Earth Day & The Hungry Gap

People often ask, why do you produce your own food? Why do you grow it when it is so much cheaper to import it? It is a very easy answer, and the reasons are twofold: I love what I do, it is in my blood (we are third generation farmers) and I would not do anything else.

Secondly because it simply is the right thing to do. Having food grown locally makes sense, it cuts down on carbon emissions, it is fresher, it provides local employment, it improves biodiversity, and we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do it. We need more people to do it.

With Earth Week starting today and Earth Day falling on the 22nd, it is a good time to reflect on our habits. We have seen such a shift to supporting local food over the last 12 months and this is one of the most wonderful changes we as individuals and families can make. It’s impact on the planet cannot be overstated, understanding where and how our food is produced can help us make better decisions and lead to a cleaner healthier planet.

Today as I write this, after a day in the fields, I feel lucky to be a farmer. Days do not come much better than this, the sky is blue, the sun is shining the birds are singing and we are on schedule with our planting. In the West of Ireland days like today are to be relished and enjoyed, and there is the added bonus that our office is a 5-acre field, I like that.

If there was one small thorn in my side, it is the planting machine. It is temperamental old and cranky and every year there is a requirement to find mutual common ground between (sometimes also cranky) farmer and machine, this year that ground has been hard to find and has led to a few choice expletives.

Nevertheless, if farming has thought me anything and it teaches a lot, is that perseverance with an air of optimism generally gets you through.

It is funny to think that just this week we finished harvesting the last of our kale which was planted nine months ago and today we planted the very first kale for the new year. This kale will take at least 8 weeks to reach harvestable maturity. We have also been very busy planting cabbage, Romanesco, broccoli, lettuce, and celery.

Myself being the impatient individual that I am can sometimes expect that we should have more IRISH food at this time of the year especially when the sun shines. But nature and farming do not work like that, and right now we are slap bang in the middle of what we call the “Hungry Gap”. There is a lull in IRISH food supply, of course that does not mean it is not available, it is, and we have loads, leeks, mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, salad, radish, and parsnips. But for the next few weeks it gets difficult.

Every year we get a little bit earlier and a little bit smarter with our planting and this year is the earliest yet, but even so, there are weeks starting now when supply is tight. Take tomatoes for example, we have our plants ready for transplanting, but harvest is at least 8 weeks away.

Right now, on our 40-acre organic farm there is a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes. For the last 2 months we have been busy ploughing, tilling, fertilising, planting, covering, uncovering, watering and sowing. All of this to lead to a rich harvest of local organic food in the weeks ahead, but it takes time, and it does not matter how impatient I am, nature cannot be sped up, it travels at its own pace.

So, although we are heading into the hungry gap now, be reassured that you are supporting a truly local food growing effort both here on our farm and through all the other amazing IRISH organic farms and producers across the country that we support. Remember in the famous words of Margaret Meade “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

As always, thank you for your patience and perseverance!

Kenneth

PS Don’t forget to do a little something for Earth Week, whether it is supporting more local food producers, or learning more about how your food is produced, driving less, turning off lights or eating less meat, what can you do? Just raising our awareness is a powerful tool in the fight for our planet.

4 Ways With… January King Cabbage

A cabbage can be a tricky beast to use up and we get asked for cabbage recipes all the time over on our community facebook group. If you are stuck on what to do with the cabbage in your box this week, then this is the video for you. Although I used a beautiful January King from my weekly subscription box, of course the recipes can also be applied to a savoy cabbage.

These are just four of the many ways that I use up a cabbage regularly. Please share your favourite cabbage recipes with us and other readers in the comments. There can never be too many cabbage recipe ideas…especially at this time of year! Liz x

Cabbage Rolls (serves 4)

  • 8-10 outer leaves of the cabbage
  • 1 mug or so of leftover cooked short grain brown rice (or cook fresh. Simply measure 1/2 a mug of rice into a pot, add 1 mug of water and bring to the boil with the lid on, then turn down and simmer until the rice has absorbed all the liquid)
  • 10 minced mushrooms sautéed with garlic, salt and pepper
  • a tin of kidney beans, drained, rinsed and squished
  • a pot of simple tomato sauce (a sliced onion and 2 cloves of diced garlic fried in a little olive oil, simmered with a tin of chopped tomatoes, a little water, salt, pepper and a tbsp of dried dill)

Rinse your cabbage well and remove as many outer leaves as you can. I try to get 8-10 to feed the four of us.

