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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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.

Why Rainbows are Important

Spare a thought for your poor old liver, who might have had a hard time this Christmas. It’s your biggest detoxifying organ, and to do its job properly it needs a solid supply of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants to function well.

You don’t need to go on a major detox diet after Christmas to start feeling better – just by eating organically you’re helping your body jumpstart into doing what it does best – keeping you healthy, happy and balanced.

One way of ensuring that you’re giving your body everything that it needs is to remember this golden rule – always put a rainbow on your plate.  Coloured vegetables contain different nutrients, all of which are important to your  body. By including vegetables of every colour in to your meals, you’re ensuring that you’re giving your body everything it needs to be at it’s best.

Instead of resorting to the same recipes or choosing the same ‘safe’ fruits and vegetables this January, why not start to experiment with the fresh produce that you’re eating? Below are a list of key colours and vegetables, along with their health benefits, to get you on your way.

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Green Veg

Why not try… Broccoli, leafy greens such as spinach, kale and chard, celery, cabbage, avocado, kiwi fruit, romanesco cauliflower, leeks, runner beans or peas?

Health benefits:  Green veg is great for your skin and hair!  Vegetables such leafies (especially kale) are rich in calcium, which ensures strong teeth and bones. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and lutein are great for maintaining healthy eyes and sight, as well as aiding in preventing muscular degeneration.

 

Red and Purple Veg

Why not try… Tomatoes, red peppers, cherries, beetroot, purple cabbage, purple kale, purple sprouting broccoli, aubergine, red onion, purple carrots or strawberries?

Health Benefits:  Red wine is said to be good for your heart because it contains an antioxidant, called resveratrol, which can boost your health. The purple pigment in all of these fruits and vegetables contains resveratrol and flavonoids which can help decrease blood pressure by helping to relax the arterial walls, thereby decreasing the pressure in the arteries and allowing better circulation.

In addition to reducing heart disease risk, antioxidants in foods like those listed above can reduce the risk of certain cancers, like colon and prostate cancer.

 

Yellows and Orange Veg

Why not try…Squash, bananas, swede, carrots, apples and pears, citrus fruits, yellow and orange peppers or golden beetroot?

Health benefits: Citrus is probably best-known for containing Vitamin C, which boosts the immune system and can protect your body from disease. But that’s not all that the vitamin is good for—it also promotes healthy skin and vision, and protects against heart disease and prenatal health problems. They also contain beta-carotene, which is excellent for maintaining eyesight.

 

White Veg

Why not try…Potatoes, garlic, mushrooms, white cabbage, celeriac, turnips, cauliflower, bok choy or onions?

Health benefits: When making the rainbow on your plate, don’t forget the more neutral shades! White coloured vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, containing nutrients like magnesium, fibre and potassium that are often lacking in many of our diets.

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There are so many vegetables out there for you to try – as long as you reach for the rainbow, you can try every combination under the sun and still get everything that your body needs to perform at its best! Experimenting with new foods and cooking techniques can be extremely rewarding, especially if you know that the end result is a far healthier lifestyle for you and your family.

To see the full rainbow range of organic vegetables that we have on offer at the moment, please visit our website!

Recipe: Turnip Dauphinoise

Our Veg of the Week at the Wilde & Greene Farm Shop last week was the Golden Turnip. To celebrate this tiny (but triumphant) vegetable I made turnip dauphinoise, just to see whether it was possible. It was, and it was great. I’ve put together the recipe for you so that we can all share the power of the turnip.

It’s a great side dish to meat and goes very well with leafy veg such as kale, spinach or brussell tops.

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Ingredients:

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

5-6 medium turnips (golden or regular) peeled and thinly sliced

227ml (one pot) organic double cream

100ml milk

100g parmesan cheese, grated

 

Method:

Pre heat oven to 180° or gas mark 4.

Slowly heat the cream and milk in a medium pan until it starts to thicken. Add the garlic and turnips to the pan and allow to cook slowly for 10-15 minutes when the turnips have slightly softened.

