There’s nought Blue about Blueberries

One of the high spots of the year for me is the arrival of the first blueberries from Horsham.  The season may be short – eight weeks or so – but it is packed with six varieties of blueberries, each with their own special flavour and becoming sweeter as the summer progresses.

Our Horsham blueberries are grown on fertile clay soil in Lower Beeding by Bob Hewitt of Selehurst Gardens (better known to us as Blueberry Bob).  Over the years he has transformed a relatively small area into an extremely productive site and the weather this year has helped to improve this productivity.  Last year the long, early Summer temperatures took their toll on the blueberry plants and the season finished before August was out.

Blueberry

I can recall my first tasting of a Blueberry Bob berry so vividly.  The sweet, flavoursome taste and amazing juiciness brought a huge grin to my face.  “This is heaven” I thought as I dived back into the punnet! Unsurprisingly, as we encourage people at our markets to taste the berries I have learnt that my reaction was not unique to me!  Collectively us “lovers of blueberries from Bob” could be deemed to be “people who know what they like”, but we think we fall into the category of having a “well-developed palette” as these blueberries are used by the Michelin 1 chef, Tom Kemble, at South Lodge in Lower Beeding.  I rest our case!

We have always been fascinated by these blueberries and why they can sell so well, at double the price, to those in London but are not generally appreciated in their home territory of Sussex. So we ran a taste test at Horsham Market a few years ago.  We bought some organic blueberries from Waitrose – variety Duke and from Poland. We had some Duke variety from Blueberry Bob on our stall at the same time.  The Waitrose blueberries were more expensive (a little aside, but important to us).  Customers and passers-by were invited to taste one of each and to provide a comparison. The facial expressions presented us with the best reactions.  The Polish blueberries were sharp and tasteless and usually generated a grimace. Blueberry Bob’s Duke blueberries mostly generated a satisfactory smile (and often a purchase – a double win!).

Whilst initially I was sold on these blueberries by their taste, I soon found out their health benefits – for young and old.  My grand-daughter was weaned on these blueberries and was declared the healthiest baby seen by the doctor for a long time at one of her early progress appointments.

AdobeStock_87051493.jpeg

Blueberries are considered a superfood today but have been used for their medicinal properties for centuries.  American Indians used blueberry leaves as a tonic for colicky babies and in Europe the fruit itself was used to cure diarrhoea, dysentery and scurvy as well as circulatory problems and eye diseases. In particular, blueberries were used to treat diabetic retinopathy (an eye disease associated with diabetes) and some physicians still use it as part of treatments.

Top researchers, Béliveau and Gingras, were particularly interested in this traditional use of blueberries for diabetic retinopathies as the latter are caused by “uncontrolled angiogenesis” in blood vessels, a phenomenon which is instrumental in the growth of cancer tumours.  Their research suggests that molecules known as anthocyanidins (found abundantly in blueberries) can be responsible for the anti-angiogenic effects of these berries and slow the growth of tumours.  Angiogenesis is a process whereby the cancer tumours, which require food and oxygen to grow, trigger chemical signals to attract the cells of blood vessels located nearby.  These blood vessels react by clearing a path to the tumour by dissolving the surrounding tissue and forming a new blood vessel thus facilitating the flow of food and oxygen to the tumour.

Research has determined that benefits of blueberries include improvement of cognitive health (this has to be a subject of a future blog as it is quite technical, but associated with the antioxidant content acting as a “de-rusting agent”), prevents urinary tract infection occurring, helps anti-ageing and improves skin, heart and eyes through its mineral and vitamin content.

These guys are so under-estimated because we have them throughout the year.  But, the greatest benefit will be achieved from the farm fresh ones that are produced locally and are available on our website.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Salad Days

‘O Summer sun, O moving trees!

O cheerful human noise, O busy glittering street!

What hour shall Fate in all the future find.

Or what delights, ever to equal these:

Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind,

Only to be alive, and feel that life is sweet.

Laurence Binyon

 

According to the ancient Chinese, the secret of good health was to live in harmony with nature. They saw a balanced life as one that does not continually disregard the rhythms of nature, but one that observes and adapts to the natural flow of things.

One of the most fundamental links to nature we have is through our diet. By eating the food that grows around us from season to season, we can maintain our connection with the earth and receive the best nourishment to support and balance us.

