04/08/2014

Tolhurst Organic

I’ve been wanting to visit Tolhurst Organic, nestled near the Thames, on the Hardwick Estate, for a long time. I remember looking up their open day last year and realising that I’d missed it by a matter of days. This year I was more attentive to my calendar …

Tolhurst Organic isn’t just an organic farm but a stockfree organic farm, producing and distributing around 120 tonnes of vegetables every year. Such farms are few and far between with the term ‘stockfree’ meaning that the farm is run not just without pesticides and artificial fertilisers (as in standard organic farms) but also without any animal input i.e. livestock manures or slaughterhouse by-products. In this sense, their produce can be said to be truly vegan. They promote the use of green manures, cover crops and the use of waste tree material (from local tree surgeons) i.e. composted wood chips. Energy use is also a heightened consideration. Over the course of a year the farm’s total carbon footprint is the same as an average UK house …

With a pint of mulberry cordial in hand, free books on offer, a tour of the garden by Iain ‘Tolly’ Tolhurst and meeting other members of the team, it was pretty much a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

For more information, see Tolhurst Organic and on stockfree farming more generally, Vegan Organic.

25/07/2014

Same old, same old ...

Little has changed since 2008 when I started this erratic space. I am still on a quest to refine rather than add to my wardrobe. I am still keen to make any additions to the said wardrobe organic and ethically produced and I still err from this quest every so often, seduced, as in the past, by offerings from Stella McCartney for Adidas (which works on a sustainable requirement percentage) and Lisette (see below, whose pieces, to me at least, are timeless and increasingly use organic fabrics).

All photographs © Stella McCartney for Adidas.

Lisette S/S 2014

All photographs © Lisette.

23/07/2014

Santaverde

I bought my first ‘new’ item of clothing this year in the Liv sale … an organic cotton tabard. With my parcel came some freebies, including samples from the skincare company Santaverde and their beautiful catalogue (above) which features their land in Andalusia where they grow and process (by hand) their organic aloe vera – the cornerstone of their range. A huge bonus, to me, is that the products are not only organic, but vegan too. The company wholly rejects animals testing and offers support to abandoned animals …

I’ve never been able to understand why people pay ridiculous sums of money for ‘miracle’ creams full of, let’s be blunt, chemicals and water. At Santaverde instead of water they use the aloe juice full of plant enzymes, vitamins and antioxidants rather than water. As a plant oil girl myself (there’s an oil in the Santaverde range) and someone who generally concocts their own potions, I particularly like the fact that the company sells the organic aloe juice, leaves and plants to those of us who are never happier than when tinkering around in the kitchen ourselves …

27/04/2014

Lent, sugar, wholefoods and obsessions

I go through these funny minor obsessions. Sometimes they last for mere hours, triggered by a smell or a passing glance at something online. Sometimes they last a little longer. Lent is a good example. I’m a Buddhist but live in a society where Christianity looms as a significant undercurrent – Easter and Christmas are widely celebrated and I go along with their seasonal flows. Something of interest always crops up.

For as long as I can remember I have given up sugar for Lent. This year was no exception. Sometimes the abstinence is easy and sometimes I struggle. This year took the latter form and was probably the hardest in memory. I have succumbed to what can only be described as the ‘sugar-rush’ a couple of times (normally I make it the whole way through) and have been constantly daydreaming of vegan treats to rustle up at the end of Lent. On my recent daytrip to Birmingham I even bought a vegan bakewell slice and was offered by the owner of 100% Vegan a taster of vegan fudge. Both were delicious. I bought a can of vegan condensed milk from there and elsewhere online some Italian, organic, vegan creams variously comprised of millet, rice and spelt. I was mentally concocting various ice-creams … but then, as quickly and strongly as these obsessions came, they went.

Easter is now over a week ago and the chocolate, as good as can be (vegan, organic, fairtrade) sits unopened. Instead, I am perusing wholefood cooking ideas here-there-and-everywhere and my current guiding direction comes from the introduction to Annemarie Colbin’s The Natural Gourmet (her italics below),

‘The dishes in this book are meatless, with only a few exceptions. It is possible to be a healthy vegetarian provided you eat whole-grain-and-bean combinations daily and a variety of vegetables of all colors. It is also imperative that you avoid the use of white table sugar and the foods containing it. Refined sugar is a pure carbohydrate, lacking in all other nutrients; therefore it creates a relative deficiency, or nutrient debt, by not providing the fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins and water present in the original sugarcane. Since the body is most naturally prepared to consume nutrients in their natural context, it responds to such a lack with a deficiency syndrome. A meatless, dairy-free diet that includes sugar will therefore weaken and demineralize you. If you decide to continue consuming sugar, please go back to eating meat, fish, or fowl …’

Of course, most people (including myself) are pretty much aware of the evils of sugar. Saying that, I am also pretty much sure that I will indulge in sugar from time-to-time. I find it interesting that even 'healthy' food websites (both raw and cooked, vegan and non-vegan) tend to be dominated by puddings, cakes and desserts once you start scanning their recipe lists ... The bombardment simply doesn't stop. For me, the 'shift' of Lent was to move from the mental aspect to the body itself. Of course, the two are indivisible, but I have really tried to process how the intake of sugar changed the way I felt within my body, instead of just my mind. It's a good place to start.

30/03/2014

Hard Graft on the Home Front (East Sussex)

More tales of hard graft on the home front. It's the only way to make a home ... Location made me think of you - Milena Silvano!

23/03/2014

Birmingham and 100% Vegan

Selfridges by Future Systems, now over a decade old.

Taking full advantage of the Evening Standard’s offer with Chiltern Railways for 50p return fares from London (yes, 25p each way) it was time to visit Birmingham again after two great trips last year.

Credit Crunchers

I love this city. One of the grandest Waterstone’s known to man, the fantastic daily food market, great vintage and super-friendly people. As ever, and it’s true of every city I have ever visited, I quickly bypassed the busy thoroughfares and instead concentrated on the nooks and crannies. When my feet gave way I hopped on a bus to visit Indigo Wholefoods in Moseley (I have a vague determination to visit every independent health store in the country) but in truth I could have stayed close to the city centre because of 100% Vegan. No regrets though as I passed some wondrous decaying and just-alive buildings (I used to be an architectural historian in my past life).

Moseley Road Baths, the oldest of only three Grade II listed swimming pools currently open in Britain.
100% Vegan
The Warehouse Café
Sprocket Cycles

So, 100% Vegan (known as the One Earth Shop on my past visits) nestled between the Warehouse Café/Birmingham Friends of the Earth and Sprocket Cycles. It’s a gem. Somewhat obviously, everything was vegan but old habits die hard or perhaps it’s because so many vegan establishments still offer the odd dairy concession that I blurted out with regard to the bakewell slice, ‘Is it vegan?’ It was, and it was also delicious. 100% Vegan’s owner couldn’t have been friendlier and told me about their locally sourced cakes and pastries and that if you should want something they don’t currently have in stock from further afield, just ask … My kind of independent health store.

I also visited Wolverhampton again but more on that soon …