We’re Backing British Farming, and it’s Exciting!

Today is Back British Farming day!  Did you know that UK food self-sufficiency is now just 61% – down from 75% in 1991?  The campaign by countryside magazine highlights acres of reasons why British farming deserves your support, as well as offering you the chance to make a real difference.

The day coincides with the week that we took part in Go! Organic –  a London-based festival encouraging people to take part in organic living. We built and constructed a pop-up farm shop for the people of London, at which we showcased five of our key British growers.

The event was a huge success, with people lining up to buy our produce! We were very proud to be able to shout about the growers  – Sunshine & Green, Cherry Gardens, Tablehurst Farm, Dynamic Organics and Sweet Apples Orchard. Daniel from Orchard Farm’s eggs also went down a storm.  We had several comments on the quality of our produce, with some people even asking if it was real – the ultimate compliment.

We pride ourselves on our growers and the quality of our produce and our British farmers who are working hard to enhance the British countryside, protect the environment, maintain habitats for native plants and animals and support wildlife species. Whether it’s helping birds get through the winter months by putting down seed, establishing woodlands and hedgerows to create habitat for animals or planting fields of pollen and nectar rich flower mixes to feed bees and butterflies, British farmers are taking action every day.

Our growers take real pride in the land that they grow on, and try to encourage and enhance wildlife every step of the way. For example, Jonathan at Cherry Gardens Farm collects fallen apples over the summer and stores them until the winter, when he puts them out for the birds that may be struggling with the frozen ground, and Blueberry Bob in Horsham practises biannual thinning and coppicing of  woodland on the farm, which has encouraged flora and shrubs such as bluebells, narcissi and snowdrops, buddleia and elder and has recently received a forestry commission grant for coppicing regeneration.

With the spirit of buying British in mind – it’s time to introduce our new line of BRITISH GROWN pulses and grains! We’ve started stocking Hodmedod’s, who specialise in British grown chick peas, spelt grain, lentils, and – for the first time – British grown Quinoa. We’re very excited to have them on board, and are hoping that you can revolutionise your cupboards and eat more of these protein-based little treasures, safe in the knowledge that they’ve come from a local grower with a transparent food chain.

Buying British has never been more important. With climate change, rising diet-related ill-health and widespread declines in our wildlife, the need to produce healthy food, cut food miles and protect our wildlife is getting more important. Choosing how we eat is a simple but powerful form of direct action:

 

1.BUY BRITISH

  • Buy British food with a transparent supply chain – so you know the journey that your food has taken to get to your table. This way you can ensure that your food is of the highest quality, and that the farmer who grew it has been cut a fair deal.

 

2. EAT WITH THE SEASONS

  • You can check out the Great British Larderto find out when British fruit and veg are at their best. It’s important to eat seasonal produce because that allows you to buy British all year round. This cuts food miles and guarantees that your food has come from a place of quality.


3. CARE FOR THE COUNTRYSIDE

  • British farmers are custodians of around 75% of the British countryside. It’s important that we too take responsibility for it too.  Whilst out enjoying the countryside, make sure you take your litter home, follow the countryside code, and if out with your four legged friends, keep them on a lead around livestock and pick up after them.


At Greener Greens we take pride in our growers. All of them are independent, certified organic or biodynamic, and take great pride in their produce. This shows in the quality of the produce in our boxes that we send out weekly. The farms that we collect from all take great steps to preserve and encourage their natural environments and habitats. If you shop with us, you can guarantee that you’re backing British farming.

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Greener Greens at GO! Organic

GO! Organic festival is looming! We’re really busy building our stand, which will be entirely recycled and reused after the event. It’s all going up to a farm shop which is opening in Suffolk very soon after!

Throughout the weekend of the 8th and 9th of September the world of ethical and organic will be taking over Battersea Park to bring you an amazing couple of days of fantastic entertainment, insight, education and inspiration. Speak to producers & suppliers, eat wonderful organic food and drink, meet the farmers and hear about how living in the city doesn’t mean you can’t be organic!
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You’ll have the opportunity to buy sustainable products , enjoy live music, hear talks, see chefs in the Organic Kitchen and take part in lots of awesome activities & workshops for adults and kids.

We will be there with our fully themed and prop-heavy stand to shout about the quality of our food, the independent growers that we’re lucky enough to buy from (you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of our farmers too), and to launch our new 100% environmentally friendly and reusable box
es – in which all of the packaging is biodegradable or compostable, and the boxes are all recycled or FSC approved.

