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.

 

Pea Moth, Turnip Fly…Find the Link!

We hope that you had a weekend filled with bug-related activities! Even though National Insect Week is over, we’ve got one more post for you.  Last week’s blog was heavy on insects and a bit light on vegetables, so we’ve combined the two! Here are a few insects that share their names with vegetables & fruit:

Turnip Fly

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Adult cabbage root flies resemble house flies. The larvae are white, legless and headless maggots that feed on the roots and can kill seedling and recently transplanted brassicas. There are three generations of cabbage root fly during the summer but it is the first generation in late spring-early summer that is often the most damaging to crops and garden vegetables.

Adult cabbage root flies resemble house flies in size and appearance. Later generations are less damaging to cabbages and other leafy brassicas, as older plants have larger root systems and are better able to tolerate the damage. Host plants where the root is the edible part, such as radish, turnip and swede, are damaged by any of the generations.

When fully fed, the larvae go into a brown pupal stage in the soil, either emerging as adult flies a few weeks later or remaining in that state overwinter.

 

Lesser Pumpkin Fly

It is similar to a fruit fly but, as its name suggests, it parasitises members of the pumpkin family. Its larvae can be found living in the flesh of pumpkins, courgettes and squash.

Dacus ciliatus is a pest of a wide range of crops in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. 

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Apple Maggot Fly

The adult form of this insect is about 5 mm long and is slightly smaller than a house fly, with a white dot on its thorax and a characteristic black banding shaped like an “F” on its wings. When threatened it turns its wings 90 degrees and moves them up and down whilst walking sideways; the combination mimics the appearance of it being a spider due to the wing pattern in the new position appearing as additional legs!

The apple maggot fly is native to North America.

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Pea Moth

Adult pea moths are plain grey/ brown in colour with small pale yellow markings on their sides. They are tent-shaped, have a 15mm wingspan and long antennae.  Larvae are small yellow/ white, dark headed caterpillars up to 6mm long.

Caterpillars wander the host plant for a day before entering a developing seed pod in which they feed for up to a month. Caterpillars emerge from the pods by eating their way out and over-winter in the soil as pupae in silken cocoons. You may find some of these in your garden if you grow vegetables as they’re native to the UK.

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National Insect Week – It’s Finally Here!

 

I’m sure that many of us remember standing in a field when we were younger and feeling overwhelmed by the buzzing of insects. Even if you don’t, you may well have noticed a distinct lack of insect remains on your windscreen after a drive in the dark. Crudely put I know, but there is a good reason for this.

Over the last 25 years there has been a 75% decrease in flying insects in the countryside. Any landscape dominated by agriculture will have noticed the distinct lack of life amongst the crops. This is due to the intensification of agriculture, the use of pesticides and the increase in land value to farmers (mostly due to the dangerously low produce prices dictated by supermarkets.)  Once, farmland had hedgerows and wildflower borders, but now as a general rule, this is no longer the case. The farmers just can’t afford the space. Many farmers have no option but to see their land as an asset rather than a piece of nature.

There are things we can do to help though. Becoming attuned to our tiny little friends is an incredibly rewarding thing.  Since I’ve become interested in insects my walks have become infinitely more interesting. For example, here is a Cardinal beetle. I found him on an early morning birdwatching walk in Kent.

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And here is an incredibly rare caterpillar – he becomes the Heath Fritillary butterfly. I found this one on a walk in Blean Woods near Canterbury.

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The RSPB website is an incredible resource – offering advice on everything from how to encourage wildlife to your garden using flowers and grasses, to how to build a ‘bug hotel’ from dead wood.

The National Insect Week website is a brilliant hub of information and has some incredible learning resources. This week there are events being run all over the country  designed to educate and encourage people to get involved with the wildlife around them.

It’s amazing what you can find around you – and it’s even more amazing when you know what you’re looking at!  Education is a really important way of ensuring that we care for the natural world – once people know what is out there, they’ll really begin to care for it.

Here’s an inspirational video, in case you weren’t quite swayed enough.