Use a rolling pin to roll out and flatten the chunky stem that runs up the middle of each leaf.

Mix together the mushrooms, rice and kidney beans. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Then neatly roll up a couple of tbsp of the filling into each each cabbage leaf and tuck them snuggly into the sauce. They should be sealed side down so that they don’t unravel in the sauce. See video above for how to do that.

Put the lid on the dish and roast it in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the cabbage leaves are soft and the sauce is bubbling.

Serve with tangy natural yoghurt, pepper, more dill and a slice of sourdough bread.

Cabbage & Apple (serves 4 as a side)

  • 1 sliced apple
  • shredded 1/4 of a cabbage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
  • a small glass of cider/white wine/apple juice (or a tbsp vinegar and a glass of water)

Heat up the sliced apple with the butter/oil while you shred the cabbage.

Add the shredded cabbage and season it with salt and pepper. Let it cook down for a little while.

Once it starts to sizzle, add your liquid (cider/wine/apple juice/vinegar-water) and give it a good stir.

Pop the lid on the pot and let the cabbage and apple gently braise and soften for 10 minutes or so. This is a perfect side to a Sunday roast or with mashed potato, veggie sausages and wholegrain mustard!

Cabbage ‘Slaw (serves 4)

Mix the carrot and cabbage in a large bowl with the dressing.

Top with the nuts, seeds, chilli and spring onion.

Serve rolled up in soaked rice paper wrappers for crunchy, raw spring rolls. Or just eat it as it is or with some of our Thai rice noodles for a fresh and crunchy, zingy salad.

Cabbage & Coconut Curry (serves 4 as a side)

Make a tarka first by frying the cumin, mustards seeds, chilli, garlic and curry leaves in hot vegetable oil until very fragrant.

Add the sliced cabbage and season it with salt and pepper. Then add the ground ginger and turmeric and stir to coat the cabbage in the spices.

Add the juice of 1/2 a lime and a tin of coconut milk and simmer until the cabbage is cooked through but still a bit crunchy.

Serve as a side to other curries and rice. Or make it the main event and bulk it out by adding cooked potatoes and a drained and rinsed tin of chickpeas.

Sauerkraut

A red and white cabbage, apple, caraway and bay kraut I made before Christmas 2020.

The Perfect Place to Start your Fermentation Journey

Once you have mastered the basics of sauerkraut, and it really is basic, you can apply these principles and techniques to many other ferments and play around with the ingredients. You can use a variety of cabbages, you can add other vegetables like grated carrot or beetroot, you can use different herbs or spices to create different styles of sauerkraut, you can even suspend whole apples into your crock/jar to ferment along with you sauerkraut as a German friend of mine taught me to do.

My kimchi recipe, which I will share with you soon, uses the same technique as sauerkraut. The difference being the cut of the vegetables and the all important spice paste. My fermented hot sauce uses the same technique too! Brine fermentation also works through the same simple process of lacto-fermentation to acidify the vegetables. Salt + vegetables + a jar is all you need to produce incredible delicious and nutritious ferments.

My fermenting shelf from last summer.

Why Ferment?

I first got hooked on fermenting many years ago when I had a surplus of cabbages delivered to my old cafe from our local farm. There’s only so much cabbage soup and coleslaw you can sell so we decided to try making sauerkraut as a means to preserve them, stop them from going off and being wasted. It was a revelation! We had no idea then about the health benefits, we were just blown away by the taste. Since that day, I bought lots of books on the subject, incorporated ferments into much of our menu and even started a stall in a farmers market called ‘Fermental’ selling fresh, unpasteurised ferments made with local, organic ingredients.

The science and nutritional benefits behind vegetable fermentation are really interesting to read about. There are so many perks to including ferments into your everyday diet. The importance of encouraging and introducing beneficial bacteria into our digestive system is becoming more well known and rather than taking a pill, this is a delicious way to do that. Fermenting vegetables also makes them easier to digest and makes the nutrients in them more readily available, and the organisms that enable fermentation are themselves beneficial too! All of this is good news for your body and your immune system, but its also great news for your taste buds. Fermented food is delicious! Complex, tangy, crunchy, sour and salty.

