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.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Soup Recipes

As you’re probably aware, we’ve opened a shop in Suffolk (apologies for the non-stop talk about it!)

One thing we’ve started doing at the shop is selling takeaway soups using the organic produce that we sell, which have been going down a storm.  We’ve had a lot of interest in the recipes that we use, so we thought we’d share a few of them here.  The ones that I’ll tell you about are all of the recipes that I’ve used in the past week.  All of the produce is seasonal and is available now through the box scheme on the Greener Greens website.

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Butternut Squash, Red Pepper & Sweet Potato Soup

  • One large butternut squash, peeled and halved
  • Two red peppers
  • Two medium sweet potatoes, halved
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • One vegetable stock cube in 700ml hot water
  • One handful of green lentils

This one is dead easy  – simply roast the peeled butternut squash and the halved sweet potatoes at 180 degrees in the oven for around ten minutes. Whilst they’re roasting, chop the garlic cloves and the peppers and gently fry them until soft and then add the nutmeg.

Then, add the squash and the sweet potato into the pan and add the stock with the water. Let the pan simmer with the lid on until everything is soft. Then, blend the mixture using a hand blender. Add more water if you require a thinner soup, and add more nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. We add chopped parsley too.

 

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Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 500g orange carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • One clove of garlic
  • One red pepper

This soup is a really lovely winter warmer. I kept it quite thick when I sold it in the shop, again with chopped parsley on top. The colour is gorgeous on this one (unlike the purple carrot one!) So

Chop and boil the carrots in water that just covers over the top of them. Meanwhile, fry the garlic, turmeric, chilli and ginger in a pan. Once the carrots have softened, add the fried ingredients to the pan and blend using a hand blender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Purple Carrot, Chilli, Ginger & Turmeric Soup

  • Two bunches of purple carrots
  • Half a chilli
  • One clove of garlic
  • One arm of ginger (or more to taste)
  • One finger of turmeric
  • One handful of green lentils.

This soup has a great kick, but looks very dark. The lentils add a beautiful glossy sheen to the soup when blended. This one is better thinned out and is delicious with natural yoghurt and coriander on top.

Chop and boil the carrots and lentils in water that just covers over the top of them. Meanwhile, fry the garlic, turmeric, chilli and ginger in a pan. Once the carrots have softened, add the fried ingredients to the pan and blend using a hand blender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Pumpkin, Red Pepper & Nutmeg soup

  • One large pumpkin
  • One courgette
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • One large onion
  • Three red peppers, roughly chopped
  • Nutmeg, a generous amount
  • 750ml stock

This soup is a lovely looking winter warmer. It’s a great use for a pumpkin that’s been designed for eating and not carving!

Fry the onion, courgette, garlic and peppers in oil with the nutmeg until they have softened. In the meantime get stuck into the pumpkin! Scrape out the seeds and peel off the skin before cutting into chunks and adding into the mix. Don’t add the stock for a few minutes – let the pumpkin soften in the heat before adding it in. Once it’s in, put the lid on the pan and allow to simmer for around ten minutes, or until the pumpkin is softened.

Once everything has gone a bit mushy, blend with a hand blender and add salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped basil on top if you like, it compliments the soup really quote nicely!

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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!

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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