Spring merges into Summer on 21 June, when we experience the longest amount of daylight of the year, the Summer Solstice. During the Summer, nature begins to bloom and manifest her magnificent glory.  We have the widest possible choice of food to pick from.

pexels-photo-1213710.jpeg

This includes foods that represent every earthly colour, nourishes the body with the rainbow of pigments. The reds of cherries and tomatoes, the oranges of carrots and nectarines, the greens of cucumbers courgettes and peas, the yellows of peppers and peaches and the mauves and blues of aubergine and grapes.

Leaves, stems, assorted green beans, herbs, and fresh fruit are just some of the delicious plants available, making it a perfect season to take a bite into raw – salads galore!

Salad Dressings

You can breathe life into everything from a humble rice noodle to an array of different salads with a simple salad dressing. If they’re too much like hard work then you won’t use them and salads can quickly become dull.

olive-oil-salad-dressing-cooking-olive.jpg

The Classic Dressing

From this basic recipe, play around with it by adding any of the ingredients you LIKE to it and just give it a try. Have fun and find your own exciting combinations.

(Makes approximately 130mls and will keep for a week in the fridge).

In a glass jar, add a finely chopped clove of garlic (or crush a clove in a garlic crusher)! To this add:

  • 6 tbsps of olive oil
  • 2 tbsps of flax oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp of lecithin granules

Put the lid on tightly and shake like mad!

Dress up your dressing: From here, eat it as it is or get creative – add a pinch of cumin powder to it or some fresh herbs like mint or basil or pop a quarter of a teaspoon of mustard in to spice it up!

Let’s Go Birding!

After our last blog post about insects,  I’m sure you’ve all been keeping your eyes to the ground! Now it’s time to look up though – with the bird breeding season upon us it’s well worth keeping an eye on the trees and hedgerows to see who’s around. Below we’ve listed a few of our favourites to keep an eye on – particularly if you have bird feeders in your garden. Thank you to Rosie from the Wilde & Greene farm shop for her amazing photographs.

 

  1. Chaffinch

These little delights are a lovely addition to any garden. Their distinctive colouring (red with a bluish grey head for males, a more subdued brown and buff for the females) separates them from other finches. Look for their obvious black and white wing bars in flight.

During nesting season these little birds make a distinctive frog-like ‘kkk-kkk’ if you venture too close to their nests, and loud ‘feep’ calls can often be heard coming out of hedgerows and trees.

1796588_596587123810243_80249214027124434_n

 

2.  Dunnock

This lesser known sparrow is the real life ‘little brown job’ of the bird world.  Sometimes called a ‘hedge sparrow’ you will often see them skulking around the ground underneath bird feeders, hedgerows and bushes. For something so normal looking, Dunnocks have extremely interesting breeding methods. It’s always the quiet ones. Listen for a high-pitched, rather frantic chatter coming from hedges.

11081016_596585753810380_1902959736505267120_n

 

3.  Greenfinch

11045426_596585363810419_3253495763667115450_n

Greenfinches love black sunflower seeds! They are bright little birds with a twittering (sometimes a bit jurassic) song. They’re common on heathland, in parks and gardens and in woodland.  Their distinctive green-green plumage and black-tipped wings make them easy to spot.

 

4. Great Tit

DSCN0015

Great Tits are very easy to tell apart from other members of the tit family. They have a long, pointed beak and a very black head. They’re much larger than blue tits, and their plumage tends to be more green than blue, with a yellow chest. It’s a very common garden and bird feeder visitor. You can hear its very distinctive two syllabled ‘teacher-teacher’ call pretty much anywhere you go.

 

5.  Long Tailed Tit

10947177_609956695806619_5928184248275055596_n

These lovely little birds are a common favourite. They fly from tree to tree in excitable family units devouring insects as they go. You’ll often find them on fat-ball feeders. They have an almost electric sounding repeated ‘sceep’ call  which is hard to miss when they’re around! Long-Tailed Tits are easy to spot – they’re little rose-pink, white and black fluff balls with very long tails and short beaks.

 

6.  Goldfinch

2019-03-19 10.15.15-1

Other than an extremely distinctive bubbling chatter, Goldfinches are incredibly easy to recognise because of their read faces, black caps and yellow and black wings. They’re common visitors to bird tables, gardens and parks, although I often see them sitting on top of houses on aerials chatting away to one another.

 

7.  Barn Swallow

11825882_659301154205506_1400218347533290652_n

They’ll be back soon! Swallows migrate here from March until October for the summer and nest inside old farm buildings. They have a distinctive chatter with a ‘kkk’ noise coming from the throat added in for good measure. Barn Swallows have such a distinctive shape – a deep forked tail with long streamers and pointed, elegantly curved wings, you’ll most likely see them on the wing, playing and flying through the air catching insects as they go.  They have white undersides, red throats and blue bodies.