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We’ll also be launching a new product – UK grown pulses, beans and grains. They’re supplied by the wonderful independent business Hodmedod, which is the UK’s only supplier of organic beans, grans and pulses that are grown here.

 

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So, if you’re interested in coming along then we’ve got an exclusive discount code which will give you 1/3 off the price of a ticket! Just enter code ‘Greener33‘ at the checkout on the GO! Organic website to redeem this offer.

This Could Be It!

This could be it! The beginning of the return of our wildlife! This week, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, announced the first agri-environment scheme directly funded by the UK – not Europe – as part of the preparation for post-Brexit farmland funding. It’s called ‘Payment by Results’ and rewards farmers for delivering environmental benefits to their land. It’s already being trialled in Suffolk and Norfolk as well as the Yorkshire Dales. DEFRA has now committed an extra £540,000 to extend the project, which is brilliant news for our wildlife, our environment and for our farmers, as this scheme will allow them to regain control over their land.

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In Suffolk and Norfolk, farmers are benefiting from planting nectar plots for bees and other pollinators as well as providing winter food for farmland birds during the ‘hungry gap’, while those in Wensleydale are focused on managing species-rich meadows. Sheep and cattle farmers managing grassland in the area have been rewarded for producing habitat suitable for breeding waders or managing species-rich meadows.

At a time where 40% of bird species worldwide are in decline and that one in eight species of birds is threatened with extinction as a direct result of intensive farming, this scheme is extremely important, and may well be the first step towards rebuilding our damaged farmland environment.  The aim of the scheme is to carry out further trials to find a model where “profitable farm businesses and environmental land management can co-exist and complement one another”.

“The Payment by Results pilot marks a shift in how we think about rewarding farmers for their work. This approach signals how we see the future of farm payments, where farmers deliver public goods for the environment which we all enjoy,” Gove has said.

Let’s hope that this scheme remains in place for the foreseeable future, as it could well mark the beginning of the rise in our bird & insect population.

 

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Ham Parade Market

We at Greener Greens believe that fresh, organic produce should be available to everyone. This is why we sell at markets on a regular basis. We are at Horsham Market twice a week (Thursday and Saturday), as well as at Ham Parade Market once a month.

 

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Ham market takes place from 10am – 2pm on the first Saturday of every month, bringing fresh produce to Ham Parade, as well as tasty street food, beautiful local crafts and entertainment for all the family.

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Ham Parade Market is plastic bag free. This means that you’re actively encouraged to bring your own bags, or buy a ‘Ham Bag’ once at the market. There’s a huge variety of stalls at Ham – everything from street food to arts & crafts, fresh produce and meat & dairy products.​

Each month, Ham Parade Market support a local charity by running a raffle to win a HAMper of goodies.   (This month they are supporting The Basement Door, a Richmond-based organisation providing training and support for talented young musicians.) All the money you spend and donate at the markets really does help the local community – since the market launched in October, Ham Parade Market have already raised well over £3,000 for local charities.

 

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Greener Greens always have a stall at this market, and we really enjoy the atmosphere. We are the only organic stall at the market – and the locally grown organic produce that we sell always goes down a storm (particularly our biodynamic eggs – one customer buys at least six boxes at a time!)  It’s very rewarding to be able to provide a community with such high quality produce and to give people the option to buy food that has been grown the right way. We hope to see you at the next market – Saturday August 4th!

Recipe: Pesto Spaghetti with Tofu

In this hot weather we don’t really want to spend time cooking! We’ve come up with a great simple recipe for your dinner – homemade pesto with spaghetti or tagliatelle and optional tofu. It works wonderfully with a tomato & red onion salad.  It’s really quick and easy to make and basil is one of the healthiest of the herbs!

Make the Pesto:

2 cloves garlic

1/2 handful of pine nuts

50g basil

parmesan cheese to taste

Put the garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and chop them.  Then add the basil leaves (no stalks) and do a short burst so that the leaves are chopped, but not too finely.  Add some water to emulsify, give the processor a burst and then add grated parmesan cheese. Give the processor a burst and finally drizzle in a small amount of olive oil while the food processor is on.

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For the Pasta:

2 Courgettes, cut lengthways

250g spaghetti or linguine

150g tofu, cut into small cubes

Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the spaghetti along with the courgettes cut lenghtways. simmer until pasta is just done. If you’re using tofu, heat up a frying pan with olive oil and cook until slightly brown. Add half of the pesto to the pan to warm up, then add pasta and courgettes and season.  When warmed through turn onto plate and top with remaining pesto.

