How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

As the squash season starts we thought it is a good time to look at some of the more unusual squash and how to cook them.  After all you may have one in your box this week!!

spag squashSpaghetti squash has string-like fibres within its flesh which, when fluffed up with a fork, look fairly similar to spaghetti.  Hence why this squash flesh has earned a reputation as a pasta replacement.

Searching for ways to cook this squash reveal a range from making holes in it and boiling it in a small amount of water, baking it whole, steaming it and cutting it before roasting it.  There is only one way that I think brings out the beautiful slightly nutty flavour and that is cutting it in half (lengthways, is my preference) and taking out the seeds leaving a bowl into which a small amount of oil can be added.

Take care when you cut the squash. Using a sharp knife, cut off both ends so that your knife has some softer flesh to start the lengthways incision.  Turn the squash onto the most stable of the ends and carefully cut through the length of the squash.

Use any oil – olive, coconut or any of your choice –  and spread it over all the visible flesh with a brush, before seasoning it with freshly ground salt (I use Pink Himalayan salt) and black pepper.  Then place it flesh side down on a tray and roasting it in a pre-heated oven at 200˚c/400˚f or gas mark 6.

To make it easier to clean the tray place a sheet of parchment/baking paper on the tray first.

Squash come in all sizes and our biodynamic ones tend to be a bit larger at over 1kg.  At this size they are likely to take approximately 40/50 minutes to cook, so that the flesh is softened and the outside is caramelised.  I suggest checking the flesh with a fork from about 30 minutes into cooking.

When it is done, turn it over and to serve fork the flesh, either taking the flesh out to another plate or eating it whilst still in its skin.

As mentioned earlier this squash fibre is a great substitute for pasta so you can use it as the spagspaghetti squashhetti upon which you place bolognaise or similar.  It will probably come as no surprise to hear that it works well with typical Italian ingredients such as tomatoes, pepper, mushrooms and cheese – especially parmesan or vegan substitutes.

 

Roasted red peppers with cooked onions or shallots and spices such as turmeric or herbs such as oregano are a favourite of mine, sometimes with cheese or a vegan alternative using ground cashew nuts.

Have you a favourite way of cooking and eating this fabulous squash?  If so, do let us know – perhaps by a post of Facebook, or a comment here on our Blog page.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Salad Days

‘O Summer sun, O moving trees!

O cheerful human noise, O busy glittering street!

What hour shall Fate in all the future find.

Or what delights, ever to equal these:

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

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

Laurence Binyon

 

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

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

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

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

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

Salad Dressings

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

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The Classic Dressing

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

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

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

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

Put the lid on tightly and shake like mad!

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

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.

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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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.

49_324 Pea Moth, Cydia nigricana, Co_ Meath