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.

A Surrey Kitchen Recipe: Asparagus and Bok-Choy Frittata

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. She came back with not one, but two brilliant recipes!  We’ll be keeping the second one from you for another week or so, but in the mean time here’s a great recipe for Asparagus and Bok-Choy Frittata. 

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Asparagus and Bok-Choy Frittata

Emma says:
“I adore Italian/Spanish Frittata but you do not need to limit yourself to traditional ingredients like onion, red pepper, garlic and cheese.  Here is a frittata with the Asian flavours of Bak Choy, grated ginger and asparagus for something a little different this summer.  Perfect for lunch in the garden or packed up in a tupperware box for a picnic with friends and family.”
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Ingredients

 

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pinch paprika

1 small head bok choy, cut into 1-inch pieces

¾ pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off and discarded, spears cut into 1-inch pieces

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon pepper

9 eggs, beaten to mix

¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

 

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Preparation Method:

 

1) Preheat oven to 325 F/165C. In a medium cast iron or ovenproof non-stick frying pan, heat the oil over moderate heat.

2) Add the ginger, garlic, paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant (approx. 30 seconds).

3) Add the bok choy and cook stirring, until the leaves wilt, about 2 minutes.

4) Add the asparagus, salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are almost tender (approx. 3 minutes more).

5) Evenly distribute the vegetables in the pan and then add the eggs and a touch of remaining salt and pepper.

6) Cook the frittata, without stirring, until the edges start to set, about 2 minutes.

7) Put the frittata in the oven and bake until firm, about 25 minutes. Drizzle the sesame oil over the top.

 

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That’s it, simple yet incredibly effective. We’ll be posting up Emma’s second recipe next week, which leaves you plenty of time to try this one! For more recipes visit Emma’s blog – Surrey Kitchen.

Paprika is used in this recipe. It is an anti-oxidant spice that really helps to fight disease. It’s a nice little addition to any recipe – find out more health benefits of herbs and spices on our previous blog post.

 

Herbs – The Spice of Life

The use of herbs dates back to early humans. Early civilisations wrapped meat in the leaves of bushes, accidentally discovering that this enhanced the taste of the meat, as did certain nuts, seeds, berries – and even bark. Our chief supplier of herbs & spices – Steenbergs Organics are passionate about them. And so they should be! Spices not only take your meals to the next level, they’re also brilliant for your body.

Arab traders were the first to introduce spices into Europe. Realizing that they controlled a commodity in great demand, the traders kept their sources of supply secret and made up fantastic tales of the dangers involved in obtaining spices.  Today, spices are used in almost everything we eat, and costs are relatively low. It is hard to imagine that these fragrant bits of leaves, seeds, and bark were once so coveted and costly. For centuries wars were waged, new lands discovered, and the earth circled, all in the quest of spices. However, many of the spices have properties as well as their culinary uses. For example, research has shown that turmeric is full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and horseradish contains substances known as phytochemicals, which possess properties that mimic the ability of antioxidants which give a boost to the immune system in our bodies. Herbs and Spices have antibacterial and antiviral properties and many are high in B-vitamins and trace minerals.  Most herbs and spices also contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.

 

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Spices are the buds, bark, roots, berries and aromatic seeds that are harvested for use in flavouring cooking. Herbs are the fragrant leaves of plants. Even the tiny filaments of saffron are referred to as a spice. (Saffron is the stigma which is hand plucked from a small mauve crocus native to Kashmir – hence its expense.) Most spices are grown in the tropical regions of the world, with some thriving in the cool misty highlands. Many of the seed spices come from more temperate areas, such as coriander seed, which is grown in Northern India, Africa and Eastern Europe.

The majority of spices are still harvested in the way they have been for centuries, by hand! Most of the developments in the spice industry have been with respect to growing and post-harvest treatment such as grading and cleaning.

Below are a few of our key herbs and the health-benefitting properties that they have:

 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon has the highest antioxidant value of any spice. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar and blood pressure. Cinnamon has also been used to alleviate nausea. It provides manganese, iron and calcium. It can help extend the life of foods, along with nutmeg and orange.

Whilst cinnamon is most commonly used in baking and we tend to overdose on it at Christmas time, it can also be used in savoury dishes. Try adding it to a white sauce in a lasagna, pumpkin soup or even curry.

 

Basil

Basil is brilliant in everything from salads to soups. It has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and can help prevent arthritis. It has been used in digestive disorders and is being studied for its anti-cancer properties. Though commonly used in Italian cooking, Basil is a versatile herb that can be added to practically anything.

 

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Paprika

Recently, it’s been found that paprika not only helps your body fight inflammation and disease in general, but it may even have specific targeting to prevent and fight autoimmune conditions and certain cancers. Paprika also boosts your daily intake of vitamin E. Each tablespoon provides 2 milligrams of vitamin E, or 13 percent of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin E helps control blood clot formation and promotes healthy blood vessel function, and also serves as an antioxidant. Paprika is also an excellent source of iron.

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Turmeric

Turmeric is a common ingredient in Indian foods, and a great addition to soups. It contains Curcumin, a cancer-fighting compound. It is best known for its ability to reduce inflammation and improve joints. If you are struggling with inflammation, you can grate a small amount and eat it raw. You’ll notice the effects fairly quickly. Try adding turmeric to your daily cooking – only a small amount will make a big difference!