At the moment we have particularly gorgeous basil from Kent. Why not add it as an extra to your box?

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Potatoes – Where on Earth do They Come From?

The boycotting of products is a very popular way for consumers to punish or protest against a person, company or place. There are countless lists of things that we shouldn’t be buying, each list punishing a different organisation or opposing a different cause.

One particular item on a particular list that I read recently was Israeli potatoes. Apparently our supermarkets in the UK sell them.  I find this to be a bit bewildering, since there are thousands of tonnes of potatoes sitting in stores on farms across the UK. Why on earth do we need to be buying potatoes from the other side of the planet?

I have recently started taking part in gleans. They involve going to farms at which the harvests have already taken place and ‘gleaning’ the remaining crops. These are then taken to charities and organisations that distribute the produce to those that need it. I personally have spent hours and hours sifting through huge crates of potatoes which have been rejected by supermarkets for being too small or the wrong shape. All of these potatoes are perfectly edible, they just don’t look the part.

The reason that there is a call for the boycott of Israeli potatoes is almost irrelevant when  you realise that there are plenty of potatoes right here, probably within mere miles of nearly every house in the UK. The reason we should be boycotting the potatoes grown in Israel is because of the excessive food miles and the lack of support for our local farms, which depend so heavily on their communities supporting the local economy.

At the moment, Sainsbury’s are selling Maris Piper potatoes as well as ‘everyday’ organic potatoes from Israel, whilst Waitrose and even Asda are selling potatoes grown in the UK at similar or cheaper prices, proving that importing the produce is wholly unnecessary. To really support UK producers though, it’s worth buying from your local independent businesses and growers to ensure that the money you’re spending ends up in the right hands.

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How To Prepare & Cook Globe Artichokes

This week we have gorgeous Globe Artichokes in our boxes. With thanks to Sutton Community Farm, we’ve got some instructions on how to cook and eat these lovely vegetables.

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How to Cook and Eat a Globe Artichoke

Globe artichokes (which are no relation to the tuber-like Jerusalem artichoke) have got to be one of the most charismatic vegetables around. They are intriguing and attractive, plus look great growing in the field. They’re definitely not the easiest of veg to prepare, cook and eat but they’re certainly worth the effort. This recipe from Simply Recipesmakes light work of the prep and cook process leaving you to make a glorious meal out of the eating part of this special ritual.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Directions:

  1. If the artichokes have little thorns on the end of the leaves, take a kitchen scissors and cut of the thorned tips of all of the leaves. This step is mostly for aesthetics as the thorns soften with cooking and pose no threat to the person eating the artichoke.
  2. Slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke.
  3. Pull off any smaller leaves towards the base and on the stem.
  4. Cut excess stem, leaving up to an inch on the artichoke. The stems tend to be more bitter than the rest of the artichoke, but some people like to eat them. Alternatively you can leave the whole long stem on the artichoke, just cut off the very end of the stem, and peel the tough outside layer of the stem with a vegetable peeler.
  5. Rinse the artichokes in running cold water.
  6. In a large pot, put a couple inches of water, a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf (this adds wonderful flavor to the artichokes). Insert a steaming basket. Add the artichokes. Cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. Note: artichokes can also be cooked in a pressure cooker (about 15-20 minutes cooking time). Cooking time depends on how large the artichoke is, the larger, the longer it takes to cook.

 

How to Eat an Artichoke:

Artichokes may be eaten cold or hot, but I think they are much better hot. They are served with a dip, either melted butter or mayonaise. My favorite dip is mayo with a little bit of balsamic vinegar mixed in.

  1. Pull off outer petals, one at a time
  2. Dip white fleshy end in melted butter or sauce. Tightly grip the other end of the petal. Place in mouth, dip side down, and pull through teeth to remove soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal. Discard remaining petal.

Continue until all of the petals are removed.

  1. With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the “choke”) covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut into pieces and dip into sauce to eat. My favorite artichoke dipping sauce? Some mayonnaise with a little balsamic vinegar stirred in. Others like dipping artichoke leaves and heart into melted butter.

