Brassica oleracea

We’re offering quite a few new fresh products this week from a new supplier, the Farmers Co-op. One of the food items you may have glossed over is the humble Brussels sprout. Voted in 2002 as Britain’s most hated vegetable, the main reason for their unpopularity is probably that they’re usually overcooked (along with most veggies), which releases unpleasant-tasting sulphur compounds. They’re actually quite tasty. There are some fantastic recipes out there, and I’ve heard quite a few stories of haters being converted to ardent sprouts fans in a single sitting after tasting a new recipe.

Named after the Belgian city of Brussels (which is why the name Brussels Sprouts is strictly-speaking more correct than Brussel Sprouts, without the ‘s’), they contain significant amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin K and folic acid (deficiency of which has been implicated in birth defects). They also contain sulforaphane, responsible for the bitter taste when overcooked, but also a phytonutrient that’s being studied for its role in reducing DNA damage and cancer.

Much of the brassica family, which include broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage as well, share similar traits.

A reminder again that we’d love you to return glass bottles and cardboard boxes. Not only can you earn Talents on your Camphill bottle returns, but it’s just the right thing to do, leaving less waste all round.

And a reminder that when paying, please leave your full name as a reference, not something like ‘Ethical’! We have R2500 unallocated at present due to misreferencing.

You can comment about the issues raised in this newsletter, or any other topic, on our blog,

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The Co-op team.

March rain and clementines

The welcome rains have reminded us that winter is on the way, and its time to start shifting our diets again, and preparing for the winter roots. It’s not all pumpkin and beetroot though, it’s also time for citrus. We have 1kg bags of clementines from Esperanc farm, as well as lemons.

The varieties of citrus have always intrigued me, and quite often confused me. How many of us know the differences between naarjties, satsumas, clementines, mandarins and all the other varieties out there? The clementine gets it name from the Algerian missionary Father Clément Rodier, who is said to have first discovered the hybrid in 1902, although there are reports of its existence in China well before then. Clementines are particularly easy to peel, and very tasty.

Organic standards are seriously under attack in the US. The cycle has moved from organic farming being a niche activity, practised by early pioneer farmers who strongly believed in the principles of their way of farming, organic in spirit as well as letter, to organic as a mainstream profitable activity. For some, the primary motivation is now profit, and organic has become a marketing label to achieve this. In the US, at the same time as supermarkets embrace organic, and demand grows, major ‘organic’ dairies are lobbying to weaken the dairy standards, allowing cows to feed almost exclusively from intensive confinement feedlots, where the cows are anything but the contented free-roaming animals depicted on the label. In South Africa, the term ‘organic’ currently has little legal standing, but that will be changing soon as progressive new legislation is enacted. The standards seem to be quite good, but the same forces are at play here.

So what can you do about it? Rather than get despondent that such a great concept is being diluted and abused, get informed, and participate! We love hearing from our customers, whether it’s to ask for more information, to inform us about something we didn’t know, a suggestion for a possible product to carry, or even a rap on the knuckles for some labelling we got wrong, or weren’t clear about. We’d like you to see yourselves as active pioneer customers, helping to set the standards for those who follow.

Thanks to everyone who gave us feedback about the chevre goats cheese samples from Cloud Cottage Cheeses. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and as many of you have noticed, these are now available to purchase, giving us a wide range of dairy on offer.

As always, please remember to return your boxes for reuse, and don’t forget that we pay T1 per large Camphill bottle returned, and T0.50 for the small Camphill glass bottles.

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A barrage of chutney

We have a large number of new (and returning favourites) on offer this week, so it’s worth spending some time browsing the list.
Rice and dhal is one of my personal favourite meals, though this does seem to be a minority view! Nothing beats a home-made chutney to add to the mix, but I was excited to see a new range of ready-made chutneys this week for when I’m feeling lazy. From Camphill, there’s Apricot, Guava, Hot Marrow, Melon Marrow, Spicy Fruit and Tangy Fruit. Mystic Chilli’s Coriander and Chilli chutney also makes a welcome return.

