Amaranth grain

Amaranth is a grain that probably didn’t feature on our childhood dinner table. It’s becoming more well-known in South Africa though, and, like quinoa, warrants the term superfood.

Originally grown by the Maya in central America, amaranth has been cultivated as a grain for over 8000 years. As a staple part of the Aztec diet, and used in religious ceremonies, it was banned by the Conquistadores, but luckily survived in the wild. It’s highly nutritious, gluten-free, a significant source of protein, and has even higher levels of lysine (an amino acid rare in other grains) than quinoa. It’s also high in iron, with a 1/4 cup containing 60% of an adult’s recommended daily allowance.

Since it contains high levels of poly-unsaturated fats, it’s best stored in the fridge, although it doesn’t degrade as quickly as quinoa. Amaranth can be cooked as a breakfast cereal, ground into flour, popped like popcorn, sprouted, or toasted. It’s delicious with tahini or dates.

On that note, we’re offering dates from Kleinjongenskraal, grown in the Northern Cape. The tahini though comes from a little further afield, imported from Germany. And if popping amaranth sounds too adventurous, you can always fall back upon conventional certified organic conventional popcorn.

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The Co-op team

Welcome back

It’s been a long wait, and we’ve had many frantic calls and emails asking when we’d be back, but here we are. I hope those of you fortunate enough to have had a holiday feel feel rejuvenated, that we’re all going to have a happier and healthier 2007. My cupboard is looking particularly bare right now, so I’m looking forward to stocking up again!

Unfortunately some of you will notice that we’ve had to increase delivery fees in most regions, and will be doing so next week for other regions, as the old fees weren’t sustainable. However, they’re still far below what most similar services and supermarkets charge.

Last night an item I’d bought from the co-op came in particularly useful. We had a power failure, but luckily I had my Freeplay battery-free torch, which stores a charge though winding. It never needs batteries, or bulbs. I remember blundering around looking for batteries in the past, so it was a relief not to have to do this. The torch even looks good – click on the product name (kito flashlight) on the order form for a picture.

Batteries are particularly toxic. According to one study, the average person throws away eight batteries a year. Although battery manufacturers have improved their processed drastically in recent years, many still contain a host of heavy metals, which leach into the soil and water supply from the landfills, the final resting place of most batteries. Some batteries, especially rechargeable ones, contain mercury, which is particularly toxic, especially towards unborn children and infants.

A recent issue of the Economist had a cover story entitled ‘Why ethical shopping harms the world’. The article attacked organic (as well as local and Fairtrade food) as being harmful. The Economist’s arguments caused a stir, but are not difficult to refute. Their argument against organic boiled down to “yields are lower, so more land is required, ‘there’s less space left for the rainforest’, and energy usage per unit food is higher”. Firstly, yields are not always lower. Most farmers moving to organic do experience lower yields at first, but in some cases organic yields are higher. A 22-year study from Cornell University discovered that maize yields were 22% higher during drought years, and the same in general. Yields were one-third lower over the first four years, but then steadily caught up and pulled ahead. At the same time, they used 30% less energy, less water, no pesticides, had between 8 and 15% more soil nitrogen. The organic farms were also shown to ‘conserve more water in the soil, induce less erosion, maintain soil quality and conserve more biological resources’. So while chemical farms are using up the land’s reserve, exploiting it for the short-term in the same way many failed societies in the past have done so, such as the Norse in Greenland, or early British settlers in Australia, only to end up having to abandon the land later, well-run organic farms are doing the reverse, enhancing the soil’s richness while producing sustainable foods. Other staple grains showed similar results. But even for those crops where yields seem to be systematically lower, such as monocultural fruit farms, the Economist ignores the effects of the pesticides, long-term soil quality, soil erosion, and other biological resources that are undisputably so much healthier under organic conditions.

So don’t be put off by the misinformation. Organic farming is certainly better for the environment.

For those of you who’re inspired to start your own organic farm, or at least strip in the garden, we’re offering vermicompost, earthworm castings and liquid growth tonic from Quentin Green (in the featured section), and there’re other items on offer in the garden section.

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The Co-op team

Last chance

It’s your last chance to stock up on goodies and gift vouchers before we take (even if we say so ourselves) a well-deserved break for 2 weeks. After this week’s delivery on 21 December, our next delivery day will be 11 January 2007.

Christmas can be a time of excessive wastage, with tonnes of wrapping and packaging heading for the landfills. We could wrap your goods in a shiny new box each time, and charge you for the pleasure. Instead, we try to re-use our packaging as much as possible, so we appeal to everyone to please return your cardboard boxes.