Once they have started to soften, pour the mixture into a deep tray, ensuring that the mix is not too spread along the bottom of the tin (there must be a good thickness to it to make sure that it cooks before burning). Add the parmesan cheese to the top of the mixture (I also added cherry tomatoes whole which was lovely) and put in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Once the top has browned and the turnips are fully cooked, serve.

 

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Christmas Dinners & Festive Feelings

Every year we team up with several local organisations and charities to help others at Christmas by putting together an “unwrapped” present scheme that benefits others in your community. Unwrapped gifts are a way of giving two gifts in one – you can buy a gift for a cause you really believe in on behalf of one of your friends or family.

We have developed our Greener Greens Unwrapped gifts over several years. We work with local Children’s Centres and charities to bring fresh organic veg, fruit and one or two sweeter goodies to local families and individuals who could benefit from help at Christmas.

Last year our Unwrapped gifts fed over 350 people with 450kg of fruit and veg going to Crawley in our family bags and over 115kg of fresh produce going to Redhill for the VARB Festive Feast.  We cannot do this without our amazing customers and are particularly grateful to those who have participated since we started it about 10 years ago.

We supply the produce at cost, and our team fill the bags before passing them to the organisation or Childrens’ Centre for distribution. The family bag contains 8kg of veggies and fruit. You pay for the bag, let the team know who you are buying it on behalf of and Greener Greens send your friend or relative a card letting them know what you have bought.

This year we will provide fresh organic produce to VARB – (Voluntary Action Reigate & Banstead) for the second year running. VARB devote themselves to building connections between charities and businesses and working together for the benefit of local people. They are holding a ‘Festive Feast’ lunch on Christmas Day for those who either spend Christmas Day alone, or families who can’t afford a Christmas lunch.   We at Greener Greens are selling 20 “bags” of produce for this event with each bag comprising sufficient food for a 7 people.  Thus we raise enough money to pay for produce for 140 and the wonderful team at VARB can concentrate on entertaining those who need it most this Christmas.

This year we’re also donating fresh fruit to the children of  St Clement’s Catholic Primary School for them to eat throughout their Christmas events instead of other unhealthier options!

So if you can afford to help spread the joy of giving this Christmas, then please consider helping us out to help ensure that others can enjoy their Christmas too. In addition to giving lots of local people a head start at Christmas, you are helping to support our independent growers.  Please get in touch with us if you are interested in buying a bag for someone this Christmas!

If you would like to get involved or find out more about VARB please contact  lisa@varb.org.uk or call 01737 762 115.

Wilde & Greene at Longwood Farm

We have just opened our very own Farm Shop at Longwood Farm in Tuddenham! Just 15 minutes from Bury St Edmunds, we’ve carried on the legacy of the shop that came before us by selling locally grown, organic fresh vegetables, fruit and meat as well as dairy and whole foods. We also sell local bread and eggs, so you can get everything you need in one place.

For many years and in conjunction with a team in Suffolk, we have been running an organic delivery business in East Anglia – known as Wilde & Greene. We buy from growers in Suffolk and surrounding areas so it makes sense for us to sell their wonderful produce to those living nearby.

Our latest project in Suffolk is the opening of a Farm Shop – which we have just opened at Longwood Farm in Tuddenham! Just 15 minutes from Bury St Edmunds, we’ve carried on the legacy of the shop that came before us by selling locally grown, organic fresh vegetables, fruit and meat as well as dairy and whole foods. We also sell local bread and eggs, so you can get everything you need in one place. Longwood Farm owners, Matthew and Louise, continue to produce wonderful meat and dairy, including beautifully creamy Jersey raw milk and kefir.  And with the stunning veg from Our Growers plus local bread, cheeses, wholefoods and loads more the Wilde & Greene Farm Shop in Tuddenham St Mary is a project that we’re all very excited about.

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Read the article here.

In time we’ll be turning the remaining space into a cafe – a hub for birdwatchers, cyclists and the local community to come and spend time on the farm with a coffee and a cream tea. We already have a lino cutting workshop and a Christmas makers market lined up!

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Please pop in if you’re ever in the area – come and view the sightings board to see the wildlife that lives in the surrounding area and on the adjoining reserve, do your weekly shop with a takeaway coffee, or just come and learn more about what we do. Alternatively, take a look at our website!