Category Archives: health

Go wild – wild garlic soup and pesto

Foot of tree, wild garlic grows

Wild garlic grows in East Harptree’s ancient woodlands, on the northern slope of the Mendip hills in Somerset.

Context: A walk, an epic scramble up a 50 foot bank, powered in my mind by Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of The Hunger Games (recommend). 

Wild garlic grows now, at the start of spring in northern Europe.

Wild garlic is not cultivated. Its raw power is undiluted. You can feel its power when you eat it.

Green wild garlic in a white colander against a black background

A little goes a long way. Ten leaves a dish, say. But if you want to blast a bug out of your system, go for more. Wild garlic is medicinal; its broad leaves have antibacterial (fights bad bugs) and antioxidant (boosts resilience) properties.

Make it super-pungent for best medicinal effect.

I am grateful to my electric hand blender which made these recipes possible.

Wild garlic soup

Wild garlic soup in a cup

Cook 1/2 kg (1 lb) potatoes until soft then blend with ten leaves (at least ten!) raw garlic leaves, add butter if you like and salt.

Wild garlic pesto

Bright green wild garlic pesto in a glass against pink background

100 g of cashew nuts soaked in a little water (soaking increases digestibility and blendability) and then blended with a little salt and – at least – ten leaves of raw garlic.

Apparently bears eat wild garlic after hibernating to stimulate their digestive tract.

I’m with the bears. 

Go to nature for health before it gets all dystopian (The Hunger Games again). 

Bristol Metrobus protest protecting trees and soil

Makeshift field kitchen with two smiling cooks      

Instead of running away to join the circus, I would join a protest camp: outdoor places of learning and purpose, infused with community spirit and love of the land, they give me hope. 

I visited the Rising Up camp on Friday 13 February 2015.

The camp is protecting land and trees from a destructive and unnecessary road-and-bridge building scheme to create a bus route (Bristol needs more buses but not new roads).  

The soil at stake is part of the Blue Finger with prime agricultural soil. It is irreplaceable. Soil takes centuries to form yet can be lost in no time. 

Look at the timing: the destruction of these Bristol soils takes place in the year the United Nations has launched the International Year of Soils 2015 to alert the world to the destruction of a resource on which we depend for over 95% of our food. 

Look at the timing: The University of Sheffield has found UK’s soils are so degraded, there may only be enough for 100 more harvests, it warned last autumn.

Look at the timing: the destruction of Bristol’s soils takes place in the year that Bristol is European Green Capital 2015

In other words, one part of the system is aware of the importance of protecting our planet, while the other part of the system is intent on destroying it.

It is not only the trees and land of the allotments at Stapleton allotments and Feed Bristol that will suffer.

Here is the Metrobust 2015 calendar of city-wide destructionmetrobust-calendar-4

The Metrobus scheme received final planning approval on the 27 August 2014 from Bristol City Council planning committee, despite two years of protest. 

The following are worth reading: 

Court order for immediate possession

On Thursday 12 February 2015, Bristol City Council went to the High Court to evict the protesters and, surprise surprise, with the aid of top lawyers, Burges Salmon, (and supporters of Bristol Green Capital) won a court order. Above and below is a copy of the council’s possession order.

Court order for immediate possession

Court order for immediate possession delivered

A man (who gave me permission to take his photo but would not say where he was from) handed over the order on Friday 13 December 2015.  

Tree top camps Bristol

The tree top protestors hope to halt the felling of these irreplaceable trees.

Tree top camps Bristol Metrobus protest

Treetop protest Metrobus Bristol

Protected trees sign

The trees are protected – read the notice!

Bailliffs' steel fence and spotlights protest camp Metrobus Bristol

 At the edge of the protest camp, bailiffs set up flood lights last week which are kept on ALL NIGHT. 

Bailiffs' spotlight Metrobus Bristol

Which side of this steel fence would you rather be on?

Compost toilet Metrobus Bristol

Back in the protest camp, a beautiful village has sprung up including with a compost loo (above).

Field kitchen Rising Up camp

The field kitchen under canvas cooks healthy meals.

Lentils for the pot Rising Up protest camp

Leanna wields a packet of nutrition-laden red lentils.

Mishappen parsnip Metrobus Bristol

Leanna shows me a cosmetically-imperfect but perfectly-healthy parsnip – the kind of produce that would be rejected by a supermarket.

Cooking pot field kitchen Metrobus Bristol

Leanna who is studying nutrition tells me how she and Jack made the communal stew: Chopped onions and chilli coated in coconut oil and fried with spices to hand including turmeric and coriander spices, with water added to stew to cook the lentils and rice (providing all 8 essential amino acids) and parsnips and carrots (once muddy now scrubbed and cut), with fresh tomatoes and cauliflower and cabbage and fresh garlic added at the end.

