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.

 

Bake With Jack: Another Exciting Recipe

We were lucky enough to get a recipe from Jack last year – and now Bake with Jack is back! Chef Jack Sturgess is passionate not only about baking – but about spreading the message that anyone can make their own bread from home. He runs workshops, demonstrations and classes across Surrey to prove that ANYONE can make their own, and that it’s not scary!

He says that he started Bake with Jack because:

Modern bread in the UK is awful (my personal opinion). It is laced with processing aids and artificial additives. In my opinion the structure and texture of it alone is enough to give us a dodgy tum!

Because bread making shouldn’t be a confusing, scary process. Let’s keep it simple because you can do it.

Homemade bread is delicious, and all the more delicious because the flavour is elevated by the pride you feel for having made it yourself! With your hands and your heart.

We wholeheartedly agree with this, and were intrigued to see whether we could collaborate with him in any way. So a couple of weeks ago we sent Jack one of our seasonal veg boxes to see what he could make of it. We’ve been lucky enough to get something back, and we’ll be hearing from him with yet another recipe over the next couple of weeks!

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Here’s the recipe – enjoy. And thank you to Jack for sharing this with us, we are really excited that you’ve come up with something so brill! I can’t wait to try this for lunch one day this week.

 

Grilled Asparagus Ciabatta with Lemon and Tarragon Pesto

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Serves 2

 For the Pesto:

 

20g          Greener Greens organic tarragon leaves

80g          Olive oil

10            Toasted pine nuts

20g          Finely grated pecorino

Pinch of Salt

 

12            Greener Green organic asparagus spears

1               Ciabatta

1               Clove of garlic

½               Lemon

4tbsp     Greek yoghurt

 

Olive oil

Black Pepper

Salt

 

 

 

First make your pesto. Put the olive oil, tarragon, pine nuts and a pinch of salt into a mini food processor and blend together. You can make it quite smooth if you like but I like mine to be coarse. Add the pecorino and pulse until it is just combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust if you need to.

 

Trim the woody ends off the asparagus spears, peel and halve the garlic clove, and cut two chunks of ciabatta. Rub the cut side of ciabatta with a little olive oil.

 

Heat a griddle pan over a high heat until it is just smoking. Grill your ciabatta for around 2-3 minutes until charred and when they are still warm rub the grilled side with the cut side of the garlic and season with a little salt. Put the ciabatta toasts on two plates.

 

Next get the asparagus onto the grill. I like to hold mine down with a potato masher to be sure they get charred evenly all the way up the stems. Grill for 2-3 minutes, then turn them over and grill the other side the same. No need for oil at this stage as it’ll just make your kitchen smoky! When they are ready they should be charred and blackened in lines with still some bite.

 

Place the hot asparagus into a large mixing bowl, add three tablespoons of your pesto and a good squeeze of lemon. If your pesto is well seasoned you shouldn’t need to add any salt at this point. Toss the asparagus to dress it nicely all over then arrange the spears on top of your toasts.

 

Finish with two tablespoons of Greek yoghurt on each one, a drizzle of the pesto that’s left in the bowl and a little black pepper. Serve!

 

TIP: Any leftover pesto will keep nicely in the fridge for two days.

 

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National Vegetarian Week: A Rather Special Recipe

To celebrate National Vegetarian Week, over the next four weeks we will be collating recipes from a variety of talented cooks and chefs. All of the recipes have been inspired and created by the produce that we have provided. Our aim is to prove that – whether you’re a Michelin starred chef, a baker or simply somebody that enjoys cooking, organic and vegetarian food is for everybody.  We’re really curious to see the different ways that our selection of produce is going to be used!

This week, we have teamed up with Javier Lopez – Chief Food Evangelist for the Winton Group. By combining our beautiful, independently grown produce and his exquisite culinary technique, a truly stunning recipe has been created. This recipe is perfect for special events and dinner parties, or for somebody who just wants to try something different. Read on to find out how to make this fabulous starter – and remember – all of this produce can be sourced locally by us, which will make it taste even better!

 

 

Chard, Spinach and Wild Garlic Millefeuille

 

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Ingredients for 4 portions, as starter:

2 duck eggs

50g Maldon salt

30g coconut sugar

25g fennel pollen

100g goat’s butter

50g fermented wild garlic

50g chard

50g perpetual spinach

40g wild garlic

Flowering shoots to garnish

 

Method:

  • You will need to cure your eggs a day in advance; combine 50g of salt, 30g of sugar and 25g of fennel pollen in a bowl, place half of it on a flat tray or container and make a small well with the back of a spoon, place the duck egg yolk (ensuring no egg white remains) in the well and cover with the rest of the cure mixture. Refrigerate for 24hours.

 

  • Clarify (skim the surface of the liquid as it is heated to remove impurities) 100g of goat’s butter, saving the milk solids for other use, add 200g of fermented wild garlic leaves, buds and flowers and a leaf of raw wild garlic. Puree until very smooth and add a little fennel salt.

 

  • Blanch (scald in boiling water and remove after a brief  interval) the fresh chard, spinach and wild garlic leaves in salted water and immediately refresh in iced water, quickly drain and dry.