 

“I Can Get This Cheaper at Sainsbury’s”

This weekend two things happened – firstly, Tesco announced that it was going to merge with French supermarket chain Carrefour as part of a ‘strategic alliance’ to cut prices and become more of a force when buying from global producers. Secondly, the French organisation The Food Assembly sent an email to its UK members to let us know that they were pulling out of the United Kingdom to focus on their more successful assemblies across Europe.

These two occurrences are on entirely separate scales in terms of size – and for that reason the connection between the two may not be all that obvious. But the connection is there, and it is becoming increasingly common to hear of the big businesses and corporations going from strength to strength whilst small independents and high streets seem to be operating at an ever-worsening decline.

In July 2014  The Food Assembly launched in the UK, enabling the general public to purchase high-quality food while supporting small-scale producers who create jobs and foster social well-being.  Each Food Assembly is an independent and local project while remaining part of The Food Assembly collective. It is the local farmers and foodmakers and a unique community spirit that keeps the network alive.

Unfortunately, The Food Assembly business model that works so well across the rest of Europe just doesn’t work here. In fact, when the UK opened more Food Assemblies we actually bought down the average business volume per collection. Basically, we just didn’t have enough public interest in our Food Assemblies.
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There are many contributing factors to this. The main one is that small businesses just can’t compete with the cheap prices that supermarkets can offer. Small independent businesses like Greener Greens buy their ingredients, produce and stock at a fair price from reliable and ethical growers whilst supermarkets can squeeze farmers and suppliers as much as they like to get their prices lower and lower. Despite the fact that these prices cripple growers and producers, customers still buy into the lie of cheap food. As a small independent business who sell fresh produce that has been bought at a fair price, we see this first hand. All too often at markets we are asked “why is this so expensive?” or told that “I can get this cheaper at Sainsbury’s”.   Supermarkets are all too happy to sacrifice their growers and suppliers to ensure that people still buy their products – all too often compromising quality for cost. For as long as this happens, organisations that focus on community will never be able to thrive. The reason why the Food Assembly works so well in the rest of Europe is because many European countries recognise the importance of their local farmers and their community. Even supermarkets in Europe tend to sell local produce in each of their stores – because that’s what the consumers want.

 

So, as Tesco and Carrefour try to use their joint buying power to cut costs and offer lower prices to customers (as a reaction to Sainsbury’s and Asda merging to do the same thing to their suppliers), please remember that there are consequences to these actions.  Growers will continue to suffer, organisations like the Food Assembly will continue to disappear. Without local businesses and organisations there isn’t a community, and without community we really don’t have very much at all.

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We’d like to thank Jane of Woking & Guildford Food Assemblies for all of the enthusiasm and passion, not to mention the hard work, that she has put into organising and running both events. We at Greener Greens have had a wonderful experience with the Food Assembly, and hope to be able to keep providing their members with organic fresh produce in the future.

A Surrey Kitchen Recipe: Chicken and Mange Tout Stir Fry

We recently got in touch with Emma, a fabulous set-taught chef who runs the blog Surrey Kitchen. We asked her to create a recipe for the summer from some produce that we sent her. We were lucky enough to get two recipes back! The last one was a gorgeous vegetarian asparagus frittata.
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This time we’ve got a great recipe for a chicken stir-fry. Remember, if you’re vegetarian you can replace the chicken with soya products or go on ahead without it.  This recipe is wonderfully quick, making it a perfect one for a manic work or school night.

Chicken and Mange Tout Stir Fry

 

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Emma says:

“Chicken stir-fry is very quick, healthy, easy to make and relatively low cost.  The  beautiful Magetout or snow pea/snap pea from Greener Greens are low calorie, high in vitamin C, Vitamin A and K and prevents against a host of diseases from cancer to heart disease and even depression.  Carrots are a wonderful source of beta-carotene, fibre, vitamin K, potassium and antioxidants.  A perfect dish to enjoy this summer in your garden with a glass of something cold.”
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Serves 2-3

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon fresh ginger

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

A splash soy sauce

Salt and pepper

2 chicken breasts

2 carrots sliced into thin strips

200g mangetout

1 large Portobello mushroom chopped

Coriander to garnish

 

Preparation Method:

 

1) Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the chicken for 5-6 minutes or until browned.

2) Add the onion, carrot, mangetout and mushrooms and fry for a further 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) Add the chopped garlic, soy sauce, oyster sauce and season with salt and pepper.

 

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That’s it, simple yet incredibly effective. Please let us know what you think, and for more recipes visit Emma’s blog – Surrey Kitchen.