been 1 million, not 1 billion. Pity!

So while India mourns the 999 million trees that never were, we welcome back everyone who’s managed to take a break over the school holidays.

Egg on their face
There has been quite a bit of publicity this week about World Egg Day, which falls tomorrow, Friday the 9th. Some of you may have seen the petition circulating about Pick ‘n Pay’s plan to celebrate the day by creating the world’s largest omelette, using 60 000 eggs.

Unfortunately they planned to use eggs from battery hens. The kind that spend their entire lives living in a hell realm of space smaller than an A4 piece of paper, declawed and debeaked so they don’t peck each other to death.

Right now, 23 million hens are being subjected to this. A further 23 million unfortunate (or fortunate) enough to have been born male never made it that far, and were sent to their deaths shortly after being born, no good for producing eggs.

Fortunately Pick ‘n Pay reacted to the outcry, and have decided to use free range eggs for this weekend’s event.

60 000 is merely a symbol, as long as only 3% of all eggs sold in South Africa are free range (never mind organic). According to Compassion in World Farming, who co-ordinated the petition, there is a surplus of free range eggs, but, much like organic food in general, there are those who’d like to keep it a niche product, justifying higher prices.

50% of eggs in the UK are free range, and the EU has introduced legislation that will ban battery cages by 2012. Hopefully we’ll follow the EU’s lead soon.

While free range eggs might be easily available, organic eggs aren’t. We hope to have ample supply this week though, from two suppliers, and both, while not only being organic, far surpass any minimum free range standards.

White asparagus
This week we have some unusual white asparagus. White asparagus is formed by depriving the asparagus plant of light. It’s not quite as nutritious as its green counterpart, but has a milder flavour, and is more tender.

Asparagus is a traditional component of many Ayurvedic remedies. It’s a great source of Vitamin K, Vitamin C and folic acid (particularly important for pregnant women). It contains a carbohydrate called inulin, which we can’t digest, but is loved by bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, the friendly bacteria in our digestive system.

There’s also a rather unusual side-effect of eating asparagus. One’s urine takes on a distinctive, foetid smell. When I first read about this, on Wikipedia, I thought perhaps the Wikipedia article had been vandalised, as the article seemed to be more about the smell of urine than about asparagus, but no, it’s a known phenomenon. Asparagus, when digested, breaks down into various sulphur-containing compounds, and it’s these which give the urine its smell. It’s not harmful at all, in fact these compounds are effective against certain parasites.

But, we’re all different. Just as the majority of people find coriander very pleasant, while a minority think it’s hideous and tastes like soap (apparently mainly due to a genetic variation), while most find “asparagus urine” unpleasant, some find the taste smell pleasantly sweet. The writer Marcel Proust said that asparagus “…transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.”

Now I’m sure if we had a marketing manager, they’d be shrieking at me not to end the newsletter on that note.

However, we don’t, and I’ll have to trust that the thought of Marcel Proust’s chamber pot doesn’t put you off buying lots of asparagus. Perhaps I can remind you we stock incense too!

To order, head on over to

Have a wonderful week,

the Ethical Co-op team

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Marcel

    Should "taste pleasantly sweet" be "smell pleasantly sweet"?

  2. Ian Gilfillan

    Oops, yes thanks!