Sticking to the rice and dhal theme, Earth Products’ organic turmeric powder is available again. The powder, which is ground from a root similar to ginger, is a naturally bright yellow colour, and is frequently used as food colouring. We assure you it’s nothing like Sudan Red, the toxic chemical that seems to be so prevalent in our foods at present. The body of western research into the benefits of turmeric is growing (particularly into its effects on cancer), although it’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for a long time. It has a bitter, astringent taste, and one of the principles of Ayurvedic medicine is to balance the tastes. Most of us consume far too much sweet food, and far too little bitter and astringent food, tastes which have somehow become associated with unpleasant.
Greenaway’s herbal ointments are available again too. Some of our customers have reported great results with these, and you only need a tiny amount.  As with all of our products, you can click on the product name on the order form to get more information, including an ingredient list, and sometimes a picture. Those of you with popup blockers may have to disable your blocker for our site.

If you’re struggling to sleep under the high-pitched assault of bloodsucking mosquitos, Meadowsweet’s anti-mosquito oil, made from citronella and geranium, may be just what you need. There are also a large range of other oils and teas from Meadowsweet.

Please remember to return those cardboard boxes, netting and glass jars. You can claim 1 Talent for each large Camphill jar, and T0.5 for each small Camphill jar you return. We’re also looking for cooking oil, as our biodiesel supplier is running dry, so if you have at least 1 litre of cooking oil left over, please pass it on.
Finally, we’re looking for people passionate about organics, and with wonderful customer service skills to help us as distributors, particularly for the Northern suburbs. If you know of anyone you think will be suitable, please put them in contact with us.

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The Co-op team

Goji berries, firelighters and toothpaste

Apologies to those of you who missed out on your orders last week. When international bandwidth went down on Monday, many of you were unable to place your orders. All we can suggest is get your orders in earlier next time! We unfortunately have to host our servers internationally (they’re in Denmark) due to the exhorbitant prices of our monopolised telecoms environment.

This week we’re offering goji berries, sometimes known as wolfberries. Goji berries are cultivated in Asia, and are a wonderfully nutritious fruit, even in their dried form, which is all that is available to most people outside Asia. 100 grams contains 100% of the Dietary Reference Intake of iron and Vitamin B2, as well as containing high quantities of selenium, vitamin C (50 times more than oranges in their fresh form).

Their protein structure is great, as they contain 18 amino acids (including all 8 essential ones), and they’re exceptionally mineral-rich and high in antioxidants, especially carotenoids.

Goji berries can be eaten raw, cooked (and added to rice or soups, for example), or boiled as a herbal tea. It’s a week of interesting new items, and we’re also offering hand-made fire lighters, made from sawdust, wax and recycled egg cartons.

There’s also a new range of toothpastes, mouthwash and gum therapy gel, all fluoride-free, from Nature-Fresh. Find these, and much more, in the Featured & New section of the site. We welcome comments about any of our products, including criticism and alternative points of view, on our blog,

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The co-op team

“They eat what they can”

I sometimes hear people asking what’s so special about organic food. They claim people have been eating ‘ordinary’ food for years, so why this sudden ‘fad’. The sad answer is that for most of our history all we’ve eaten are healthy and organic food. It’s only recently that we’ve been perpetuating an experiment by spraying and tampering with our food supply. And the most vulnerable to the effects are children.

The research is coming out slowly, but the complexity of determining what small quantities of pesticides do over long periods of time, and in combination with other pesticides, means we really don’t know all the effects. All we can do is try and minimise our exposure.

I read a comment today by the president of the Dairy Processors of Argentina, Osvaldo Capellini. Most Argentinian dairy cattle are fed with genetically modified feeds, and many developed markets aren’t keen on having anything to do with the resultant milk. So of course the marketers eye turns to the developing countries. South Africa has almost no controls, and we import substantial quantities of dairy from Argentina. Responding to a concern that the GM feed has a negative effect on Argentinian exports, and referring specifically to South Africa and our proclivity as a nation to put any old junk down our throats, Capellini says “…it sounds bad like you say, they eat what they can, it’s a thing that worries some developed communities, that’s a fact.”

