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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Christmas Dinners & Festive Feelings

Every year we team up with several local organisations and charities to help others at Christmas by putting together an “unwrapped” present scheme that benefits others in your community. Unwrapped gifts are a way of giving two gifts in one – you can buy a gift for a cause you really believe in on behalf of one of your friends or family.

We have developed our Greener Greens Unwrapped gifts over several years. We work with local Children’s Centres and charities to bring fresh organic veg, fruit and one or two sweeter goodies to local families and individuals who could benefit from help at Christmas.

Last year our Unwrapped gifts fed over 350 people with 450kg of fruit and veg going to Crawley in our family bags and over 115kg of fresh produce going to Redhill for the VARB Festive Feast.  We cannot do this without our amazing customers and are particularly grateful to those who have participated since we started it about 10 years ago.

We supply the produce at cost, and our team fill the bags before passing them to the organisation or Childrens’ Centre for distribution. The family bag contains 8kg of veggies and fruit. You pay for the bag, let the team know who you are buying it on behalf of and Greener Greens send your friend or relative a card letting them know what you have bought.

This year we will provide fresh organic produce to VARB – (Voluntary Action Reigate & Banstead) for the second year running. VARB devote themselves to building connections between charities and businesses and working together for the benefit of local people. They are holding a ‘Festive Feast’ lunch on Christmas Day for those who either spend Christmas Day alone, or families who can’t afford a Christmas lunch.   We at Greener Greens are selling 20 “bags” of produce for this event with each bag comprising sufficient food for a 7 people.  Thus we raise enough money to pay for produce for 140 and the wonderful team at VARB can concentrate on entertaining those who need it most this Christmas.

This year we’re also donating fresh fruit to the children of  St Clement’s Catholic Primary School for them to eat throughout their Christmas events instead of other unhealthier options!

So if you can afford to help spread the joy of giving this Christmas, then please consider helping us out to help ensure that others can enjoy their Christmas too. In addition to giving lots of local people a head start at Christmas, you are helping to support our independent growers.  Please get in touch with us if you are interested in buying a bag for someone this Christmas!

If you would like to get involved or find out more about VARB please contact  lisa@varb.org.uk or call 01737 762 115.

Winter Soup Recipes

As you’re probably aware, we’ve opened a shop in Suffolk (apologies for the non-stop talk about it!)

One thing we’ve started doing at the shop is selling takeaway soups using the organic produce that we sell, which have been going down a storm.  We’ve had a lot of interest in the recipes that we use, so we thought we’d share a few of them here.  The ones that I’ll tell you about are all of the recipes that I’ve used in the past week.  All of the produce is seasonal and is available now through the box scheme on the Greener Greens website.

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Butternut Squash, Red Pepper & Sweet Potato Soup

  • One large butternut squash, peeled and halved
  • Two red peppers
  • Two medium sweet potatoes, halved
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • One vegetable stock cube in 700ml hot water
  • One handful of green lentils

This one is dead easy  – simply roast the peeled butternut squash and the halved sweet potatoes at 180 degrees in the oven for around ten minutes. Whilst they’re roasting, chop the garlic cloves and the peppers and gently fry them until soft and then add the nutmeg.

Then, add the squash and the sweet potato into the pan and add the stock with the water. Let the pan simmer with the lid on until everything is soft. Then, blend the mixture using a hand blender. Add more water if you require a thinner soup, and add more nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. We add chopped parsley too.

 

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Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 500g orange carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • One clove of garlic
  • One red pepper

This soup is a really lovely winter warmer. I kept it quite thick when I sold it in the shop, again with chopped parsley on top. The colour is gorgeous on this one (unlike the purple carrot one!) So

Chop and boil the carrots in water that just covers over the top of them. Meanwhile, fry the garlic, turmeric, chilli and ginger in a pan. Once the carrots have softened, add the fried ingredients to the pan and blend using a hand blender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Purple Carrot, Chilli, Ginger & Turmeric Soup

  • Two bunches of purple carrots
  • Half a chilli
  • One clove of garlic
  • One arm of ginger (or more to taste)
  • One finger of turmeric
  • One handful of green lentils.

This soup has a great kick, but looks very dark. The lentils add a beautiful glossy sheen to the soup when blended. This one is better thinned out and is delicious with natural yoghurt and coriander on top.

Chop and boil the carrots and lentils in water that just covers over the top of them. Meanwhile, fry the garlic, turmeric, chilli and ginger in a pan. Once the carrots have softened, add the fried ingredients to the pan and blend using a hand blender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Pumpkin, Red Pepper & Nutmeg soup

  • One large pumpkin
  • One courgette
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • One large onion
  • Three red peppers, roughly chopped
  • Nutmeg, a generous amount
  • 750ml stock

This soup is a lovely looking winter warmer. It’s a great use for a pumpkin that’s been designed for eating and not carving!

Fry the onion, courgette, garlic and peppers in oil with the nutmeg until they have softened. In the meantime get stuck into the pumpkin! Scrape out the seeds and peel off the skin before cutting into chunks and adding into the mix. Don’t add the stock for a few minutes – let the pumpkin soften in the heat before adding it in. Once it’s in, put the lid on the pan and allow to simmer for around ten minutes, or until the pumpkin is softened.

Once everything has gone a bit mushy, blend with a hand blender and add salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped basil on top if you like, it compliments the soup really quote nicely!

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Wilde & Greene at Longwood Farm

We have just opened our very own Farm Shop at Longwood Farm in Tuddenham! Just 15 minutes from Bury St Edmunds, we’ve carried on the legacy of the shop that came before us by selling locally grown, organic fresh vegetables, fruit and meat as well as dairy and whole foods. We also sell local bread and eggs, so you can get everything you need in one place.

For many years and in conjunction with a team in Suffolk, we have been running an organic delivery business in East Anglia – known as Wilde & Greene. We buy from growers in Suffolk and surrounding areas so it makes sense for us to sell their wonderful produce to those living nearby.

Our latest project in Suffolk is the opening of a Farm Shop – which we have just opened at Longwood Farm in Tuddenham! Just 15 minutes from Bury St Edmunds, we’ve carried on the legacy of the shop that came before us by selling locally grown, organic fresh vegetables, fruit and meat as well as dairy and whole foods. We also sell local bread and eggs, so you can get everything you need in one place. Longwood Farm owners, Matthew and Louise, continue to produce wonderful meat and dairy, including beautifully creamy Jersey raw milk and kefir.  And with the stunning veg from Our Growers plus local bread, cheeses, wholefoods and loads more the Wilde & Greene Farm Shop in Tuddenham St Mary is a project that we’re all very excited about.

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Read the article here.

In time we’ll be turning the remaining space into a cafe – a hub for birdwatchers, cyclists and the local community to come and spend time on the farm with a coffee and a cream tea. We already have a lino cutting workshop and a Christmas makers market lined up!

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Please pop in if you’re ever in the area – come and view the sightings board to see the wildlife that lives in the surrounding area and on the adjoining reserve, do your weekly shop with a takeaway coffee, or just come and learn more about what we do. Alternatively, take a look at our website!

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.

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.