The Ecology, Environment and Eating your words in London

Saturday morning, I casually interviewed our local farmer’s market assistant trader, Jackie, from Whitegates Farm & Nursery. She is every inch a convert to organic gardening and growing but later in life (some might suppose…)  owing to being brought up in a concrete jungle, in Brixton (South London), she said & her accent hasn’t changed… What’s more she hasn’t eaten fresh produce from a supermarket in 4 yrs and buys her toiletries elsewhere, as to find the brands which are free-from SLS.  and she explained that she’s amazed by just how different the fresh produce tastes! She finds it amazing how much better the home-grown carrots taste by comparison to the supermarket ones; “Flavour versus no flavour!”

Since it’s now Autumn, there are a great array of squashes & patty pan (small squashes, masquerading as miniature pumpkins) but a distinct lack of Horesradish, which was due to the weather. The strong-flavoured roots grow far further down into the soil and owing to the heavy rain, it had become very muddy and somewhat difficult to remove, given the time he (the farmer, Mike) now has, since he began to run the stall weekly and has to dig up more carrots too.  This really brought home the whole farm-to-fork concept of gardening.

Consider the alternatives; whereas  the supermarket culture has us examining our veg all year round, here is a farm where many products are grown, seasonally and annually, only to be directly affected by the weather… of course. It’s much  more easy and practical to pull up several bunches of carrots, than to spend the same time pulling up a single horseradish root, for a few pence more…

As a result of her working for the farm,  Jackie’s friends and family have all become more chemically conscious; she is a marvelous example and  activist (with a v.small ‘a’) for all things eco.

Go & visit them for the farm fresh fruit and veg http://www.weareccfm.co.uk (Manor House Gardens)

A round-up of this week’s other activities…

This week it’s all about food relating to community, cost of living and climate change \ the Earth at large, concepts.

Starting on Tuesday – Our monthly London Permaculture Publicity group meeting held at the South Bank, which is looking gloriously festive with lots of new food stall huts, complete with a maze made out of the type of things I’m not mentioning ’til next month, being as it’s not yet even the month of December … it’s all very pretty. Lola & I went on a little walk about; there is a Scandinavian theme bar area, complete with sofas and rugs and all with a great view of the river from upstairs.

Stefan Gates Food Matters Excel

Wednesday: took the DLR over to Food Matters expo at Excel Centre  – in time to join the audience for a panel discussion\debate with Prue Leith CBE, an MP, an Oxford Uni Prof and a food historian. All debating their views on how to eliminate childhood obesity and malnutrition: A combination of free meals for all, school influence, improving school dinners, banning packed lunch boxes and changing legislation. This was excellent to see a panel of such eminent authorities putting their views forward. I thought they were all great if not a little far fetched. I didn’t think any are totally plausable in current UK political climate. What govt. is willing to make cuts to subsidise these proposed desired changes? It was rather like an ‘If I ruled the world’ type of exploration.

Onto another exploration of another kind altogether… ‘feeding 9 million +’ read  the blurb on the board, which looked like the most interesting demonstration of some type of food related cookery. An area of research close to my heart & head for campaigning to reduce\eliminate farming of livestock. This was Stefan Gates, author, tv presenter and weird chef (but in a kind of exciting, very active way…) An adventurer and explorer (as he prefers it). He started out by handing round marshmallows and traditional lolly pops to the gathered audience – the public duly popped them into their mouths and onward he went. We watched as he shared video clips from his travel series where he eats many (revolting) things inc animal penises (in China) then he filled a huge long plastic bag with dry ice and explained that it represented how much methane gas a cow emits throughout  a day\annually; which incidentally, is lots (see above). He explained how reducing our meat consumption might help to reduce this gas and instead, suggests we eat insects… & he & his ‘grub’ chums promptly handed round fried crickets which half the audience tasted, whilst the remaining half (moi y inclu) looked on in silent disbelief…

Next, he proceeded to crush beetles into a pestle and mortar as if to illustrate that we, humans, have eaten insects, just unknowingly. The crushed beetles were added into a big vat of water, which duly turned pink; Cochineal \ E120 \ Red food colouring. And the trick? He explored how this innocent sounding food colouring actually ends up into marshmallows and lolly pops, which the audience had gamely eaten earlier. Except myself, for precisely that same reason…. (& the sugar… & the gelatine…)

Thursday – Monty Don; ‘Down to Earth’.  Sadly, I missed the great Monty Don speak about his gardening career locally this week at Blackheath Halls 😦  His twitter account is full of great joys to read though, so I can recommend that as at least a small alternative…) it sounded v.inspiring from what I could tell by the other tweets… I need to find out what I’d missed.

Friday – a UCL talk on Climate Change by @ClimateGeorge; author of a book entitled (something like): ‘Are our brains wired to deny climate change’ ie I think not, it makes sense for us to be ‘wired’ towards sustainability, I felt.  A long & deliriously comic talk, at times, about how the nation should be discussing this topic, why it isn’t, why it should care more, as seen through the eyes of a fossil-fuel activist (ie focused in this fashion; as his ‘lens’).  He went to Brussels to speak to EUMPs there, before I got a chance to ask him a question about his eating habits re-meat & methane production in general. Met some interesting people at the cloisters afterwards though inc. political editor & film maker.

Despite the style of talk, I’ve since discovered that his wife, Annie, writes an exceptionally lovely blog here: http://kitchencounterculture121.wordpress.com/

With thanks to @hedgehoghugh for connecting us together on this matter 🙂

Meanwhile great news in the ‘News’, well, Time Out (which is the news we’d sometime rather read and isn’t so much that but more up-to-the-minute-London-life info) and The Final Word pg columnist, Giles Coren; not known, I’d have previously thought, for his pro-eco stance in the world but here he is, in an article, debating the nations’ love of …. coffee… and milk!  It’s not one that I can understand, personally, since I detest it; its flavour and that of honey (aka ‘bee vomit’ – reinforces adventurer, Stefan Gates!)

To quote him verbatim; ‘and you don’t even like the taste. So you drown (it) in a pint of hot milk and call it a ‘latte’ and … mope wordlessly to work, suckling like a giant toddler on quantities of warm cow’s milk that are healthy only for other cows,newly born and then only for a matter of weeks, delivering levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) that in adult humans will grow you at best a fat belly and at worst, it is argued, give you cancer…’  

Whoah! Wow! The restaurant critic that is GC has come out as a cow-caring consumer! 😉 Whatever next..? he’s read enough about the dairy industry to learn that it isn’t all hunky-dory to go consuming milk, willy-nilly and is taking up a gauntlet to educate his latte-loving readers. Well done GC & TO, for almost daring readers to become coffee & dairy-free 😉

Back to the great outdoors and the Burgess Park Glengall Wharf Garden: On Saturday, I cycled and bussed over to Burgess pk (off Old Kent Rd) for the main meeting of the London Permaculture Network. There is a lot going on here at this garden and we held a v.productive meeting to discuss future plans and expansions 🙂

Finally, as if that wasn’t enough, the BBC has a good link to a foraging article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-30015052

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