The phrase may be a little mangled, but the point is that we’re too passive, and will accept and eat ‘what we can’, unlike more active and aware nations. A sad state of affairs.

We’ve been particularly passive about dairy, with the prevalence of rBST, the GM growth hormone, in much of our milk. At the same time, milk allergies and reactions such as eczema are so common.

The good news for co-op customers is that we offer a great variety of dairy. There’s the smooth organic Ayrshire cheeses from Bronberg, as well as our ever-popular cow’s milk. Some people who don’t respond well to cow’s milk can tolerate goat’s milk. We offer uncertified goats dairy from Foxenburg (milk and cheese) and Zeekoegat (cheese and yoghurt). Some of the goats cheeses are quite unusual, and very tasty, so be brave!

It may seem odd to keep mentioning this, and I’m probably preaching to the converted as the guilty probably don’t read this far, but please make sure that you specify your full name as the reference when making a payment to us. Just today we got another large payment with no reference. If any payments haven’t been reflected on your statements (available when you log in) in four or so days, let us know in case the payment hasn’t been associated with you. You may not be able to order otherwise!

A reminder again that whatever you do, don’t throw out those valuable cardboard boxes! Please return them, as we try and reuse them as much as we can. And of course you can still return Camphill 1 litre glass bottles for T1, or small Camphill glass bottles for T0.50.

To order, head on over to If you want to comment on anything in this newsletter, or read up what we said last week, you can visit our blog,

The co-op team.

Launch of the blog

This week sees the launch of the Ethical Co-op blog, You’ll find old copies of the opening newsletter, and will also be able to post comments.

A reminder to those of you with an Ubu balance that these should be traded for Talents on the Talent Exchange, You’ll see that Ubus are no longer being displayed on the order form. Don’t forget that we’re offering T1 for returns of the large Camphill glass bottles, and T0.50 for the smaller glass jars. We also appreciate returns of old egg boxes (in good condition) and cardboard boxes.

Bottled water is one the scourges of modern-living. Millions of litres of oil is used to make unnecessary plastic bottles containing a liquid we get from our taps anyway. Tap water is often better-quality than bottled water, and that’s not saying much. One estimate sees 177 million litres of oil used annually in the production of bottled water in the US alone. The production of plastics according to some studies is responsible for more oil use than cars! Plastic is also not a good container for water. They break down with age, and may begin to leach chemicals into whatever they’re storing. There are many different kinds of plastics, all with different characteristics and effects, but they all have in common a certain unwelcome longetivity. They don’t biodegrade, so those plastic bottles we buy now will be around long after we’re gone. A much better bet would be to filter your own tap water, or use a distiller (we have two available in the home care section).

On a different note, children’s vinyl plastic lunchboxes are also under attack, as they’ve been found to contain extremely high levels of lead, a dangerous chemical. Again, there’s been a cover-up, but the truth finally seems to be emerging.

Enjoy the blog, and we hope to see some of your comments.

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The Co-op team

Cashew Nuts

Many people bracket nuts into one category, and assume they’re all of similar nutritional value. Nuts are actually remarkable different, containing different types and levels of oils. Did you ever wonder why you never see a cashew nut in a shell? A colleague of mine loves to shell his own nuts, and is probably itching to get his hands on the cashew. Itching is probably the right word, as cashew shells are toxic, containing the same element as found in poison ivy. Painful skin rashes are not uncommon in processing workers, as the double shell is difficult to remove.

The cashew nut is actually a seed, and the ‘raw’ nut also isn’t quite what it seems, being slightly cooked. This heating process is necessary in order to remove the shell. Cashews are a tropical plant, originally from Brazil, although most cashews worldwide are now grown now in India. In South Africa, cashews grow mostly close the Mozambican border. The organic cashews offered by the co-op come from Sri Lanka. Also part of the cashew plant is the cashew apple, but these highly perishable fruit are extremely rare, and certainly wouldn’t have survived the heat of Thursday, the hottest day of the summer.

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The Co-op team.

The End of Ubus

Organic Alive have no wholewheat flour this week, so none of their wholewheat breads are available. That may seem like bad news for those of you who prefer to avoid genetically-modified and nutrition-lite supermarket breads, but the good news is we have a range of alternatives. In the wholewheat line, Camphill Bakery offer their hearth loaf, made from 100% Organic stone-ground wholewheat flour, yeast, sunflower oil, salt and brown sugar. You can also try the wheat baguettes from Continental Bakery.

This week we’re announcing the end of Ubus. Many of you have been happily ordering without ever knowing what an Ubu was, but we used to get quite frequent queries, and if you look carefully you’ll notice they’ve been appearing in your account statements for a while. We used to pay customers Ubus for certain recycled goods. Now, however, we’re offering you something much better, clearer, easier to use, and which we know many of our members are already familiar with – Talents.

Talents are a community currency. You can pay for a wide range of goods and services, such as legal services, accommodation or massages. There’s also a frequent (usually monthly) market, where we’ve been selling a range of our products for a few months now. We’re offering 1 Talent for every large 1 litre glass bottle returned (such as the Camphill milk and yoghurt bottles), and 50c for the honey jars, or small Camphill glass jars. We hope in future to be able to offer Talents for other products too.

Here’s how it will work. Every week, you’ll hand back any returns when you receive your goods, and these will be recorded. You then log onto your Talent Exchange account, and enter a transaction. You’ll be asked to enter the Buyer (which is us, the Ethical Co-op, SANE1735), the amount (for example T1.50 for one large and one small bottle) and a description. The description must be as clear as possible, and include a full breakdown of the items, your Ethical Co-op customer name, the person who received the goods, and the date the goods were returned. For example “1 x large glass bottle, 1 x small glass bottle, returned by A Customer to Noel Marten, 8/2/2007”. Please make sure you enter all the details. Your transaction may be rejected if we can’t easily trace it.

For those of you who currently have Ubus, you’ll be able to redeem your entire Ubu balance for Talents. For example, if you currently have U20.10, you can log into the Talent Exchange, and enter a transaction for T20.10, for example: “Redemption of Ubu balance by A Customer”. Your Ubu balance will then be set to zero, and will no longer displayed on the Ethical Co-op website.

We’re very excited to be furthering our integration with what’s been described as an ethical currency!

If you have any queries about the Talent Exchange, please take a look at their informative website, If you have any questions about how the co-op integrates with the Talent Exchange, please email ces (at ethical dot org dot za).

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The Co-op team

Valentines Day

This is your last chance to order before Valentines Day. But where did the ritual of exchanging gifts and cards come from? And who was this saint? The history is shrouded in mystery!

In one legend, Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome under Emperor Claudius II. Single men were thought to make better soldiers than those with wives and families, so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered him put to death.

Valentine himself supposedly sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting. He fell in love with a young girl while in prison, believed to be the jailor’s daughter. Before he was executed, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is nebulous, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a romantic character. By the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France. In the spirit of the day, if you’re looking for a hot and steamy evening, choose foods which are high in zinc and selenium. Juice or blend watermelon and mint or try figs and berries with grapes. Live yoghurt, banana and honey will really set the mood, or for the more daring, apple, asparagus, broccoli and carrot.

Of course, there’s always the old faithful – chocolate. The euphoric state achieved by indulging in chocolate may be met from our divine selection of Swiss, Italian and Fairtrade chocolates.

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The Co-op team.

Problems in Denmark

Good morning to all you wonderful people. Hope you are keeping cool during this very hot period. Unfortunately, we have had some problems opening up the site last night for business due to the line being down from Denmark. The site is up and open for ordering now but sorry Ian’s very informative newsy newsletter will be forwarded to you later in the day as he worked all night to rectify the site and is now sleeping peacefully.

Enjoy what’s available.

Have a warm wonderful, organic eating weekend.