Is it Safe?

Lacto fermenation is a very safe way of preserving vegetables and it’s very easy too – no need for fancy equipment, all you need is a knife, board, jars, vegetables and salt. It can sound scary dealing with microbes. We have been trained to try to disinfect all surfaces and food from bacteria, moulds and yeasts so perhaps encouraging bacteria to thrive will feel strange at first. But the importance of our microbiome and the diversity of microbes that we need in our guts to be healthy is now becoming common knowledge. For me, as a chef, the main reason I ferment is for flavour, not medicine. The health benefits are just a bonus. And yes, it is perfectly safe as long as you follow some basic principles.

Submerging vegetables in brine protects them from harmful bacteria and allows ‘good’ bacteria to thrive. Lactobacilli, the good guys, are anaerobic, meaning they don’t need oxygen. So by keeping the vegetables neatly submerged in brine we are protecting them from the ‘bad’ bacteria that need oxygen to thrive, thereby taking out the competition for the ‘good’ lactobacilli. Salt in the brine also inhibits yeasts which would break the sugars down in the fruits/veg into alcohol instead of lactic acid. Salt is the perfect preservative for vegetables, but it’s important to get the right amount. Too much will inhibit fermentation and too little will result in a rotting crock/jar. Thankfully its quite simple, your best guide is your tastebuds! Your salted vegetables should just taste pleasantly salty.

Ingredients

  • cabbage
  • optional other vegetables/fruit like leek, swede, carrot, beetroot, celeriac, apple…
  • salt
  • optional herbs/spices like fennel seeds, dill, juniper, caraway, turmeric, pepper…

Method

Prepare a large jar to hold your ferment. Just give it a good wash and a rinse, no need to sterilise. Find and wash a smaller jar which fits neatly into your large jar. This will act as a weight.

Rinse your vegetables and pull off some of the outer leaves of the cabbage and put to one side. These will act as ‘followers’. A ‘follower’ is like a cartouche which neatly holds down any bits of chopped veg under the brine which may float up and become exposed to air.

Shred the cabbage (and any other veg if using) into a large bowl or your biggest pot.

Add extra flavourings to your tase if you like. A few juniper berries, some chopped dill, fennel/caraway seeds, turmeric and black pepper etc… just choose one or two flavours at most.

Massage in about 1 tbsp of natural, fine/flakey sea salt per regular sized cabbage volume. If you are unsure about doing this instinctively, you can weigh the shredded vegetables then work out what 2% of that weight is and add that amount of salt. Once the salt is fully incorporated, taste it and see if it is salty enough. It should just taste pleasantly salty. If its too salty add more vegetables, if it’s not salty enough add more salt. Easy!

Cover the bowl and allow the salt to do some of the work for you for about half an hour. Then give the mixture another good massage and you should see a lot of brine forming. There should be no need to add extra brine or water, the salt draws the water from the vegetables and creates its own delicious brine.

Once your veg is nice and briney, when you squeeze a handful lots of brine comes out, you can start packing it into your jar. Do this carefully and thoroughly. Take one or two large handfuls of the mixture at a time and firmly press them into the bottom of your jar ensuring there are no air pockets.

Keep going until you have used up all the mixture or until you have a good couple of inches left of head room in the jar. If you made a large amount or only have smallish jars then you may need to use a few jars.

Now its time to add your ‘follower’ or cartouche. Get the cabbage leaves you saved earlier, break them to size if you need to, then wedge them into the jar, neatly covering the whole surface area of the ferment. Take your time to carefully tuck the leaf down around the edges of the ferment. Ideally the level of brine will rise above the ‘follower’.

Digitally coloured illustration of a sauerkraut recipe from my book which you can purchase at the farm shop here

Then you need to add a weight to ensure the shredded vegetables stay submerged. The cheapest and easiest weight is simply a smaller jar filled with water. Make sure its nice and clean, no lables left on the outside. And make sure the lid does not come into contact with the brine. Salt and metal react and you don’t want a rusty metal lid sitting in your ferment! So just make sure the smaller jar can’t fall over inside the bigger jar and it should be fine.

Other weights you can use are scrubbed and boiled beach pebbles (make sure they are not chalk/limestone), you could even use a ziplock freezer bag filled with water/stones. You can also buy specially designed fermentation weights of course. made from glass or ceramics – if you really get into fermenting then these are a worthwhile investment.

Then loosely cover the jar to allow the gases produced during fermentation to escape. Use the lid, or if the lid doesn’t fit over your weight then you can cover the jar with a tea towel and secure it with an elastic band or string.

Place the jar on a plate or tray to catch any potential overspill. Then ferment at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for a week or two.

Check on your ferment daily. Push down on the weight to expel any air pockets/bubbles that form during fermentation. Taste it after one week and if it has soured to your liking you can remove the weight and follower and refrigerate it. Otherwise keep fermenting it at room temp for another week or so for a funkier, tangier taste.

Once refrigerated it will keep well for a very long time up to and over a year even, if you look after it. That means no double dipping – you don’t want to introduce new bacteria from your mouth into the jar, scrape down the sides to keep all the veg together – bits that dry out and are exposed to air are more likely to catch mould. Consider transferring your finished ferment into a few smaller jars before refrigerating. This will mean that the ferment is exposed to less air and last longer.

Newly made kraut on the left, and one that has finished fermenting on the right. The purple cabbage will turn into that beautiful crimson colour as it acidifies.

Let me know in the comments or over on our friendly Facebook page if you have any questions or need me to troubleshoot. More fermenting blogs and videos coming soon. Happy fermenting! Liz x

Growing Food is Grounding

The planning and preparation must begin now for the year ahead. We are still harvesting many of the root crops from last years planting which is providing us with good healthy Winter sustenance. January is the time of year that calls for hearty warm food, food that feeds both body and soul. Eating with the seasons fulfils something more primal than just hunger, innately it feels like the right thing to do.

‘Seasonal eating’, ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘climate breakdown’ – these buzz words are all linked. What we choose to eat has a massive impact on the environment. In these dark days, is it possible to choose seasonal sustainable food that will improve our wellbeing and maybe make these dark days seems that little bit brighter?

Whether you love sprouts or hate them they are the king of Winter vegetables and, like many of their Winter cousins, their taste is enhanced by cold. Carrots, parsnips, potatoes, leeks, cabbage green and red, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and swede are all amazing seasonal stars and our parents and grandparents would have enjoyed them all long before a red pepper ever graced our tables. The Irish climate has always favoured these crops, they thrive in low light and cold conditions and we seem to naturally gravitate to these foods in the colder months. This is all very good news for both us and the planet.

Although there is no arguing that food is a personal choice, is it possible that our individual freedom is coming into conflict with a personal and environmental health crisis? Our freedom to choose is limitless. But as we head into the new year, could we make a change and choose to be more mindful of where our food comes from? How it is produced? What is it packaged in? Breaking routines of convenience can be hard, we are all busy and it takes persistence, courage and discipline to maintain a new course, but if this year gone by has shown us anything, it is that routines can change overnight and new, better habits can replace them. Here are 5 achievable guidelines to help you tread a more mindful path with your food choices.

  1. Eat Local, Seasonal, Organic Food – in supermarkets look at the country of origin, choose Irish. Visit farmers markets that sell local and if possible organic food. Get a box of seasonal organic food delivered by us.
  2. Eat Less Meat – enjoy planet healthy whole-foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and grains. We have a great organic range of dried and tinned whole-foods in our grocery section.
  3. Avoid Plastic Clad Produce – buy loose in the supermarket if possible. Leave the packaging behind in the supermarket. Did you know that all our set boxes are plastic free?
  4. Cook From Scratch – this gives you more control over the source of your ingredients, and it can be very satisfying! Cook in batches which saves enormous amounts of time. We provide recipes in all our boxes and Liz over on our new blog provides easy to follow instructions to make great dishes.
  5. Grow Your Own – Spring will be upon us soon, and this satisfying act can rekindle a very basic respect for our food.

Here’s to a brighter and more mindful new year!

Kenneth

As always, our online shop is ready for your orders. Subscribe to a weekly fruit and veg box for ease, or build your own box. All the details on our website here. Thank you for your support.

Vegetable Values

What do you think about a major supermarket sending 12 pallets of pineapples (nearly 12,000 pineapples) to waste because they had some blemishes, where is the right in that?

Thankfully, charities such as Food Cloud exist and they stepped in to rectify the situation in this case. If they did not exist where would this food go then?

Fresh food is so devalued by supermarkets, it makes me want to cry! It does not benefit the consumer, we think it does but ultimately it does not. How can a supermarket sell onions for 49c? It is not possible to grow a kilo of onions for 49c.

It is the retailers whether it be Tesco or Amazon that hold the keys to the kingdom, they set the prices, they hold all the power, and we the consumer give it to them. They only care about the bottom line driven by profit. But when the damage is done, when the soil will no longer produce the food, what good will all the money be then?

Did you know that supermarket buying practices force the last few cents from the farmer? New supermarket buyers get targets to improve margins, they go straight to the farmer and demand better discounts. Is it really any wonder that young farmers might be disillusioned with the trade? There is a strike next week by farm workers in Spain demanding fairer working conditions and wages, all of this is driven by our cheap food system.

This practice of selling produce below its value, once unthinkable, makes cheap fresh food acceptable in the eyes of the consumers, and how would we be expected to think otherwise? It is everywhere we look, it has effectively been normalised.

On our farm this year we produced just short of a quarter of a million-euro worth of produce. We broke even, and that is with the farm team working flat out, and having crops grow well, it was a good year. If we had to sell all our produce at supermarket prices, we would have been gone a long time ago, so would the jobs and the people.

Imagine, instead of a race to the bottom, a system that allows for investment in the farms, in the people on the farms, in the biodiversity. A system that does not allow 12 pallets to be dumped because of a blemish on a few pieces, that does not require workers to strike for fair working conditions.

All we need, is to say “no more” to loss leading fresh produce.

I do feel a little better now for getting that off my chest and thank you for listening.

Thank you for your support, thank you for buying our produce, thank you for supporting local jobs, thank you for supporting local food production, thank you for supporting sustainable food production and thank you for sticking with us all year.

You make our farm possible.

Have a magical and safe Christmas.

Kenneth

Thanks From a Little Robin

The money you spend in a local business generally goes back into the locality. It is often the unforeseen and indirect ways in which that support matters, take Green Earth Organics today.

Recently we have collaborated with two local small businesses. Rachel who now makes chutney and cranberry sauce for us and Liz who now writes our recipes on our blog. In the last week we have had dealings with our IT support company based here in Galway, our two web developers one based in Athlone and one in Cork, our electrician and plumber based in Galway. Our van company based in Dublin, our tractor mechanic and van mechanic in Galway. I am just out of a meeting with our accountant, he lives locally. A couple of local builders and steel workers help us out regularly, our agricultural contractors, and the purchases we make in the local hardware stores and shops all send the money back into the locality. Not to mention all the IRISH suppliers we buy from weekly and of course our employees. Here is an interview Liz did with Franck from the French market.

Your purchase today or tomorrow pays for all of this. It is also a well-known fact that a greater percentage of money spent in a small business stays in the locality, while money spent in big retailers disappears into investors pockets, and we know a little bit about dealing with supermarkets. A few years back we stopped supplying supermarkets, we had had enough. Despite what their marketing blurb might say their treatment of growers is the same. The price of produce on the supermarket shelves often does not reflect the real and true cost of food. The lower the price the more that has been extracted for less, from the land, the worker, the farmer and sometimes from all three.

To survive, the modern-day farm needs to expand, it needs to take on debt, it needs to push the efficiency of the animals and the land to the brink. Intensification it seems is the only route to viability. Disillusioned with the industry today, a career on the land is not generally what a young person aspires to, and who would blame them? The traditional model of the family farm is, we are told, “unsustainable”. Our government and the powers that be are insistent that the best way forward for food, is large scale intensification. Supermarkets are putting more and more distance between the farmer and the consumer, it is now impossible to understand where our food comes from our how it was produced.

While the conventional system ignores the true cost of food, and is driven by supermarket dictated prices, the sustainable food movement aims to value food fairly, create a connection between growers and consumers and reward those involved in the production fairly according to their input. Your decision to support us is supporting an idea, a sector, a farm, individual’s livelihoods, biodiversity, the soil, the environment, and other sustainable businesses. You are sending a message to the powers that be that you believe there is a better way and crucially you are taking positive action for a more sustainable future.