 

  • Layer the leaves one by one brushing a little fermented wild garlic butter in between each layer, build it up until is around 3cm tall and refrigerate. Once cold, portion it by timing into rectangular pieces.

 

To Serve:

  • Get the yolks out of their cure and lightly rinse in cold water. Set aside.

 

  • Place the vegetable millefeuille onto a plate and wrap it with clingfilm, place the plate on top of a simmering pan with water and let it warm for 5-6 minutes.

 

  • Gently remove the millefeuille of the plate and place onto your serving plate or bowl, cut the egg yolks in half and place half of it on top on the millefeuille. Garnish with a raw shoot and its flower (you can use peas, wild garlic, nasturtium, chickweed, etc)

 

Recipe by Javier Lopez, Chief Food Evangelist.

 

Keep checking back for our follow up recipe posts! In the meantime – enjoy this one!

Our Growers: Michael Hall School

The 2 ½ acre walled garden at Michael Hall School unites many activities.  Within the garden, they grow about a hundred varieties of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and top fruit, all to Demeter standards – the largest certification organisation for biodynamic agriculture. Compost is important to biodynamic gardening and Michael Hall maintain a variety of compost heaps around the garden.  They have two old fashioned wooden greenhouses, three polytunnels, and the original Victorian propagation houses.  They’ve also just recently installed a new flow form which is used to improve the irrigation water for the seedlings, and to make nettle, comfrey and compost teas.

Because Michael Hall School, as well as supplying us with some of our wonderful produce, is also a Steiner school, part of the garden is entirely set aside for gardening teaching. There is a gardening classroom, the children’s propagation house, a bread baking oven, and tools for garden and woodland crafts.   Children have their garden beds there and it is where their gardening lessons take place.  In winter, they roam beyond the garden into the rest of the Michael Hall estate to learn about woodland management. What a fabulous way of learning!

The aim of Michael Hall School is to combine beauty in the garden with growing an abundance of good biodynamic vegetables for the school canteen, the garden shop and the local community.

We’d like to thank Laurie, the gardner responsible for providing us with beautiful produce that we can then pass on to you. At the moment, we have perpetual spinach, rainbow chard and lettuces from them. You can buy them online and have them delivered to you for free here.

 

Monsanto: The Chemicals in our Crops

More than 365 lawsuits are pending against Monsanto Co. in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, filed by people alleging that exposure to Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto covered up the risks. Additionally, thousands of other plaintiffs have made similar claims against Monsanto in state courts. Plaintiffs’ attorneys estimate the total number of plaintiffs at approximately 3,500.

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Monsanto are the company who sued hundreds of small farmers across the USA for breaking their patent laws. One in particular case came about after a 75-year-old farmer bought soybeans from a grain store near his farm in Indiana and used them to plant a late-season second crop. He then used some of the resulting seeds to replant more crops in subsequent years. He was taken to court, along with numerous other independent farmers, for illegally growing patented Monsanto crops. Arguably, seed patents to this extent should never have been allowed to happen. Lawsuits such as this one do not appear to be because Monsanto are protecting their intellectual property – they appear to be infringing on independent farmers’ rights to grow food.

This time though, it is Monsanto who have been taken to court over their weedkiller Roundup, which has been accused of causing cancer in hundreds of people.  The accused carcinogen in Roundup is a chemical called glyphosate.  It is used to kill weeds, especially weeds and grasses that compete with crops. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the history of agriculture, employed by farmers and landscapers as a powerful weed killer.  (Since 1974 in the U.S alone, over 1.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate have been applied to crops). The trademarked name – Roundup Ready, is the herbicide notorious for its use with GM seeds to resist the otherwise toxic effect glyphosate has on most vegetation. By creating Roundup and their GMO seeds, Monsanto have created an irresistibly useful (and enormously profitable) product: crops that can be sprayed with the most effective herbicide on the market without suffering any damage themselves.

There is no definitive outcome on whether glyphosate is a carcinogen – the World Health Organisation suggests that glyphosate ‘may’ cause cancer, and in the ongoing court cases,  an epidemiologist at the University of California has testified about how she evaluated scientific studies of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, to arrive at her conclusion that it can definitely cause cancer – in particular Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Monsanto obviously deny that there is any link between the two, and have numerous studies to back up this claim. Although early studies on glyphosate suggested that it breaks down quickly in the environment, more recent studies report the opposite, suggesting that its presence is more persistent and mobile than previously thought.

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So, what can we do to avoid this potentially fatal carcinogen?  Roundup is the most commonly used weedkiller across the globe, which therefore means that it is very difficult to avoid – particularly when you take into account the natural spread of tainted seeds, soil and water. Conventional farmers not only use Roundup as weedkiller, but also use it as a drying agent on grain and bean crops. In this common technique, farmers apply glyphosate to the crop as it is nearing maturity in order to speed the drying process up –  two weeks after a glyphosate application, the crop is dry and ready for harvest, a much quicker turnaround than waiting for the crop to dry down on its own. In November 2017, the EU also renewed the license of glyphosate for another five years, despite the potentially fatal side effects of its use, and the environmental factors. (There have been studies that suggest that the use of Roundup is extremely harmful to the bee population.)

