Information on UK Vegetables & Growers

Veggie and fruit update.. with a little bit more!.. For periods of time it appears that Summer is with us…although as I write this the temperature is a bit chilly, the wind is fairly strong and I am in early Spring attire! At the farms the crops are starting to grow and as we have noted before plants like to stick to their timetable and do attempt to “catch up” growing quicker than usual and perhaps whooshing through some stages of their development. Generally UK crops are 3 weeks behind their “normal” schedule, which takes some catching up. This week we are experiencing a reduction in the range of UK vegetables, which is a bit disappointing given that last week we were blessed with an wonderful range of fabulous produce. We expect the range and volume of UK produce to increase significantly in 3 to 4 weeks, bring a corresponding decrease in price….and we need that as the cost of UK produce is very high at present.
Asparagus is still with us but not for long. Courgettes are starting to come through (and we have more of the small courgettes with flowers from one of our growers, who likes to keep the plants free from the ground level courgettes; hence this delight on offer to us!) Broad beans should be with us in a couple of weeks and a good crop is expected.
In the absence of a wide range of UK produce we look to Europe for their earlier developing produce. That plan isn’t working too well as celery, broccoli (calabrese), cabbages and peppers are all in short supply at the moment and as UK demand for imports grows…so does the price charged. Sadly the quality isn’t quite as good as we would expect either – no doubt a function of the limited supply (we saw the same with UK potatoes earlier this year which resulted in our decision to stop supplying the maincrops). So why the limited supply from Europe? A combination of extremes of weather in some regions of Spain, an anticipation from exporters to the UK that our demand would be falling now as our own crops come on stream and lastly a strengthening of the German market for imports. The organic market in Germany isn’t a common media subject in the UK, so let’s rectify that immediately! Whilst demand for organic food is increasing cultivation by German farmers is reducing. Despite government and EU encouragement for organic growing, some states have withdrawn the funding which augmented this encouragement and farmers are switching to other farming methods which require less labour (which is relatively expensive in Germany). To digress a little further the reduction in organic farmland runs counter to EU generally where increases of 50% have been experienced over the past few years. France saw an increase of 50% and Poland 500%! Austria has the highest percentage of farmland certified as organic in Europe with the Czech Republic in 2nd place. Outside the EU increases in organic farming are seen in many countries including Australia, Peru, Brazil, China and India.
Finally, back closer to home – on the fruit front peaches, nectarines and melons are arriving from Europe but apples and citrus are in short supply. We’ll switch to South Africa for citrus…maybe supply problems here too..and await the UK apple season which is expected to be…GOOD!! Always end on a positive note, my Mum says. And we did!!


March Against Monsanto…7th June Newsletter

greenergreens march for monsanto

We have some UK new potatoes … A fortnight ago I mentioned that UK maincrop potatoes (in store from last year) are either non-existent or off such poor quality that we will not purchase them. The maincrop potato plants in our growers’ fields at present are developing better than the earlies which is likely to result in the maincrop producing tubers (“spuds” to you and me) before the earlies…which is a little counter-intuitive to say the least, and certainly not usual. In any event potato crops are expected to be significantly less that “normal” (when will we no longer be able to use that word credibly)!
New potatoes were starting to come through from Spain but I feared that we would be waiting a while for UK potatoes of any description. Imagine my delight when I learnt early last week that we would be offered some new pots from Cornwall (growers from the South West have fared much better than those in the South East and particularly East Anglia). But the greatest surprise was when I received a call from one of our growers in Wisbech “Would you like any new potatoes. I have a limited amount, some small and some large”! Remember that earlies or new potatoes are lifted (dug up) for eating and not storing so supply is limited and the price is higher than maincrops. There is always a much higher demand for the small potatoes therefore they command a higher price.

After the Monsanto march… 
We received reports back from several clients who attended the March Against Monsanto demonstration in London late last month. It appears to have been an exhilarating event albeit a bit disorganised. However worldwide demonstrations occurred in 400 cities in 52 countries apparently involving 2 million people.There has been much comment about the lack of coverage of the marches with neither CNN or BBC providing any coverage at all – online or via other media. On the face of it this would appear to be unusual, or even strange…but let’s not fall into the conspiracy theory trap! I must confess that I found all of the media reporting on the march extremely boring – all being extracts from the press release presumably by the organisers.But then last week Reuters and others ran the story that Monsanto is halting its efforts to lobby European governments to allow the cultivation of its genetically modified plants and seeds, news that emanated from an interview between a spokesperson of Monsanto Germany and a German newspaper, Taz. “We have come to understand that, at the moment, it doesn’t have broad acceptance,” said the spokesperson. “It’s counterproductive to fight against windmills.” Wonderful news you might say! The protesters have made their mark! But a further report written by a scientist who has been at the heart of GMO analysis put quite a different slant on this. On studying actual statements made on the Monsanto German & St Louis, US websites their messages are contradictory. What he does conclude, however, that the interview was a PR tactic by Monsanto, the executives of which have been unnerved by the march which was organised primarily via Facebook … a novel and not easily controllable element…the likes of which Monsanto (and other corporates) have not learnt to master.