Stew served at log table Metrobus protest Bristol

Stew is served on a log table.

Rising Up poster

The Rising Up notice (above) says, this situation:

“reveals the crisis of our systems and our leadership. If our Mayor cannot call for the design to be altered, to stop the destruction (and he says he cannot) who has the power to bring the beast to heel?

Perhaps it is only us“.

This Rising up camp shows people of spirit and principle proclaim a stand against the might of a mindless system that turns a blind eye to its own destructiveness. 

The brave protestors await the bailiffs to descend at any moment to remove them from the land and trees they are trying to protect.

Please sign this petition to show your support

– currently only 1,500 signatures away from 5,000! 

Coconut benefits banana bread

Banana bread

Funny to think that, as a child, I thought of coconuts as fairground shies, or Bounty chocolate bars. Yet coconuts are far more versatile than that. 

Coconuts produce coconut oil, coconut flesh, coconut milk, and coconut water, naturally and healthily.

Like hemp, coconut is nourishing, health-giving, and practical too. Think coir matting

Coconuts act as body moisturiser, teeth-cleaner, digestion-soother, rehydrater. And more. 

Coconut even sorts out head lice, according to Dr Mercola’s wondrous list of coconut’s varied uses.

If you love scientific facts and opinion with lots of swear words, check out Shannon’s Kitchen on coconut’s versatility and health reputation.

My coconut musing is prompted by a hamper full of coconut joy sent by Cocofina.

Cocofina coconut products

Cocofina have been cracking coconuts since 2005. The name says it all: Cocofina is made from fine young coconuts picked at their peak when its water is at its most plentiful.

To add to my joy, Cocofina is certified organic (by the Soil Association), which is shorthand for healthily-grown food, with no chemical fertilisers/pesticides to pollute soil, air, crops, wildlife and farm workers.

Cocofina’s big triumph is to produce delicious on-the-go nutrition energy bars. I sampled them with various energy-snack (and coconut) lovers, and their praise was unstinting.

And I love its coconut nectar – low-GI slow-release sweetness without that crazy thing that happens to my eyes (as if they are being squeezed) when I eat sugar.

(Pause to reflect on sugar – how it drove slavery, and now makes mental slaves of us all via obesity and the money markets).

To celebrate coconut happiness, I made banana cake, substituting sugar with coconut nectar, and coconut oil instead of butter.

Along with pre-soaked sultanas, this recipe produced a light, healthy cake, its bananariness lifted by nectar and complimented by coconut.

Banana bread

If you don’t have self-raising flour, add an extra egg. Keep the baking powder/bicarbonate of soda to a scant teaspoon – just enough to lighten the flour but not too much to impart its strange fizzy taste. Or even (boldly) omit and rely on beaten eggs instead.

2/3 large mashed ripe or over-ripe bananas (up to 500g/1lb)

125g (4oz) butter/coconut oil, softened

125g (4oz) caster sugar/4 Tablespoons coconut flower nectar or honey

2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork until frothy with air

250g (8oz) self-raising flour (or ordinary flour with extra egg) I used gram flour made from chickpeas because wheat (argumentative fellow) does not agree with me.

1 scant tsp baking powder/bicarbonate of soda

Optional extras: sultanas soaked in water and drained, walnut pieces, cocoa nibs/lemon rind.

Oil 2lb loaf tin and line its base and sides with baking parchment/greaseproof paper.

Rub in the oil/butter/fat into the flour (+ lightening agent if used) until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sweetener and mashed bananas and lightly beaten eggs beating it well.

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Turn into the tin and bake for about 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean, covering if necessary so the top does not burn. 

This recipe is a great way to use up over-ripe bananas. 

Happy eating! 

Honour the pumpkin

Pumpkin photo-shoot

18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin are thrown away every Halloween in the UK; that’s the equivalent of 1,500 double decker buses, according to the Independent.

Time to join the tweetathon using #pumpkinrescue hashtag.

The Ecologist reports on the #pumpkinrescue manifesto.

 

Here are a few points from the manifesto.

  1. All supermarkets to make publicly available the amount of food waste they create and detail what happens to it.
  2. All supermarkets to ensure safe and healthy surplus food is redistributed to those on low incomes.
  3. Government to increase their investment in the Love Food Hate Waste campaign.

I am pleased with my organic pumpkin’s potential as a lantern. It has a flat bottom so won’t roll around and it is fresh with a long stem making it easier to lift off the lid.

I am even more pleased with my pumpkin’s nutritional qualities: gentle, soluble fibre, immune-boosting vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrates, providing sustainable, slow-release (yet low-fat) energy.

(Above para from a book I co-wrote, Make More of Squashes).

I want to honour the pumpkin as food.