The 1822 poem, ‘A visit from St Nicholas’, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, popularised the connection between Christmas and Santa Claus. Santa Claus, from the Dutch Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, was a Turkish saint with a reputation of secret gift giving. One version of the story has it that Saint Nicholas, in attempting to anonymously give a gift, climbed the roof of a house and dropped a purse containing money down the chimney. A girl had put out a stocking to dry, and the purse landed inside. The cartoonist Thomas Nast built upon Moore’s poem, creating today’s common look for Santa in a series of cartoons starting in 1863. The Victorians in England merged the character of Father Christmas, traditionally associated with festive holiday making and drunkenness, with the more sanitised depiction of Santa Claus.

Unfortunately there’s also much tension at this time of the year. The roads are crowded, and people are rushed. The lure of the material is strong now, with many desperate to earn (or take) as much as they can, and others trying to spend their way to happiness. There’s the weight of the expectation that we should all be having a jolly time, when suffering is as prevalent as always, but given extra weight by the expectations.

We hope that you navigate the challenges successfully, wish all of you an enlightening festive season, and hope that you begin 2007 better off, in all the ways that are important, than 2006.

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The Co-op team.

Giving gifts

Many of us celebrate Christmas, whether as a religious festival, or simply as a holiday where we can spend time with family and friends, or get away from it all.

The ritual of giving gifts is a part of this, and although it may have become distorted and over-commercialised, it’s still an important and powerful ritual. One only needs to look at the joy on children’s faces to see how it should be experienced.

Nothing beats a hand-made gift, but this isn’t always practical, so we’ve come up with some suggestions for Christmas gifts. You can share the co-op with your friends by buying an Ethical Co-op gift voucher. Many of my acquaintances are reluctant to try organic food, believing it to be over-priced, or a fad. And just as many are disinterested in news and views of the negative effects of GM organisms, or pesticides. However, almost without exception, people are blown away by the taste of organic, and even better, fresh, locally-produced organic, produce. So why not use a little positive trickery to share the experience with your friends who haven’t yet tried us!

We have quite a range of other gift possibilities listed in the Christmas Gifts section. The Journey to Wild Divine game is still available, complete with finger sensors to test your physical responses to the meditative techniques. Divine Organics are offering Gift packs containing two different oils, there’s an indigenous gardening calendar, with plans for what to plant when, and tips on maintenance, and Organic Alive are offering Christmas cakes, biscuits and meat-free mince pies. On the appliance front, there are water distillers, flour mills and juice extractors to encourage a healthy start to the new year.

There’s more featured on the site, but as always we have our usual range of local and organic products. To order, head on over to to

Sweet summer fruits

A reminder that delivery day has now moved to Thursdays. Also, we will also be closed for two weeks over New Year, so there will be no deliveries on the 28th December, or the 4th of January.

A recent US study showed that the average child under 5 was exposed to 8 different pesticides a day. Grapes are consistently on the list of foods found to contain the most pesticide residues. On the bright side, they’re also in season, and another of those sweet summer fruits I mentioned last week. And even better news, we have some white grapes in stock this week.

If you were quick last week, you may have noticed our supply of Tree Oyster mushrooms. We have more this week. Oyster mushrooms are one of the few carnivorous mushrooms. Before you start to have nightmares about your dinner table mushrooms leaping up to take a bite out of your ear, you should know that their usual animal prey is the microscopic nematode (or roundworm). The oyster mushroom’s rings constrict around the nematodes, grow through them, and begin to digest them. We also have a number of varieties of nuts on offer this week. Almonds (both hard and soft-shelled), cashew and pecan nuts.

Many of us consider nuts to be broadly similar, but the plants each originally come from different parts of the world (cashews from Brazil, Pecans from North America and Almonds from Asia and the middle-East) and have quite different nutritional profiles. Almonds and cashews both have much higher protein levels than pecans, while pecans in turn have much higher fat levels (mostly the beneficial kinds). As it’s the fats that go rancid, pecans don’t last as long as the almonds and cashews.

My father once told me that if something tastes bad, it must be good for you, and vice-versa. I happen to believe the opposite, that your body knows what’s good for it, and communicates this through the senses. If your awareness is switched on, you’ll know which foods are best for you, and get pleasure from eating them. In the case of nuts, I have quite different experiences with each of them, but right now cashews are my favourite. Which are yours?