However, glyphosate is banned for use with organic farming.  The glyphosate is most commonly found in bread – which means that even switching to an organic bread can massively reduce the amount of glyphosate that enters your body.  By sticking to a local baker or farmer, you can also ensure that the land on which the crops have been grown have never been contaminated by Roundup.

The importance of eating food that has not been contaminated by chemicals is really highlighted in cases like this.  It’s very easy to think that, because so much money and advertising is thrown at reassuring you that a product is safe, therefore it is. The truth is, that because of the reassurance that we find in branding and statistics, we’ve never actually been farther from the source of our food. For example – would you expect to be okay and healthy if you were sprayed with toxic chemicals routinely throughout your growth? If not, then why not think about the effect that these chemicals have on the genetically modified plants that are growing in contaminated soil whilst being sprayed with toxic chemicals that are designed to kill vegetation? We worry about overdoses of UV light from the sun as a carcinogen – which is something that we have evolved to need to survive. Why do we not worry about an entirely new chemical entering our bodies in large quantities, every time we eat? When thought about logically and from an entirely natural point of view, it’s a no brainer that GM free is better for your health,

So let’s break the cycle – lets reconnect with our food and the farmers that grow it. Let’s do it for the plants that work so hard to grow, and the land that needs to be nurtured naturally, and for our own health and the health of our families.

Trollburger – Organic & Ethical Fast Food

On a night out in Brighton, I recently stopped to get food at a hut under the station that sold burgers. Whilst waiting for my burger, (vegetarian – plenty of veggie options available) I noticed a few familiar friends on the shelves and quickly  realised that this wasn’t an ordinary late night burger bar –  the Biona ketchup and the bags of Cavolo Nero gave away the fact that this place belonged to someone who wasn’t just buying in cheap – this was an ORGANIC fast food place! So a few days later I went back and spoke to Paul Clark, the owner of Trollburger in Brighton.

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Paul is passionate about good, ethically grown food. All of his ingredients are organic or are locally grown and all of his produce is purchased from independent growers. He started out as street food stand in April 2012, serving burgers from a trailer in a car park as The Troll’s Pantry, before taking to a pub kitchen. In October 2016 he went back to his roots and created Trollburger. He says ‘I’m now done with pubs and feel the street is where I should have been all along.’ Part of the reason for this is that there is opportunity to engage with his customers which is an important part of what he does.   He feels (rightly) that there is a real problem with organic and ethical food – in that it is often seen as pretentious, and reserved for fine dining in expensive places.  A lot of people feel that eating responsibly is something that is not available to them, whether it’s unaffordable or just out of reach through location.

One of Paul’s reasonings about burgers is that they cross class boundaries – everybody loves a burger! This takes any pretentiousness away, as they are being cooked and eaten in such a relaxed and fun environment that it’s impossible to argue that this organic and ethically sourced food is not for everybody. Being face to face with his customers also allows Paul to talk to them about his passion for food (which is infectious) and to encourage people to do their bit for the ethical food movement.  As he said to me, he ‘feels part of a movement that’s swept across Brighton’, and it’s really good to see street food take such a strong stance on sustainable food, championing local produce, animal welfare and zero food waste.

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The beef in Troll burgers is sourced from Sheffield Farms, and the home-made seasonal sauces, pickles and veggie patties are all topped with High Weald Dairy cheese and served in a Flint Owl bun. Trollburger is about creating affordable mouth watering dirty burgers, made using the finest local and seasonal ingredients. If you’re ever in Brighton, you should definitely take a stroll under the arches and go grab yourself one. And in the meantime, remember that ethically sourced food is not for someone else, it’s for everybody. Organic and locally sourced is the way that food should be, even if you’re drunk and stumbling home at three in the morning.

Greener Greens ‘Unwrapped’ Scheme – Update

This Christmas, as we have for the past ten years, Greener Greens organised a charitable scheme which got our fantastic produce out to as many families and individuals who would benefit from it as possible. Using our contacts across Sussex & Surrey, we identified organisations who help people in their communities that need that extra bit of support, and came up with bags & boxes of fresh produce that would help these charities and organisations to help them over the festive season. Our team supplied the produce at cost, filled the bags and passed them on to the charities or Childrens’ Centres for distribution. We couldn’t have done it without our customers – it was their donations that made this year such a successful one!

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The contents of one of our bags from the ‘Unwrapped’ scheme.

Because of everybody’s hard work and generosity, over 450kg of fruit and veg was sent to Crawley in our family bags – feeding over 200 people. Twelve senior citizen bags went out to those who needed them, and over 115kg of fresh produce was sent to Redhill for the VARB Festive Feast – an event aimed at providing a place to go for people who might not have anywhere else to go on Christmas Day. Our produce fed over 140 people including volunteers at this event. The guests were mostly elderly people who would have otherwise been on their own at Christmas.

We are so, so proud to be able to have helped so many people this Christmas, and are so grateful to our amazing customers who supported this scheme and made it happen for us.  Here’s to a wonderful 2018!