The easiest way to prepare a pumpkin is to bake it. That way you only need to slice it in two, and scoop out the innards (put the inner ligaments in the compost bin and and bake the seeds for 5 minutes in a hot oven with soya sauce, or fry them).

Here’s a great blog on how to bake a pumpkin in ten steps, including cutting tips.

If you are making a lantern, then there is no escape: you have to make the effort of scooping out the flesh. So  you might as well make the most of your hard work and not discard the goodness.

Use the pumpkin flesh in a soup with coconut milk/stock/water, and spices, or cubed in a stew.

What is your favourite pumpkin recipe?

Pan-fried pumpkin flesh atop a bed of curried coconut lentils

Pan-fried pumpkin flesh atop a bed of curried coconut lentils

 

Carved pumpkin lantern's photo shoot

 

Probiotic heaven

My delicate digestion is crazy for probiotics for their soothing and restorative effect. Probiotics? They are good bacteria which stop bad bacteria giving your gut a hard time (bloating etc).

Probiotics are not some new-fangled idea – every traditional society has its fermented ‘good bacteria’ food, such as sauerkraut.

Annie Levy (and the Guardian sustainable blog of the week) sent me a jar of her homemade (fermented) plum kimchi.

I have never tasted anything as wildly spicy and salty, gut-zingy and healing .

Plum kimchi with vegetarian lunch

I had it as an accompaniment to Co-exist Community Kitchen tenants’ (£2.50) vegetarian lunch (see pic).

Then I got home and ate the rest of the jar (it goes with everything savoury).

Please see Annie Levy’s recipe for Plum Kimchi at her blog, Kitchen Counter Culture (great name for a radical blog).

Here’s how I made the crazy condiment.

Assemble in a large bowl:

All the cloves in a head of garlic (grown by Nadia Hillman)
Grated raw ginger (large thumb – or more)
2 raw red onions sliced
1 lemon chopped
1 large orange chopped

half of 1/4 American cup hot pepper powder

1/4 American cup of (sea) salt 

Add to 1 pint of raw uncooked plums (slice with sharp knife to remove stones). Use organic wherever possible because organic is different – fewer chemicals and more goodness

Place a plate to press down the raw veg/fruit mix and leave it for two days at room temperature before spooning into jars. The salt draws out the water in the raw veg/fruit, thus pickled in its own salty water.

photo (4) Plum kimchi in the making

The first pic shows the cast assembled, the second is the cast cut-up  and mixed with spice and salt. Note: creative chaos. Why eat boring same-old packet food when you can go mad in the kitchen?!

Three announcements.

1. Check out Annie Levy’s food fermentation workshops. “A true kitchen witch, Annie’s food fermentation workshop is an informative & exciting, deliciously interactive learning experience and exploration of food alchemy.”

2. Bristol is hosting a probiotic event on Saturday 15 November 2014 at 3 – 6 pm.
The power of probiotics foods for digestive and immune healing – rebuild your gut heal your life. Fermentation Fetish with Holly Paige and Kenny Bountiful Sun Tickets (£15) – book here.

3. And finally for everyone who loves real food including fermentation – please check out and pledge for the publication of Living Food – A feast for soil and soul, from soil sister, Daphne Lambert.

Why is Metrobus bad for Bristol?

VIDEO: The Blue Finger from Joe Evans.

The Blue Finger, an area in the north of Bristol (a UK major city), is rich with the country’s best agricultural soil.

Traditionally the heartland of Bristol’s market gardens, the Blue Finger Alliance is working on feeding Bristol again with fresh, local produce, grown by local people.

Last week, bad news for the Blue Finger Alliance.

The council gave the go-ahead for a controversial new transport scheme requiring the building of new roads and a bridge.

The scheme will swallow up about half of the Stapleton allotments, according to Travel West, and threatens Feed Bristol, an Avon Wildlife Trust project which teaches growing skills.

In the council chambers where the scheme was voted for (six to four), campaigners sang Joni Mitchell’s song:

“…you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot…”

The ‘rapid transit’ bus route is intended to provide faster links between Bristol’s train stations.

Sounds good – in theory. The city desperately needs a functioning public transport.

But building new roads does not improve public transport.

By all means, increase buses, revive disused train lines, engineer tram systems.

But build new roads? That’s a hidebound to nowhere.

Road-building generates even more traffic,” says the Campaign for Better Transport, “damages the countryside, adds to climate change and makes cities, towns and villages less pleasant places to live for everyone.”

Bristol is the 2015 European Green Capital, a prestigious award supported by Bristol 2015 Ltd, created with Bristol council. Yet this scheme is the opposite of what Bristol Green Capital stands for.

The Metrobus scheme is a waste of precious resources, and a heartbreakingly backward step for a sustainable future-proof Bristol.

STOP PRESS (added 02.02.2015): