A helpful end to a crazy year

Thursday 19th will be our final delivery for 2013 as we close for the holidays after a crazy year. There’ll be no deliveries on the 26th of December, or the 2nd and 9th of January, and our first delivery of 2014 (yes, 2014!) will be on January the 16th.

“Much-needed break” doesn’t begin to describe it. Our truck and fridges were stolen not that long ago, with our own truck among those used to load our fridges in what was a well-planned inside job, and which has made our logistics even more challenging than usual.

A number of us have also had deaths among those close to us, and of course we’ve all been affected in some way by the death this week of Nelson Mandela. It’s been interesting to hear the varied responses to his passing. A true leader is not the omnipotent, decisive figure so often portrayed in the media, but rather one who humbly awakens us to our own potential. Even in death, Nelson Mandela has rekindled in many a desire to contribute, and to ask how we can help.

“Is this helpful” is a question I’ve been asking myself as often as I can remember recently. Usually the answer is, humblingly, “no, just the opposite”, but when I’m aware enough to ask the question it’s powerfully transformative, whatever the situation. And here it is, happening on a national scale.

Have a blissful and blessed break,
Ian and the Ethical team

Head on over to www.ethical.org.za to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

Happiness in a Heatwave

Happiness in a Handbasket is a new guide to buying local. Well-researched and well-written, everything from food, appliances, clothes, even skateboards, gets a mention. Although books aren’t our main focus, we have a growing selection of books that fit our ethos, and they usually beat bookshop prices too, so do take a look down in the book section.

With the scorching heat in Cape Town this week, summer is well and truly here. If you collect from a collection point, remember that many of the items that were fine in the boxes in winter (such as raw chocolates) sit in the fridges or cooler boxes in summer, so please remember to take them. Your order confirmation will indicate which items are in cold, and your box will have a sticker on to remind you to look for any cold (or large, external) items stored separately.

Have a great week,
the Ethical team

Go to to www.ethical.org.za to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook,www.facebook.com/www.ethical.org.za and on Twitter.

Hail and nettles

Cape Town experienced perhaps the most extreme hailstorms in its human history this weekend. While my son and I played in the “snow”, those without shelter were having a torrid time, while many have been affected by the extreme conditions.

I was at Kirstenbosch for Saturday’s hail, and wandering around the rare fynbos section, wondered how well they’d cope with the white covering. I don’t need to wonder how Cape Town crops will cope with the hail. Not well! Local crops are not well adapted for hail, especially of the size and volume they experienced this weekend, so there will have been extensive damage, and its likely that not everything that was listed at first will be available in the full quantities.

While Cape Town experienced giant hailstorms, Oklahoma in the US experienced more extreme tornadoes, and, if it makes it, tropical storm Barbara will be the first ever recorded storm to move from the Eastern Pacific into the Atlantic with its storm centre intact.

We’re living in interesting times.

Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle doesn’t have the most appealing name, and many people’s first encounter with the plant is memorable for the wrong reasons, but it’s a nutritional wonder.

Briefly blanched, made into tea or turned into juice, and all traces of the sting will disappear. Nettle has high levels of many nutrients, including potassium, iron and sulphur. While sulphur too sounds more like the unwanted exhaust of a coal power station, as a nutrient its important for hair, skin and nail health.

It also contains a good blend of iron and vitamin C, mutually beneficial nutrients, and high levels of vitamin A.

A nettle mix can also be applied externally as a facial steam or a hair tonic.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

Go to to www.ethical.org.za to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

Farming is cool

In South Africa, farming, especially among young urban communities, doesn’t always have a great appeal. Young people are a rare sight in many of the urban farms near our warehouse in Philippi, with older women predominating.

In Kenya at least, that’s starting to change. Urban farming is on the up, even amongst young and well-educated people. It’s seen as a great way to earn extra income. As people stream to the cities for greater opportunities, food is in great demand and urban farmers cannot produce enough, so conflict over scarce opportunities is rare.

The small scale of urban plots lend themselves to organic farming, with no temptation to mechanise, and no large monocultures at risk from single pests.

Hopefully a similar trend can take root here, and a new generation will bring their skills to farming, producing more and more of our food supply in the cities where it’s needed.

Wastage
A huge amount of fresh food is wasted. In a shop, there’s a tendency for people to choose the best looking, the newest fruits, leaving perfectly good, but perhaps less pretty, specimens to spoil.

It’s estimated that a whopping half of all fresh fruit and vegetables grown in South Africa is wasted, mostly from spoilage before being sold.

Our model reduces wastage drastically, as we only order fresh produce from the farmer that’s already been ordered, and very little goes to waste. We get rightfully questioned on the packaging, as many people, including ourselves, would like to see less of it. Fresh produce, especially greens, lasts far longer in packaging though, and when we’ve tried offering it unpackaged, far more goes to waste. And, simply because of the volumes, our team can’t pack the produce loose. With the recent order sizes, we’re already battling to finish by 6am, just before the first delivery vehicles arrive!

Remember, if there’s ever anything wrong with your produce, please let us know about it, and we’ll give you a full refund. We try to ensure it leaves the warehouse in the best shape, and if your courier isn’t handling it lovingly all the way to your door, we want to hear about it!

Rounding
Simplicity is good. Forgetting the 50c on the end of an invoice is quite a common mistake when paying, so we’re rounding everything to the nearest R1 instead to make things easier. That doesn’t mean we’re rounding up to squeeze out another 50c profit! Rather, we’re rounding to the nearest 50c. Gayleen’s Chocolates, for example, are now R14 instead of R14.50, and everything else will be repriced over time.

Bulging warehouse
Our warehouse is bulging with stock, and we may soon have to squeeze in some more shelving to fit it all in. We have a full range of tissue salts, and, unlike most varieties out there, all lactose and sugar-free. There’s lots else, from vegan caviar to decaf coffee, but it can’t all fit in the Featured and New section. Happy exploring!

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

Go to to www.ethical.org.za to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

400 parts per million, pesticides and giant pumpkins

Our earth reached a milestone this week, with carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reaching 400 parts per million. The last time carbon dioxide levels were this high, long before humans existed, there was no Arctic ice, the poles were about ten degrees warmer than today, and sea levels ranged from five to forty metres higher than they are currently.

Our children and grandchildren are certainly in for interesting times, one where it won’t just technology changing at breakneck speed, but our natural systems too. Adaptability and learning to work with the changing environment will be vital skills.

Pesticides and bees
It’s very likely that the recent drastic drop in the honeybee population, particularly in Europe and the US, has been due to neonicotinoid pesticides, a highly toxic pesticide commonly used around the world in conventional farming. The European Union has just banned neonicotinoids, in the face of a frenzied campaign to put the blame elsewhere by Bayer and Syngenta, the two main chemical companies producing the pesticides.

So, good news for European bees and farms, and in countries that have banned neonicotinoids for a while now, such as Italy, France, Germany and Slovenia, bee populations appear to already be recovering. However, in the US, where honeybee levels have reached a 50-year low, corporate control of food and farming policy gets ever stronger. Sulfoxaflor, which has a very similar mechanism to neonicotinoids and is acknowledged by the US Environmental Protection Agency to be highly toxic to bees, was given ’emergency approval’ for use on cotton until 2015, and is now being touted for widespread use.

Commercial beekeepers say that in heavily contaminated areas, such as California, they expect commercial beekeeping to be extinct in five years. Since some crops, such as almonds and broccoli, rely entirely on commercial beekeeping, these foods could also be disappearing along with the bees.

The madness is not restricted to the US. While parts of South America are showing interesting progress in restoring the balance, here in Africa, the same corporations are looking to extend their control, and we need to be vigilant to avoid falling down the same hole.

Too big to be true
We had a visitor to our warehouse in Philippi a few years ago, and he expressed doubt that some of the products, being so big, were actually organic. So I was pleased to read the story of the record-breaking South African pumpkin, grown recently in Worcester and weighing in at a sprightly 417kg. The farmer’s secret? “Look after them nicely” which he described as growing organically and looking after the soil.

If you’re looking to grow something similar, we don’t have the same Atlantic Giant seeds available, but if you’re happier with something slightly smaller, there are Hokkaido pumpkin, boerpampoen, Queensland Blue and Red Etampes varieties available for planting. And if, like me, you don’t whether it’s time to plant pumpkin or peas, peppers or parsley, we still have a few winter rainfall planting calendars available too!

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

Go to to www.ethical.org.za to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

Water bottles with taps

We have a new batch of water bottles to use for the Newlands Spring delivery service, and these come with an optional tap. The taps are only available with a new bottle. The water bottles we use to carry the precious spring water are all type 2 plastic, which are the best plastic to use for water, with none of the risks associated with most plastic water bottles.

When you buy a bottle it is new and has never been used by anyone else. When you return it for refill, it still belongs to you and is used by you exclusively, and you are responsible for keeping it clean.

We’ve noticed some older returned bottles with mould on them. Mould in water can have risks, so you don’t want to drink water from a bottle with any green inside. The best suggestion is to prevent the bottles going green at all by keeping them away from sunlight at all times. Once the water is used, empty the bottle carefully and leave it with the top off so that it can thoroughly dry. If the bottle does go green, I can’t recommend any solutions personally, but I have heard that vinegar (5% dilution) works. Others have suggested bleach, but I don’t think you want this anywhere near your drinking water! If you know of a safe and effective cleaning method, please let us know in the comments below.

If you want us to refill weekly for you, we need to have your returned bottles in our warehouse by Tuesday afternoon. The logistics of this is specific to how you order, so please ask us for details, but generally you will need two to three weeks supply of bottles.

