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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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.