I’VE CARVED THE PUMPKIN – NOW WHAT SHOULD I MAKE WITH THE FLESH?

Well that’s easy.  Here are 3 suggestions:

Pumpkin Gratin

Ingredients:

45ml (3tbsp) olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1kg pumpkin flesh cut into small chunks

2tsp chopped fresh thyme

Freshly ground salt (or fine Pink Himalayan salt) and pepper

25g parmesan cheese, grated

Heat 30ml ofpumpkin gratin the oil in a pan, add the onions and fry for about 10minutes until softened and lightly brown.

Meanwhile parboil the pumpkin flesh in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 45ml (3 tbsp) of the cooking liquid.  Mix the pumpkin with he reserved liquid, the thyme, the remaining oil and seasoning.

Spread the onion over the bottom on a dish.  Put the pumpkin mixture on top.  Bake at 190˚C (375˚F) mark 5 for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 15 minutes more.

Pumpkin Tarts

Ingredients:

350g sweet pastry (see below or buy ready made)

900g pumpkin flesh diced

Milk for cooking

3 eggs, lightly beaten

75g soft brown sugar (or rapadura sugar)

60ml golden syrup (or substitute)

225ml double cream

5ml cinnamonpumpkin tart

5ml ground ginger

Grated nutmeg

 

To make the sweet pastry:

200g plain flour

175g cold butter, cut into pieces

50g icing sugar

1tsp salt (optional)

Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend until it resembles fine crumbs.  Pat around the sides.  Tip the crumbs into a bowl and gently bring the crumbs together so you can roll the pastry.

To make the tarts:

Roll out the pastry and stamp into 25 – 30 rounds and line bun/cake tins.  Chill.

Cook the pumpkin mixture in a little milk until tender (approximately 20 minutes). Drain well then mash or puree in a blender or food processor.  Mix thoroughly with all the remaining ingredients, except the nutmeg.

Spoon a little pumpkin mixture into each pastry case.  Sprinkle the grated nutmeg over each tart. Bake at 190˚C (375˚F) mark 5 for 25-30 minutes until the filling has set and the pastry is light golden.  Serve warm or cold.

Spiced pumpkin soup

Ingredients:

Pumpkin flesh

Onion

Garlic

Ground cinnamon

Ground nutmeg

Dash of cayenne pepper

Freshly ground black pepper

Coconut milk

Maple syrup (optional)

The secret to a rich tasting pumpkin soup is to gently roast the flesh before you make the soup.  Putpumpkin soup the flesh on a tray and bake for just 5-10 minutes (checking during this time) until it is starting to go a golden colour.

Meanwhile fry the onion and garlic in oil (any, but I use coconut oil).  Add the roasted pumpkin flesh, cinnamon, nutmeg, pinch of cayenne pepper and ground black pepper. Stir, the add vegetable stock so that the pumpkin mixture is covered.  You can add more water later if the soup is too thick.  Don’t add too much water as you will be adding coconut milk later.

Bring the soil to boil, simmer for about 15 minutes and then add coconut milk.  Don’t use the full can if you are making a small amount of soup.  Add maple syrup if you are using it and taste test until your soup is just to your liking.

Organic Farming is the Bees Knees!

If you look at the plate of food on your dinner table, bees have played their part either pollinating the many vegetables and fruits we eat directly or pollinating the food for the animals that we then consume. And don’t forget the honey and wax they produce – two other important products that come courtesy of their hard work.

It’s hard to imagine a fruit salad without strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, orchard fruits, citrus fruits and tropical fruits.  But precisely what would happen if the honey bee were to disappear (amongst other meals impacted by crop loss).

tiago-faifa-NXDr9mDZ3cw-unsplashPollination is the highest agricultural contributor to yields worldwide, contributing far beyond any other agricultural management practice. This makes bees and other pollinators major contributors to agriculture. Pollinators affect 35 percent of global agricultural land, supporting the production of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide. Amazing!

Disturbingly honey bees, a very important pollinator, are disappearing globally at an alarmingly rate due to pesticides, parasites, habitat loss, and disease. Declines in their health and populations are seen globally as posing risks for biodiversity, long-term food security and ultimately human health.

With a potentially pessimistic outlook for the honey bee it’s great to hear that a study published in June (2019) shows that organic farming can mitigate the negative effects of intensive farming and increase in particular honeybee colony survival.

Researchers of the French national research institutes INRA and CNRS are the first to show that organic farming benefits honeybee colonies. Compared with bee colonies on non-organic land, colonies on organic farms had 37% more broods, with 20% more adult bees, and 53% greater honey production. Whilst they expected to confirm the benefits of organic farming with honeybee colonies they were surprised at the scale of the positive effects.

The research team analysed six years of data collected through a honeybee monitoring scheme ECOBEE which has been operating in France since 2008., Researchers particularly noted the benefits of organic farming to honeybee colonies during the flower-scarce period between the blooms of rapeseed and sunflower.

Since 2000, honeybee colonies have shown an increasing trend of poor development and high death rate. This has been attributed in part to intensive agriculture with its high usage of chemicals and single crop planting.  Evidence from this study indicates that organic farming can mitigate this decline and, moreover, can benefit the yields of crops grown by conventional farmers within 1500m of the hives.

aaron-burden-6csuZQ9oZcI-unsplashThe researchers found that the development of the colony ie the number of living adults benefited mostly where organic farmland is up to 300m from the hives thought to be due to more diverse pollen resource and decreased pesticide drift at the local scale.

But when it comes to honey reserves these benefited where organic farmland is up to 1,500m from the hives thought to be due to an increased availability of melliferous1 flowers over a longer distance for foraging bees.

A wonderful explanation given by Vincent Bretagnolle, the project leader, demonstrates the distain and lack of awareness that we know from our growers is often shown by their conventional neighbours.  He noted “Organic farms and fields are often seen by conventional farmers as a source for pests; we show here that organic farming has actually positive effects at the landscape scale, not only for biodiversity in general, but for beekeepers as well and even for conventional farmers since honeybees contribute to rapeseed and sunflower yields”.

When you next tuck into a delicious Greener Greens fruit salad or bowl of steamed vegetables recognise that you are not only nourishing your body and supporting our fabulous farmers but you’re doing your bit to help support our wonderful honeybees who do so much for us.

1 A melliferous flower is a plant which produces substances that can be collected by insects and turned into honey

Reference

Wintermantel, D, Odoux, J-F, Chadœuf, J, Bretagnolle, V. Organic farming positively affects honeybee colonies in a flower-poor period in agricultural landscapes. J Appl Ecol 2019. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13447

 

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (May 2018), Why bees matter

http://www.fao.org/3/i9527en/i9527en.pdf

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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3.  Greenfinch

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.


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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.

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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.

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.