 

8.  Great Spotted Woodpecker

10644528_609956409139981_439543020738214034_n

These striking birds have black and white plumage with strong red undersides. The male also has a distinctive red patch on the back of his head. You’ll more likely hear them rather than see them when they’re in trees  – either a loud drumming or a loud call that is almost like a laugh, which they often do in flight too.

Rosie was lucky enough to have one on her bird feeder, where they can sometimes be spotted (they like peanuts). Otherwise, look out for them in woodland, parks and large gardens.

 

With numbers in strong decline, it’s more important than ever to take notice of the birds that we have in our local area. Why not keep a record of the species that you see – maybe even keep a tally on numbers to monitor the birds year on year? Even if you decide not too, they’re still nice just to look at!

 

Bug Life

Cavenham Heath is a wonderful nature reserve right next door to our farm shop in Tuddenham, Suffolk. We like to keep up-to-date with the bird sightings on the heath by keeping our sightings board relevant and updated weekly, and we’re very excited about the Stone Curlews that have just arrived up there for the summer.

stone curlew

Right now though, we’re thinking about insects, which we have lots of down south too! After hearing that we’re at risk of losing huge numbers of our insect population, we’ve started to look at the ones around us.  Graeme Lyons visited the Suffolk heath at the end of last month and gave us all of his records for his visit. We’ve picked out a few of the most interesting species that are also common down here for you below:

Minotaur Beetle

Minotaur Beetle

GRAEME LYONS

This is my personal favourite. The Minotaur Beetle is a large dung beetle with three large horns on its head. It buries the dung of mammals (particularly sheep up on the heath) in finger-sized holes for its larvae to feed on. They grow to around 2cm long and are easily identified because of the horns.

 

Birch Catkin Bug

Birch Catkin Bug

GRAEME LYONS

This rust-coloured bug is common on or around birch trees. It mainly feeds on the seeds of the birch, and you may sometimes find them clustered together on a single birch leaf. With all the silver birch on the reserve, you’re bound to find one if you keep your eyes peeled! Watch out though, they have stink glands to ward off predators which have led them to also be called ‘Stink bugs’.

 

Garlic Snail

This little guy can be found under logs and is about the size of your little fingernail. Give it a sniff – it smells like garlic! It has a yellow-brown shell which is translucent.

p16dqf5c311i66vh2o3f1pg5bp3j

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ero aphana

GRAEME LYONS

Ero aphana is a nationally scarce spider found on heathland. It’s one of four species within the Mimetidae genus which are also called pirate spiders. This is because, unusually,  they predate the webs of other spiders – not for their food, but for the spiders themselves. These spiders grow to around 3mm long.

 

Dock Bug

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GRAEME LYONS

This is the most common and the largest member of the Squashbug family. It’s called the Dock Bug because it mostly feeds on the seeds and leaves of docks and sorrels. Like other bugs within their genus they have specially adapted mouth parts that they use to pierce plants to extract juices.

We’ve got lots of other insects to talk about, but in the meantime do let us know if you find any of these – or any other interesting ones!

The 4 R’s

At Greener Greens we, like many people, avidly practice the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle – to cut down waste, conserve natural resources, landfill space and energy.  But something I saw today prompts an additional R – resourcefulness.


disposal-1846033__340
I was at the Dorking recycling centre (aka “the dump”) which sadly the local council has voted to close, although closure has now been delayed until the end of September.  As I put a black bin into the landfill/burn container one of the recycling team split it open to reveal its contents.  “Why are you doing that?” I said. And this is what I was told…

On recognising the folly of the planned closure, the team thought they would prove the value of their service by opening each black bin deposited, reclaiming (yet another R!) items that can be recycled and keeping a tally of the amount their actions earned the council. Within the first fortnight they had reclaimed 2 tons of clothing for which the council receives 50p per kg and many tons of other items.  To date the team has gained the council thousands of pounds.  And so impressed is the council with their trial that it has allocated funds to help their efforts.

I saw 3 bags opened today and each contained bottles, paper and other recyclable items.  Sadly one third of the contents of one bag was recyclable, demonstrating that we still have a way to go.  But this wonderful team at Dorking is busily generating the statistics that enable a better message to be presented to us all.  And they have given a new dimension to “protesting”!

We shall be campaigning to keep this recycling centre open and the team in jobs. And to do that, we will be following the progress of this trial.

Now’s the Time!