Thank you

Kenneth

PS our Christmas shop is now open! Treat your loved ones to some real, honest food this year with a box of organic fruit or veg and have a look at our lovely selection of hampers. Please get your Christmas week pre-orders in soon to avoid disappointment.

Plans, Progress and Polytunnels

Our very first polytunnel going up in 2005. Expertly erected by Jenny, my dad and myself! The little stone shed is where my grandad used to bring in the sheep when it was lambing season.

When we set out 15 years ago to create a farm and a home delivery business, we didn’t think further than the next week or two. We were convinced that what we were doing was necessary, driven by a deep desire to take care of the planet. Most business advisers would not buy into that, no plan, no detailed analysis of figures, no projections, it was effectively a week to week operation.

Looking back, although there wasn’t a detailed plan, there was a definite direction. I think anybody who starts a business, if they are honest, will tell you things don’t always turn out the way you expect. We did not know what to expect and really had no idea what we were doing. I was not trained in business or organic farming; I was a trained scientist! The road to present day has been tough, the goal posts kept changing and the challenges changed sometimes daily. But our ideology kept us going (just!) and kept us on the right track. Our vision was always strong and the core belief to protect our planet meant we kept on ‘keeping on’, kept on showing up even and especially on the days when we really didn’t want to get out of bed, to face the reality of the tough choices and hard work ahead.

Today we do have detailed plans, figures and projections. All the necessary evils to keep a busy business and farm afloat. If the last fifteen years have been challenging, this year has been exceptional. It has been tough for so many, the virus has changed everything and even the best laid plans have been thrown out the window, it almost feels like being back at the start again. We have not known, week to week, what to expect and we have been the lucky ones! We have been very busy and we are eternally grateful to you for that.

The ups and downs and the challenges and anxieties of this year have kept many people up at night. Businesses that don’t know if they will ever open again, the jobs that may be lost, the fear and anxiety in society, but there is so much hope also. Never in my years of sea swimming have I seen so many people embrace the sea, never have I seen so many people out on bicycles and walking and running and being out in nature. This brings a remarkable positive energy, because if more people are happier then that will rub off on others too.

Our shopping habits have changed too, we have all had to embrace the inevitable move to online shopping, but can we do that online shopping a little more wisely? Can we support local while online rather than funnelling the funds into the pockets of a very large and extremely powerful retailer(s)? Can we again bring our support back behind small local businesses that will need it now more than ever?

We too are asking you for your support. Can you get your fruit, veg and sustainable groceries from us? Can you give the gift of a Christmas veg box or hamper to a friend or family member? Can you support other local businesses too? We have a helpful guide here where you can find a few ethical and local businesses that we recommend.

This year has brought us back into the uncertainty of operating day to day and week to week, but one thing that has never changed is our commitment to growing safe, sustainable food. We wouldn’t be here today without your support, thank you so much.

Kenneth

PS Our Christmas shop is open, get your orders in now! 

Beneath our Feet

One teaspoon of soil contains more living organisms than there are people in the world!

They are the hardworking, unsung heroes of farming. I always knew these creatures were spectacular, but I had no idea they lived for so long or could do so much. I would go so far as to say that they are as important to our food production as the bees, we ignore their welfare at our peril. Charles Darwin thought they were important enough to spend 40 years studying them! You don’t hear so much about them, you don’t see them and I suppose they aren’t quite as photogenic as the honey bee, but they are extremely important and I love them. What am I talking about?

 If you haven’t guessed already, it is the humble earthworm. Earthworms live for about 7 years, and in their lifetime will compost about 7 tonnes of organic matter! These amazing little creatures take organic matter in the soil and convert it into food and nutrients for plants, by way of the worm castings they leave behind. They help aerate the soil, which allows for better water filtration and oxygenation of the soil for other microbes to thrive. This aeration prevents water logging and increases fertility. In a nutshell we would be in a pretty bad place without our underground friends. The soil beneath our feet is thriving with a beautiful complex interconnected myriad of life.  It is a shame, that many of the methods used to grow food in today’s large industrial agricultural system end up destroying the very biological organisms we rely on to sustain our environment.