To order, head on over to

Be Well, Support Organic

The Co-op team

Moving to Thursday deliveries

A reminder to everyone that next week will be our last Wednesday delivery. From December, we’ll be delivering on Thursdays. We will also be closed for two weeks over New Year, and there will be no deliveries on the 28th December, or the 4th of January.

With December closing in, Cape Town is starting to get that holiday season feel. Most students are already on holiday, and the schools will be releasing everyone for their summer breaks soon. Summer also means summer fruits, and we have loads of apricots (from different farms) as well as peaches, plums and strawberries available this week. Apples and oranges are also still available.

Apricots, which originated in China, contain significant amounts of beta-carotene, which converts to Vitamin A in the body. One of the many benefits of Vitamin A is that it lubricates the eyes, which is good news for contact lens wearers. Apricots also contain significant quantities of iron, which is often needed by women, particularly pregnant women.

While there should be ample apricots for everyone, early orderers will once again get a chance to experience the joys of organic shiitake mushrooms. This week we only have 15 punnets available! Remember that you can place an order as soon as you read this (even if it’s just for one punnet of mushrooms!), and then change the order at any time again before the site closes on Monday. We only start to process the orders on Monday afternoon.

A plant that’s slowly gaining popularity is quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wa’). Grown in the Andes, it was revered as the mother of grains by the Incas (although it’s not strictly speaking a grain), and is an extremely good source of protein. Sometimes foods are categorised as ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete’ proteins, but this is a misleading term. It’s really the balance of the essential amino acids that determines the quality of a protein, and there isn’t a strict line between ‘complete’ and ‘incomplete’. Quinoa contains significant amounts of all essential amino acids, including lysine, which is low in foods such as rice and wheat. It’s gluten-free and easy to digest, and its reputation as a superfood (it contains much more than just protein) is such that it’s being considered by NASA as food for astronauts on long flights. It can be cooked in a similar way to rice.

We’d like to encourage everyone to please return cardboard boxes to your distributor. Believe it or not this is a significant expense, and we reuse them where possible, and recycle them after they become unusable. We also accept the Camphill 1 litre glass bottles, glass honey jars, and egg boxes.

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The Co-op team

Passionate and committed people

As of December, we’re changing our delivery day to Thursdays. We’re doing this mainly because the frenzied late-night packing on Tuesdays is becoming unsustainable for our small, part-time staff. We hope that the change will enable us to deliver a better service to you. Everything else will stay the same. The site will still open for ordering late on a Thursday night, and still close on a Monday, but we’ll now have an extra day to take delivery from our suppliers, and to pack your boxes. There will be two more deliveries on a Wednesday (22 Nov and 29 Nov), before the first Thursday delivery on 7 December.

One of the joys of being involved in the Ethical Co-op is the number of passionate, committed people I come across, who share a similar vision. It fills me with optimism to meet and interact with so many wonderful people. Many are involved in complementary projects, whether it’s green architecture, community gardens, sustainable economics, community currencies, or even implementing a similar model to the co-op itself. It’s pleasing to see that old business models of competition are being replaced with the idea of co-operation, where the vision is of greater importance than individual egos or entities, or any false notions of ‘winning’. We’re excited to meet and potentially work with other organisations who share our vision.

One of our members recently expressed his unhappiness with the imported products on the site, which he sees as unsustainable. We agree totally! With the inevitability of a huge increase in the oil price, and reduced availability of oil (whether next year or in twenty years time), it’s imperative that food be produced locally, and free of expensive chemical inputs that need to be shipped in. Farms that adjust in time will be well-set to reap the benefits. So once again we encourage South African farms and smallholdings to switch to organic, and help meet the soaring demand. There was recently a suggestion made in South Africa that GM products be marketed for export as ‘certified pesticide free’. Backward thinking like this, encouraged by the international producers of GM foods is clearly not the way to go. GM seeds bind their buyers to international multinationals, and cannot be economically sustainable. What’s needed now is the opposite – food security to be sustained with local inputs.

New on the site this week is a list of Frequently Asked Questions. All those questions our admin staff are continually answering, such as ‘why are you called the Ethical Co-op?’, and ‘where the bleep are my veggies?’ are now answered on the site. Just follow the link at the top of the page.

The Ethical Co-op will be selling a limited number of goods at this week’s Talent Exchange market in Kalk Bay. For those of you unfamiliar with the Talent Exchange, I’d describe it as ‘an Ethical Currency’. No rands welcome! For more information, and for details of the Saturday market, have a look at their informative website – The Ethical co-op was partly born out of the Talent Exchange, and we hope to see much closer integration in future.