As you may know, we’re a business that prioritise our planet over profit. Our leafy vegetables are all packaged in biodegradable compostable bags, and the rest of our veg goes naked without any packaging. All of our fresh produce is from small-scale and independent farms which means that we can guarantee that all of it has 100% traceability, contains no pesticides or chemicals and does not negatively impact on our environment.

ladybug-flight-beetle-insect

At a time when we’re at risk of losing our insects and we have only sixty years of topsoil left due to intensive farming, it’s more important than ever to make responsible choices when buying our food.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be presenting a series of blogs around the subject of insects and what makes them so great!

In the meantime though, choosing how we eat is a simple but powerful form of direct action.  You can guarantee that when you buy from Greener Greens, you are making a little difference to people, plants and planet.

At this time of year

Last week I sent you an excited note to say we were able to source some caulis from one of our growers. The reason for my excitement was that I had been horrified at the price of caulis from Europe.

The good news is that we continue to source a small amount of caulis from the same grower, but behind any price hike there is (usually) a story. We know that weather has been poor in Europe for some months – so what is the full story?

The two Southern European countries of Spain and Italy provide much of the produce that is exported to the UK.  Spain itself accounts for over 20% of the EU organic production and is in the top 3 of the EU’s producers.  Both countries have experienced wet weather late last year (Italy had particular bad storms) and cold weather this year, with some much warmer days in between resulting in fluctuating temperatures.

Generally the growing is in unheated greenhouses or outside, so both types of growing are affected and many of the more sensitive plants such as courgettes hate fluctuating temperatures – as many of you growers will know, as cold spells in our Summers are certainly not uncommon!

Whilst the situation is poor this year it is not as bad as the beginning of last year when, as many of you will remember, broccoli and other vegetables and salads (remember Iceberg lettuces in the media?) were absent from the supermarket shelves.  What is evident though is that the climate is changing in these areas and extreme weather is becoming the norm.  The extreme and more elongated Winters give way rapidly to more extreme and lengthy Summers, thus Spring and Autumn are disappearing.

The outcome is quite stark with Spanish growers losing over 50% of the vegetable crops in recent weeks.  In Italy, Swiss chard, broccoli and leafy salad crops have been almost wiped out. Italian cauliflower is at its peak production at present but delivery bottlenecks are slowing the flow of this product to markets. Even if you buy a cauli from Italy, at its higher than normal price, it could be much smaller than normal.  The sizing for export trade to EU countries are not being met due to the cold weather.

Another brassica affected is broccoli.  Supply shortages are being experienced which manifest sometimes as supply gaps.  This has increased the price of broccoli but not to the extent of caulis and lettuce.

We have noticed an increase in the price of aubergines which went up by 60% in one week!! And we predict that courgette prices will be volatile in the next few months.

So what is happening to UK organic growing?  The first observation is that within the UK as a whole organic growing has reduced, which is against the overall EU trend.  We are not alone in this as Poland (which in recent years had a booming organic growing sector) and 2 other EU countries have done the same.  But that means 24 other EU countries have increased production (by the way this statistic covers arable and livestock too).  Generally we are seeing fairly static growing but an increase in demand from buyers (retail and commercial) which suggests to us that there is a trend towards buying from UK/local producers.  Perhaps this is driven by the sterling/EU exchange rate, but there is likely to be a “buy local/British” element within.

We have noticed that the produce availability period is reducing, as fields are stripped of their maturing produce more quickly by the demand.  Equally, in times of extreme weather (and the “once bitten, twice shy” hard-learned philosphy of the grower) we suspect the growers are making sure that they get a return for their hard efforts whilst they can.  There is a possible socio economic implication to this trend.  The discounting of the value of food coupled with changing climates has accentuated the commercial aptitude of the growing community.  It is true, that I rarely see laid back growers these days.  But I, and I am sure our customers, value their skills immensely.

We are undertaking comittments to our growers so that our needs are built into their growing plans.  We believe it is the only way of ensuring that our customers can access the produce that they desire. I use the word desire intentionally, because over the years my body has screamed at me to eat certain foods, and now I listen.  And the benefits are obvious.  I wrote once, in an old GG newsletter, about my 4 hour visit to Orchard Farm where our eggs come from.  The educative story about the hens, their cockerels and their daily attitude towards getting their bodies in “tip top” condition was so mind opening that I realised we instinctively have the pointers from our body. It is that any many wonderful episodes with our growers and our wonderful customers, whatever their situation, that motivate us.