It is hard not to bring the debate back to glyphosate. It is everywhere and in everything e.g. in non-organic food, wine, beer, in tap water, in urine and it has even been recorded in breastmilk. So much of the stuff is used and with such frequency that it is compromising our health and the health of our food chain and ultimately our planet. Glyphosate is toxic not only to the plants it kills, and the humans which consume the plants but also to earthworms. At least 6 studies have shown that glyphosate is damaging to earthworms, reducing their reproductive rates and reducing the rate at which they turn soil over. Earthworms have chemoreceptors and sensory turbercles on their skin giving them a high degree of sensitivity to chemicals and they avoid soil contaminated with glyphosate.

We can learn a lot from these little creatures. They quietly go about their work, improving our soil, helping us grow food and they know instinctively that glyphosate is something to be avoided. Maybe society should take a leaf out the earthworm’s book and avoid glyphosate too. The good news though is that organic farming does not use glyphosate (or any chemicals) so by buying our produce, you are not only helping the environment, but your own health too! 

Kenneth

PS Thank you for your continued support, we really appreciate it! All our boxes are organic and plastic free and we also have a great range of organic groceries that you can add to your fruit and vegetable order here.

Blackberry & Pear Clafoutis

Clafoutis is a classic French cake which is actually more like a pudding. Traditionally made with cherries, it’s best served scooped out of the flan dish whilst still slightly warm, with whipped cream or natural yoghurt – I recommend plant based versions of those of course! It is also delicious served like a cake – cold, in slices – but doesn’t stay fresh much longer than 2 days. If you plan to serve it cold, then I recommend baking it in a lined or loose-bottomed cake tin so that it can be turned out onto a plate in one piece. Otherwise bake it in a flan dish or baking tray for the pudding version. This is one of those cakes that can easily be made gluten free by doing a straight substitute with gluten free flour. I always add a little extra liquid when using gluten free flour as it tends to need more hydration than regular wheat flour, so up the oat milk a little if you make it gluten free.

If you’ve not baked with aquafaba before, it’s a bit of a revelation! Aquafaba is the viscous liquid result of boiling beans or chickpeas. You can get it by draining a tin of white beans or chickpeas over your mixing bowl. Aquafaba is a really useful product which is normally washed down the sink. It’s an egg white replacement and with a little effort can even whisk up into meringue. I usually make sure I get the unsalted tins of beans/chickpeas for baking cakes, but the salted version also works absolutely fine. Salt actually enhances the flavours of fruit and sweet dishes, but I usually just use a pinch. So if you are using the aquafaba from a salted can of beans/chickpeas, then leave out the recommended pinch of salt and just taste the batter and see if it could do with a little extra sugar before you bake. I make a savoury version of this recipe too which I will share another day, think cherry tomato or asparagus clafoutis…perfect for summer lunches with salads.

The pears from the farm are so delicious and in season right now. So I’ve made this seasonal variation of my cherry clafoutis (recipe illustration from my book below) with pear slices and frozen blackberries. You can use any fruit you like of course. In Spring I love making a rhubarb version where I drench the raw rhubarb chunks in elderflower cordial and then sprinkle some flaked almonds on top of the batter before baking. Raspberry clafoutis has got to be my kids favourite. What fruity combinations will you try?

💚 Liz

Did you make this recipe? Let us know how it went in the comments below and share it with your friends. If you like this recipe, you’ll love my book. Add it to your usual order at Green Earth Organics.

Illustration from my cookbook, Cook Draw Feed – available to add to your next order here.

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • Pears – 3 or 4 ripe
  • Blackberries – frozen or fresh – a couple of handfuls
  • Aquafaba – from 1 tin of white beans/chickpeas, normally around 150ml
  • Caster sugar – 100g
  • Plain flour – 200g
  • Baking powder – 2 tsp
  • Salt – pinch (leave out if using aquafaba from a salted tin of beans
  • Oat milk – 3 tbsp
  • Olive oil or Rapeseed oil – 4 tbsp
  • Vanilla – 1 tsp
  • Icing sugar – 1 tsp or so for dusting
  • Whipping cream or Yoghurt to serve

Method

This pudding is really simple to put together. Core and slice your pears and arrange them in a flan dish or baking tray. Sprinkle over some frozen or fresh blackberries. Then make the batter, all in one mixing bowl. You’ll need an electric whisk and a mug to use as a measuring device.