From the Newsletter Archive…

The 5:2 diet…. If you are like me, every time there is a new supposedly effective diet bandied about you’ll want to know what makes it work (and therefore whether it is sustainable). The 5:2 diet is certainly vogue at present with many celebrities declaring this is their food regime.  This is a fasting diet where 5 days of normal eating are interspersed with 2 days of restricted calories (500kcal for women, 600kcal for men).

This diet has been shown to be both highly effective in burning fat and turning on anti-ageing genes. How does this happen?  One of the reasons is that on the fasting days it stops glucose release which in turn reduces insulin levels.  Another likely reason for the rapid weight loss is the body switching from sugar to what is called ketogenic metabolism. This means that our bodies are using fat for energy. Ketones are molecules generated during fat metabolism, whether from the fat in the food you just ate or fat you were carrying on your hips. A recent article I read noted that it is highly likely that our ancestors, on lean days when hunting was not productive, ran perfectly well on ketones as the body’s alternative energy source. In fact is likely that we go into it in the mornings when we haven’t eaten for a few hours.

Interestingly, and I have heard this several times recently, there have been many reports of Alzheimer’s patients and children with fits who have made major improvements in symptoms from consuming an equivalent of a tablespoon of virgin pressed coconut oil daily.  Why? Ketones are made directly from coconut oil which contain elements that convert directly into ketones which the body can burn for energy rather than store as fat. The benefit of coconut oil extends to simply increasing short term memory.  Studies in children with severe epilepsy have shown that almost a third cut their number of seizures by 40%.

Coconut oil is relatively high in calories but as there are little calories left to turn to body fat after the ketones have been burnt for energy it is recommended for the 5:2 diet

March against Monsanto… Next week on May 25, on 6 continents, in 36 countries, and in 250 cities at least, tens of thousands of people will March against Monsanto to  

  • Protect our food supply
  • Support local farmers
  • Spread awareness about the harmful effects of genetically modified foods
  • Promote organic solutions
  • Expose the cronyism between big business and big government (including the Agriculture Appropriations Bill that President Obama signed into law which protects these companies from litigation)
  • Bring accountability to those responsible for the corruption.

For more information please see the March Against Monsanto website

At present the march closest to us is in Bristol with one perhaps taking place in London.


Update on the EU Seed Legislation

As many of you already know several organisations have been running campaigns to highlight the impact of a draconian revision to EU Seed Legislation which was being voted on today, Monday May 6th.  Several of you will have signed the petitions and indeed may have effected your own lobbying. Those that did will probably know the outcome, but for those that didn’t the campaigns did make a difference, although issues still exist and moreover the giant agribusinesses will continue to lobby as the law goes through the EU, and then is translated into UK laws.

The following summary is taken from the Real Seed Catalogue:

The “Plant Reproductive Material Law” regulates all plants. It contains immediate restrictions on vegetables and woodland trees, while creating powers to restrict all other plants of any other species at a later date.

Under the new law, it will immediately be illegal to grow, reproduce or trade any vegetable seed or tree that has not been tested and approved by a new “EU Plant Variety Agency, who will make a list of approved plants. Moreover, an annual fee must also be paid to the Agency and if not paid, they cannot be grown.

Following a huge outcry and intense lobbying from consumer groups, small-scale farmers, gene-banks, and even some member-state governments, a few last-minute alterations were made, which while not perfect, have reduced the impact quite a lot.

The key last minute concessions that were made – and this really was only due to public pressure are as follows:

  • Home gardeners are now permitted to save and swap unapproved seed without breaking the law.
  • Individuals & small organisations can grow and supply/sell unapproved vegetable seed – as long as they have less than 10 employees.
  • Seedbanks can grow unapproved seed without breaking the law.
  • There could be easier (in an unspecified way) rules for large producers of seeds suitable for organic agriculture etc, in some (unspecified) future legislation – maybe.

But the rest of the law is still overly restrictive, and in the long run will make it much harder for people to get hold of good seeds they want to grow at home. There are also clauses that mean the above concessions could be removed in the future without coming back to the Parliament for a vote.

The main registration system is no good for home gardeners -varieties suitable for home use don’t meet the strict criteria of the Plant Variety Agency, which is only concerned about approving the sort of seed used by industrial farmers.

Because of this, seed companies used to be able to register and sell ‘Amateur’ varieties that didn’t pass the tests, for home growers. Under the new system, they are now called ‘Niche’ varieties and there is no testing or registration at all, but there is a big catch: any company with more than 10 employees is now banned from producing them.So new varieties for home growers can only be developed by tiny organisations, and they may not have the resources to do it well. There will be very little professional development of varieties for home gardeners or small-scale sustainable agriculture. “