 

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Garlic

In our opinions, garlic is a cupboard essential. Fresh cloves are always best, but powdered, minced and granulated forms provide excellent flavour. Studies show that just 2 fresh cloves a week provide anti-cancer benefits.

 

Dill

Dill has antibacterial properties but is most known for its stomach settling ability (ever wonder why pregnant women crave pickles?). It contains a variety of nutrients but loses most when heated to high temperatures. For this reason, it is best used in uncooked recipes or in foods cooked at low temperatures. It is a great addition to any type of fish, to dips and dressings, to omelettes or to poultry dishes.

Cayenne

Cayenne has many health benefits and can improve the absorption of other nutrients in foods. It has been shown to increase circulation and reduce the risk of heart problems. It  is also a great addition to many foods. In small amounts, it can be added to practically any dish, meat, vegetable or sauce. As tolerance to the spicy flavor increases, the amount added can be increased also.

 

Mint

Mint has traditionally been used to calm digestive troubles and to reduce nausea. Many people enjoy a tea made from peppermint or spearmint leaves, and the volatile oils in both have been used in breath fresheners, toothpastes and chewing gum. Externally, the oil or tea can be used to repel mosquitos.

 

Oregano

Oregano is a common ingredient in Italian and Greek cuisine. Oregano (and it’s milder cousin, Marjoram) are antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer and antibiotic. It is extremely high in antioxidants and has demonstrated antimicrobial properties against food-borne pathogens like Listeria. Its oil and leaves are used medicinally in treatment of cough, fever, congestion, body ache and illness. Combined with basil, garlic, marjoram, thyme and rosemary, it creates a potent antiviral, anti bacterial, antimicrobial and cancer fighting seasoning blend. It can also be sprinkled on any kind of savory foods. A couple of teaspoons added to a soup will help recovery from illness.

 

Cumin

The second most used herb in the world after black pepper, cumin provides a distinct and pleasant taste. Cumin has antimicrobial properties and has been used to reduce flatulence. It is a wonderful addition to curry powder or to flavor Mexican or Middle Eastern dishes.

 

Curry Powder

Curry powder can have a wide variety of ingredients, but often contains turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, mustard powder, cayenne, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, fenugreek and a wide variety of peppers. With all these ingredients it has an amazing range of beneficial properties. Curry is an acquired taste, but can be added to meats, stir frys, soups and stews.

 

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Rosemary

If you’ve had rosemary it was likely on a lamb dish, but its uses are much more varied. It has a high concentration of the antioxidant carnosol and research shows it may have benefits in cancer treatment and healthy digestion and use of cholesterol. It has a pine/lemony scent and it can be used in soap making due to its smell and ability to fight aging by rejuvenating the small blood vessels under the skin. If you aren’t ready to jump into soap-making just yet… try it on meat dishes, in soups or with vegetables. Water boiled with Rosemary can be used as an antiseptic.

 

Thyme

Thyme contains thymol, a potent antioxidant (and also the potent ingredient in Listerine mouthwash). Water boiled with thyme can be used in homemade spray cleaners and or can be added to bathwater for treatment of wounds. Thyme water can be swished around the mouth for gum infections or for the healing of wounds from teeth removal. Thyme tea can also be taken internally during illness to speed recovery. In foods, it is often used in French cooking (an ingredient in Herbs de Provence) and Italian. Add to any baked dishes at the beginning of cooking, as it slowly releases its benefits.

Once you have a basic understanding of the various spice flavours and how they complement different foods, you can use your own creativity and taste instincts to experiment with a whole range of combinations. Being adventurous with spices can make cooking fun! To see our full Steenbergs range, visit our website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uh Oh! There’s Meat in your Veggie Meal!

Last Friday it was revealed that traces of meat have been discovered in supermarket ready meals. Ready meals by both Sainsbury’s and Tesco have been caught out – and the presence of whole animal DNA indicates that the meals contain either meat or animal skin.

This is disturbing as every consumer has the right to know what is in their food.  In our society, it is fast becoming the norm to expect supermarkets to ‘lead the way’ when it comes to environmental issues. We’re expected to applaud them for voluntarily pledging to cut plastic waste by 2025, yet there are small businesses that have existed for years that have been built on environmentally friendly foundations from day one.  Finding meat traces in independently approved ready meals made by the supermarket giants themselves is just another scandal in a long, long line of them. And it’s not going to be the last either.

And yet, they still want us to feel dependent on them. Maybe it’s time we stopped waiting for the giants to decide when it’s time to start caring about the environment. After all – they only decide to change their ways when the consumers start to object to their practices – it’s rarely done for the good of the planet or because it’s simply the right thing to do.

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Big supermarkets work purely for profit – at the expense of the environment, the people who supply them and even their own customers. There are thousands of small, independent businesses out there which have been created out of love and passion for the way things should be done to ensure that everybody along the supply chain – along with the land itself – is treated fairly and with respect.

We keep saying it: The consumers are the ones with the power. We control where our money goes and who we give it to. Choosing where we buy is a powerful form of direct action. Let’s not leave the important decisions to the giants anymore – if we want to ensure that there’s no meat in our veggie meals, let’s make our own! If we don’t want to throw away plastic packaging every day, let’s not buy it in the first place. If we don’t buy it, they won’t put it on the shelves.

Most importantly – as a powerful consumer with the luxury of choice – let’s share that power with the small, independent and ethical business owners rather than the businesses that show us, time and time again, where their real priorities lie. We should make more of a conscious effort to buy from the people that really care, rather than the people that just pretend to.