Drain the aquafaba from a tin of white beans or chickpeas into a mixing bowl. Use an electric whisk and fluff up the aquafaba by whisking on high for a few minutes..

Add half a mug of caster sugar (the cane sugar from our shop works too) and whisk again until creamy. This recipe, like most of my recipes, is very forgiving. I usually don’t bother weighing the ingredients. The aquafaba from a regular tin of beans/chickpeas is normally around 150ml but it doesn’t matter if it’s a bit over or under that. For the sugar, I just half fill a mug and tip it in…but you can weigh 100g if you like.

Then fold in a mug (or around 200g) of plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt. It doesn’t have to be fully incorporated at this stage. You’ll be adding the liquid next and that will help bring it all together. The trick to a tender cake crumb is not over-mixing the batter, so just gently fold the dry ingredients in.

Then add the 3 tbsp oat milk, 4 tbsp oil and 1 tsp vanilla and gently stir until you have a fairly smooth batter. I used a gorgeous, cold pressed rapeseed oil this time and it gave the batter a beautiful golden hue and was delicious!

Pour the batter over the fruit and gently smooth it out using the back of the spoon. It will spread and rise in the oven so don’t worry if there are any small gaps around the sides of the dish.

Bake the clafoutis at 175C for 20 minutes or until browned on top and the batter is set. A larger dish will make a shallower cake which will only take 20 minutes, a smaller dish will make a deeper cake which will take longer – just keep an eye on it.

Dust with icing sugar and serve warm as a pudding, or cold in slices as a fruity cake. Enjoy!

Waterlogged but Never Wavering

When it rains look for rainbows, when it’s dark look for stars.

Oscar Wilde

I came out of my office last week, I had no inspiration, I didn’t have anything to write about, I definitely wasn’t in the right space and I was getting frustrated.

I decided to see what was going on out on the farm and I bumped into Emmanuel and shared my woes. Write about “Muck and rain, and mud, and clay and rain, and water because that about sums up the week just past” he said.

That was it, he had hit the nail on the head, it was wet.

Some places in the fields the water is a foot deep. The beds we planted on in the summer are submerged, the plants with waterlogged roots struggle to breath. It is ok for a few days but if there is prolonged water, then they die.

Walking up a sticky, muddy field with a bag of kale on your back must be one of the very best work outs you can get. If you have ever had a young child wrap themselves around your foot and not let you go, well that is what the field does.

I got the impression last week that even our poor tractor was not happy.

The ruts from the tractor wheeling’s are deep and although Joe (My seven year old son loves them, in fact he would actually disappear into some of them) it does not make for easy navigation when it comes to driving with a tonne of parsnips on the front of the tractor.

In the cold wet weather, you often find yourself with three or four layers of clothes on and waterproofs and wellies and sweating even though it is freezing and wet. This I think is one of my least favourite ways to pass the time.

But the sun is always there, we may not always be able to see it, but it is always up there over the clouds. It is only because of the clouds and the rain that you see the most beautiful skylines, the most stunning sunrises, and the most fantastic evening sunsets. These skyscapes are more striking at this time of the year that in high summer by a long way.

Then of course there is the food.

We are doing, I think, our bit for the planet. We are growing sustainable food on a scale that supports thousands of people each week. When I first wrote this, I thought it could not be true, but then I did the maths. If we do an average of 1500 deliveries per week and each household has an average of 3 people then that is 4500 people, that is a lot of mouths to feed, that is a large responsibility to do things right. That is a lot of trust put in us by you.

I shocked myself with that revelation, a far cry from the first 26 deliveries we did in May 2006.

So, we will get stuck in again on Monday, harvest more food, deal with the mud and the rain, do our bit for sustainable food, do our bit for climate change, because we have to.

Can you sustain a path such as this without being either clinically insane (and that could be the case) or having a belief in something bigger? For us I like to think it is the latter (but who is to say really). Our big “WHY” is the planet, nature, biodiversity, and every living creature we share this earth with deserving a chance. This is what drives us on. Have a look at our 5 Pledges for the Planet to see our promises as a business.

As always thanks for your support, it’s what keeps us going.

Kenneth

PS Don’t forget to place your order for next week here.