And now, to order, head on over to

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Support Organic

The Co-op team

Soya and genetic modification

Soya is one of the crops that, worldwide, is most commonly genetically-modified. The vast majority of US soya is genetically-modified, and US corporate interests are doing their best to aggressively expand their markets. They’re preparing an international lawsuit against the European Union, which protects and informs its consumers by requiring labelling and pre-market safety and environmental testing of genetically modified products. They’re also pulling out all the stops by wooing the influential Vatican to support GM foods.

South Africa unfortunately does not require labelling, and most products containing soya (which includes surprising everyday products such as bread and chocolate) almost certainly contain genetically-modified organisms. The best bet is to insist on certified organic soya products. Of course we have some for you! This week we’re offering certified organic smoked and plain tofu (which is a soy product), from Delmar Organics.

Who can believe it’s only 6 weeks till Christmas? Organic Alive is offering a range of Christmas cakes, biscuits and mince pies (don’t be misled, they don’t contain meat!). Please note though that there is a lead time of 1 to 2 weeks on the Christmas cakes, so they probably won’t be delivered with this week’s order. You won’t be credited for them, but they will be delivered with your next order.

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Supply and demand

We recently got a mention in Garden & Home and Country Life magazines, leading to a surge in orders, and some late nights for our staff. The demand for organic food is clearly there, and unfortunately it outstrips the available supply. Those few local farms, who made the transition before the demand was there, are now reaping the rewards for their vision.

A case in point of supply not meeting demand is the shiitake mushrooms we’re offering this week (and I’m probably exacerbating the situation by writing about it). Mushrooms are frequently described as a vegetable, but they’re actually fungi, and have no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds. Shiitake mushrooms are a particularly flavourful variety, and are a very good source of iron, as well as a good source of protein (with a good balance of amino acids), vitamin C and fibre. There’s also interesting research investigating their effectiveness in reducing tumours, allergies, thrombosis and arthritis, amongst other things. These will undoubtedly be sold out well before Monday’s closing, so you’ll have to order quickly if you’d like to get your hands on these delicacies.

I was looking into research on pesticide and toxicity levels in conventional chemically-grown foods, and apples are one of the more notorious foods for pesticide exposure. We’re fortunate enough to have Elgin Organics supplying us with Golden Delicious and Granny Smith variety apples (the Star King are no longer available), as well as some fantastic apple juice, all certified organic and pesticide-free.

We’re offering a new range of organic orange juice this week. It’s imported from a country that’s a world leader in organic farming, and one South Africa can certainly learn from, Brazil. Hopefully we’ll be able to source some local organic orange juice soon!

Finally, please remember to reference your payments with your full name (the same name you’ve registered the account with). Every day we get payments referenced with ‘Ethical’, the name of a spouse or partner, or even a phone number, and our accounts department struggles to match these up. If a payment hasn’t been recorded on your statement within three or four days, please let us know. Also please note that the correct email address to use for account queries (and proof of payments) is Some of you are still mailing people who haven’t been with us for months!

To order, head on over to

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The Co-op team

Basil, the king of herbs

After the mention last week of the benefits of raw honey, I was pleased to find out that this week we can offer a new honey supplier to complement our existing offering – Kleinjongenskraal. They’re supplying raw honey from their farm in Citrusdal, as well as raw honey with the comb.

The basil pesto is proving popular, but how many of you know the remarkable story of the herb behind it all? Legend has it that it grew above the spot St. Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross. Its name comes from the Greek word basileus, meaning king, and is still referred to as the king of herbs for this reason. In Italy basil was seen as a symbol of love, and in India as an icon of hospitality. But it’s not just a folktale. It’s a highly nutritious herb too, with excellent quantities of vitamin K, and very good quanities of iron, calcium and vitamin A. The oils in basil are purported to protect against many pathogens, including one that’s a common cause of diarrhea, and some of which are showing resistance to commonly-used antibiotics.

We’d like to remind you too that the available products change throughout the period the site is open. There are usually items available on Friday that sell out quickly, and sometimes (as we hope will be the case this week), there’ll be more goods added to the site when they arrive. You can login as many times as you want until the site closes on Monday – your old order will always appear, and you can make any changes you like to it.

Please note that there’s no Saturday Noordhoek market this week. Instead it’s the Noordhoek Country Fair on Sunday. This is always a great event and bound to have a great range of organic products on offer, so do pay it a visit if you’re in the area.

To order, head on over to

Be Well,
Support Organic

The Co-op team