We also love to re-use the cardboard boxes, 1 litre and 500ml glass bottles and egg boxes, so please return these too if you can.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

Go to to www.ethical.org.za to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter

Explosive farming

Last week in Texas, USA, a fertilizer factory blew up, with devastating consequences for the surrounding area and people. The reason for the explosion was poor handling of the ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in both commercial fertilizer for conventional farming, and bombmaking.

The tragedy again reminded me how conventional farming is a system at war with our planet, a system based on greed and exploitation with no regard for future generations.

Compare that to a visit to an organic farm, where the food is healthy and the farm bursting with life and vitality!

Rice
It’s been a while, but at long last we have our own brand of rice back in stock. We have lots of everybody’s favourite fragrant basmati, both white and brown, as well as long-grain brown rice at a very nice price.

More colourfully, we also have wild rice, with its long, thin grains, and brightly coloured red rice available too.

African Agave
Fans of Rawlicious’ agave sweetener may have noticed the change in colour last year. While both the original dark and the new light varieties are raw, the lighter agave has undergone even less processing and has a more neutral, honey-like flavour.

It’s also produced in Tanzania in a very similar way to the old Aztec method, gathering raw sap as it seeps from the plant, rather than processing the pressed core. It’s more labour-intensive, but retains much more of the nutrients. There are many ways of producing agave, most of them resulting in something far-removed from the original. Regular, highly-processed or chemically-produced agave is probably as harmful as high-fructose corn syrup (the diabetes-inducing sweetener added to most soft drinks), so rather stick to organic and minimally-processed.

Have a vitality-filled week,
Ian and the Ethical team

Go to to www.ethical.org.za to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

Fats that Heal

One of my favourite nutrition books is Udo Erasmus‘ ‘Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill’. It’s an entire, fat, book on fats and oils.

For cooking, it’s quite simple. Most oils become harmful when heated, so you need to choose an oil with a high smoke point. Coconut oil is one of the best for this purpose, as it only breaks down at high temperatures. Most other oils aren’t great for cooking. Even extra-virgin olive oil, which is commonly-used, has a relatively low smoke point and shouldn’t be used for cooking unless at very low temperatures.

But oils show their true benefits when fresh and raw. There are two essential nutrients in fats, omega-3’s and omega-6’s. Omega-3’s break down very easily in heat and light, so most people eating a high processed diet are very low in them. Flax is then one of the best oils, as it’s extremely high in omega-3’s. Flax is used in all sorts of therapeutic ways, but it shouldn’t be used over long periods, as its extreme omega-3’s, while good for restoring an imbalance, are not what the human body needs over the long term.

The oil produced by flax’s sister, hemp, has a mix closer to human needs, and is one of the only oils that can be used over a long period without causing an imbalance. Crede’s omega-3-6-9 oil is also a blend of oils aiming at an ideal human balance. If you want to make your own, flax mixed with a small amount of sunflower and sesame make a good combination.

Hemp and flax in particular should be used relatively quickly once exposed to air and light, and are best stored in the fridge.

Sadly, we’ve been given advance warning that the next batch of flax oil will be markedly more expensive, so we’ve filled our fridge with the current batch in case people want to stock up before the increase.

If fats fascinate you as much as me, this week’s video features Udo Erasmus speaking about them.

New and Old
This week there are three varieties of apples available, as well as green beans. It’s also going to be the last week for plums and quinces from Tierhoek, so order while you can. Tierhoek will be back again with apricots in November.

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

Go to to www.ethical.org.za to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter

Udo Erasmus on essential fats and oils

Udo Erasmus, acclaimed expert on fats and oils, and author of “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill”, discusses all things fat in this week’s video. The interviewer comes from a vegetarian and vegan perspective, but the information is as useful to everyone.

The video is ten parts long. Part one is embedded here, as well as part five, which discusses omega-3’s and omega-6 ratios, but if you find fats as fascinating as I do, the links to the followups are in each video.

Part 1 of 10:

Part 5 of 10: Omega-3 and omega-6

My sweet satsuma

With the changing of the seasons, new produce is starting to appear in the fields and on the trees. I once did a ten-day detox eating almost nothing but satsumas, and on the eleventh day was still wolfing them down, so I’m very pleased to see them back. There’s also fresh tumeric, radishes, avocado, sweet potatoes, mange tout and watercress rounding out the recent fresh arrivals.

Concentrate
Goldberry’s Wendy Crawford and Andrew Maclachlan are both seasoned farmers with years of experience in organic and biodynamic farming. They’ve been assisting the landowners of a fruit farm in the Klein Karoo to move to organic, and have produced a batch of fruit concentrates made only from spring water steamed slowly through the organic fruit. There are peach, pear, hanepoort grape and two varieties of plum available to try.

Restoring Grasslands
In this week’s video, Allan Savory discusses how to reverse desertification in grasslands. He once promoted culling, but now realised what a tragic mistake this was, and his more recent methods are quite different. View it at

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical team

Head on over to www.ethical.org.za to place your order before Tuesday 2pm, and remember that you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.