As it happens a ridiculous mix of cheap as chips and luxury food.
First of all, Rhubarb, devalued a bit by the restaurant clamour for “forced “ pink rhubarb from Yorkshire sheds... available to everyone and fruit and veg rolled into one.
Secondly, Asparagus, originally only available to the few and now with its price being driven down by mass demand and new growing techniques.
Cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli from fields not required to be ploughed up for the next cereal crop and unhearted cabbage impatiently harvested as Spring Greens.
As we now farm fish all the year round we are more likely to know of other countries fish eating traditions - salmon is also becoming an Easter custom.
To stay in the rhythm of the seasons, what might we be eating in celebration now?
The biggest and most extravagant and most herby green salad? Asparagus, cauliflower steaks with some squirreled nuts and seeds for protein. Maybe we could cultivate St Georges Mushrooms?
Herby egg dishes of all sorts - with the quick curd and whey cheeses from Spring milk, so spinach and ricotta filo pie would be a winner and stuffed courgette flowers a little later.
Jersey Royals or Cornish New Potatoes as our luxury import.... and worth a kings ransom, with loads of freshly churned butter, from cows on new fresh green pasture, with chive snippets.
It could be sheep meat, but likely Hoggett, which has more flavour and the animals have had a year’s life of gentle grazing, deserving their mint sauce. Have a look at Earthy's new 5 ways with lamb & hoggett recipes for more ideas.
Elbowed aside by Turkey at Christmas, this is the moment for a really good Organic or well husbanded chicken to be the centrepiece roast. Strange when we now rear and kill millions, that it was that we could afford to kill one as there would be new chicks and more eggs coming along fast.
Fairtrade has become rather like the Soil Association in Organics; that being the 'big daddy' and subject to many similar pressures, from those wanting the badge.
However there are other organisations working in the same field, both here, in Europe and the USA.
It's a complicated subject, and for those who want to delve deeper I am going to point you to various websites and articles, then try to highlight some of the differences as we see them.
Ethicalcoffee.net, eacoffee.co.uk, UTZ, Fair for Life, the book Unfair Trade by Connor Malcolm, countless Guardian and Ethical Consumer articles over the years, the Zaytoun website, and a great facts and figures graphic on fairtrade.org are all useful.
UTZ is headquarted in pragmatic Amsterdam, and similar to Rainforest Alliance, sets no floor price, but, like the others, conforms to ISEAL standards. Its badge appears on many large and small European brands. Notably, MacDonalds subscribes to this.
The mechanism of Direct Trade is simple. You find a cocoa producer and make contact. You may go and see them. This farmer, (who may be an individual and not part of a cooperative and may also be too poor or too small to pay the joining fee for Fairtrade) will check the market price on his ever-present phone, send you pictures, and agree a price. An ongoing deal will be struck with goods and money passing by normal trade channels . The farmer will become part of the story of your product and the character of his product will inform yours. A symbiotic relationship.
Well, the biggest selling Fairtrade product in the UK is the four finger Fairtrade KitKat, (oh and the second is the two finger!) from our friends at Nestle. Is this good or bad?
Under the slightly strange concept of ‘mass balance’, Fairtrade allows 30% of the mass in the product to qualify for certification. What's more, that’s not in every bar, but only the batch; so your KitKat may contain 30% or 0% Fairtrade cocoa and sugar and your mate's bar may be 100% but you will never know. Why? Possibly to get the business and the badge, but it is not consistent nor really very clear.
However, it's good for the extra Ivory Coast farmers roped into the system, it's good for Fairtrade; with the extra licence fee going to raise consciousness, further the cause and keep down fees across the board.
But! Do remember that this is the same company that promoted powdered baby milk sales in poor countries and bribes retailers to have its very high sugar confectionery prominently displayed close to tills, in schools and in hospital vending machines.
This does guarantee livelihoods and working conditions but you do wonder whether they might be better off growing food and why you don’t see Fairtrade Kenyan green beans...
Here are just a few of the suppliers we stock; Equal Exchange, Traidcraft, Clipper, Tropical Wholefood, Pearls of Samarkand, Infinity and Suma, Biofair, Grumpy Mule, Matthew Algie, Suki, Divine, Billingtons, Chai Latte, Karma Cola and Gingerella, Kingsoba, Pukka, Steenbergs, Zaytoun, Earthy-exclusive Belvas Truffles, Stellar and Elementos Wines, Roundsquare Roastery Coffee and The Chocolate Tree. A list that grows every year.
Here at Phantassie we grow red beetroot, as well as golden and stick-of-rock pink varieties, particularly wonderful in recipes where you want the colours to remain separate. We still have some out in the field under straw, late planted to pull little beets now.
At Earthy, beetroot is a regular on the salad counter; both raw and cooked. It appears in our hummus type dip made in our Central Kitchen at Canonmills partnered with toasted walnuts and dill. I also recommend cooked beetroot drizzled with some fruit vinegar made with good Scottish berries such as bramble or redcurrant, or indeed partnering dark chocolate in a moist, earthy cake.
Also largely missing from the supermarket Valentines aisles was that other bleeding heart the Blood Orange.