 

 

 

 

Why Rainbows are Important

Spare a thought for your poor old liver, who might have had a hard time this Christmas. It’s your biggest detoxifying organ, and to do its job properly it needs a solid supply of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants to function well.

You don’t need to go on a major detox diet after Christmas to start feeling better – just by eating organically you’re helping your body jumpstart into doing what it does best – keeping you healthy, happy and balanced.

One way of ensuring that you’re giving your body everything that it needs is to remember this golden rule – always put a rainbow on your plate.  Coloured vegetables contain different nutrients, all of which are important to your  body. By including vegetables of every colour in to your meals, you’re ensuring that you’re giving your body everything it needs to be at it’s best.

Instead of resorting to the same recipes or choosing the same ‘safe’ fruits and vegetables this January, why not start to experiment with the fresh produce that you’re eating? Below are a list of key colours and vegetables, along with their health benefits, to get you on your way.

agriculture-blur-carrots-196643.jpg

Green Veg

Why not try… Broccoli, leafy greens such as spinach, kale and chard, celery, cabbage, avocado, kiwi fruit, romanesco cauliflower, leeks, runner beans or peas?

Health benefits:  Green veg is great for your skin and hair!  Vegetables such leafies (especially kale) are rich in calcium, which ensures strong teeth and bones. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and lutein are great for maintaining healthy eyes and sight, as well as aiding in preventing muscular degeneration.

 

Red and Purple Veg

Why not try… Tomatoes, red peppers, cherries, beetroot, purple cabbage, purple kale, purple sprouting broccoli, aubergine, red onion, purple carrots or strawberries?

Health Benefits:  Red wine is said to be good for your heart because it contains an antioxidant, called resveratrol, which can boost your health. The purple pigment in all of these fruits and vegetables contains resveratrol and flavonoids which can help decrease blood pressure by helping to relax the arterial walls, thereby decreasing the pressure in the arteries and allowing better circulation.

In addition to reducing heart disease risk, antioxidants in foods like those listed above can reduce the risk of certain cancers, like colon and prostate cancer.

 

Yellows and Orange Veg

Why not try…Squash, bananas, swede, carrots, apples and pears, citrus fruits, yellow and orange peppers or golden beetroot?

Health benefits: Citrus is probably best-known for containing Vitamin C, which boosts the immune system and can protect your body from disease. But that’s not all that the vitamin is good for—it also promotes healthy skin and vision, and protects against heart disease and prenatal health problems. They also contain beta-carotene, which is excellent for maintaining eyesight.

 

White Veg

Why not try…Potatoes, garlic, mushrooms, white cabbage, celeriac, turnips, cauliflower, bok choy or onions?

Health benefits: When making the rainbow on your plate, don’t forget the more neutral shades! White coloured vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, containing nutrients like magnesium, fibre and potassium that are often lacking in many of our diets.

assorted-broccoli-cabbage-1300972.jpg

There are so many vegetables out there for you to try – as long as you reach for the rainbow, you can try every combination under the sun and still get everything that your body needs to perform at its best! Experimenting with new foods and cooking techniques can be extremely rewarding, especially if you know that the end result is a far healthier lifestyle for you and your family.

To see the full rainbow range of organic vegetables that we have on offer at the moment, please visit our website!

Recipe: Turnip Dauphinoise

Our Veg of the Week at the Wilde & Greene Farm Shop last week was the Golden Turnip. To celebrate this tiny (but triumphant) vegetable I made turnip dauphinoise, just to see whether it was possible. It was, and it was great. I’ve put together the recipe for you so that we can all share the power of the turnip.

It’s a great side dish to meat and goes very well with leafy veg such as kale, spinach or brussell tops.

47432846_728501470868703_7641742362938441728_n.jpg

Ingredients:

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

5-6 medium turnips (golden or regular) peeled and thinly sliced

227ml (one pot) organic double cream

100ml milk

100g parmesan cheese, grated

 

Method:

Pre heat oven to 180° or gas mark 4.

Slowly heat the cream and milk in a medium pan until it starts to thicken. Add the garlic and turnips to the pan and allow to cook slowly for 10-15 minutes when the turnips have slightly softened.

Once they have started to soften, pour the mixture into a deep tray, ensuring that the mix is not too spread along the bottom of the tin (there must be a good thickness to it to make sure that it cooks before burning). Add the parmesan cheese to the top of the mixture (I also added cherry tomatoes whole which was lovely) and put in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Once the top has browned and the turnips are fully cooked, serve.

 

img-20181203-wa0003.jpg