Don’t forget to check the cupboard for leftover Christmas Pannetone… It makes great bread and butter pud.
Earthy Blood Orange Marmalade has just hit our shelves and is Earthy preserve of the month for March, alongside our famous Traditional Dundee Marmalade.
P.S - Cheap and wonderful on their own, both beetroot and blood oranges have a great affinity with chocolate, just in case you have any leftover from today that you are wondering what to do with !
Are you buzzing about Bees?
Here at Earthy we are big fans of the humble bumblebee. Following on from our 2014 campaign Bee Responsible we will continue to support the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
Bees don’t just make honey, they pollinate a third of the food that we eat. Unfortunately, honeybee numbers have fallen by 30% in recent years, which is why we are getting involved and raising awareness. If bumblebees continue to decline then we face ecological turmoil.
Bees are under threat like never before. There is strong evidence that neonicotinoids – a class of pesticide first used in agriculture in the mid 1990s at exactly the time when mass bee disappearances started occurring – are involved in their rapid decline. Another major factor is intensive agriculture – the widespread use of pesticide and herbicide contribute to a loss of habitat and food for bees. Organic farming, by contrast, encourages higher levels of wildlife – including bees – on Organic farms.
In the UK there are 24 species of bumblebee but only eight are commonly found in most places. Bumblebees are found in a variety of habitats and most people should be able to attract them to their gardens if they have the right kinds of flowering plants.
We will be raising awareness in all of our stores about the types of fresh produce that will simply disappear if we do not save our bees. We are also raising money for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust with the national 5p charge on all of our biodegradable carrier bags which will go directly to this vital conservation work.
There are so many ways to get involved. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is a great place to start. Here they list ways to get going: http://bumblebeeconservation.org/get-involved
We are hoping to raise awareness and help as much as possible with this very worthy campaign, so please join us in getting #beeresponsible trending and tell everyone about these fabulous little creatures.
Patricia's Blog - Bee Responsible
This blog post was written by one of Earthy's founders for GoodbyeSupermarket website back in June 2014.
We have updated it a little but thought we would share it with you.
Just the other day, I was chatting to our local Soil Association rep, when she gave me a ‘Keep Britain Buzzing’ badge which I proudly pinned on. A surprising (to me) number of people came up and start bee-related conversations, so it’s obvious that the plight of declining bee populations here and worldwide is of widespread concern.
How can you help? Well the first tip is obvious: pay a fair price for the honey from local beekeepers. It’s not cheap but it is delicious, nutritious and a truly local Superfood.
You won’t find it in the supermarkets because there’s not enough volume – so it’s a great reason to visit your local Farmers Market, wholefood or farm shop.
Here at Earthy we have a large section devoted to honey from, East Lothian (Hoods Honey from Stuart Hood), Chainbridge Honey Farm in Berwickshire (WS Robsons’s), Hilltop Honey from Wales and Fairtrade/Organic honey from further away.
Please do check out their stories at:
It is worth noticing that several of the larger apiaries, pack honey from elsewhere. If that’s what you pick up accidentally don’t be too disappointed: it all helps their viability, particularly in years like recent ones when the bees are decimated and they have no honey of their own.
If you want to buy online, then I recommend Robson’s Chainbridge Honey Farm on the Scottish Borders – clear website, lovely visitor experience, and a fantastic range of products from lipbalm to candles to shoe polish if you are not a honey eater.
Argument still rages as to why bees are mysteriously dying but all commentators agree on one thing: bees need BIODIVERSITY. Specifically, flower types and flowering times that are as diverse as nature itself, and do not exist in monoculture, such as the heavily-sprayed almond blossom in California which has wreaked such havoc.
So buy the products created from biodiversity – from small-scale and Organic farming where biodiversity is both normal and enthusiastically encouraged. Organic farms, such as my own small one, have up to 50% more plant, insect and bird life (lots of worms and aphids!) and 30% more species.
To get away from monoculture you need to avoid the big brands. (Mr Kellogg doesn’t go round to the next-door farm to get his corn) It’s far easier to do that outside of the supermarket, where big brands compete for space and elbow everything else out of the way.
If you just have a window box and no garden you can still sow a Beemat… a little strip of pre-seeded matting that will produce bee-friendly flowers and give you pleasure too. If you want to get a little more involved may I suggest a look at Luisa Gonzales site and campaign to cultivate new beekeepers and school bee-education.
I’m just noticing that most of my references in this post are Scottish which is not surprisingly really. I thought I’d finish with a recipe for a distinctly Scottish, and very pleasurable dessert Cranachan. This is done Earthy-style with slightly healthier crowdie and not so much cream.
Also in January, when of course raspberries are not available, we recommend you use the raspberry-tangy-sweetness of blood oranges in their place. This is a bit of a moveable feast and you can be more luxurious (more fruit and honey) or more austere, (more oats and no cream) as you wish. It’s a sort of Scottish trifle.
Earthy Cranachan – to serve 6
It's traditional to serve it in layers in individual glasses; so blood oranges on the bottom, then crowdie mixture, then more orange, then a topping of oats and a heated last tbsp of honey to drizzle on top.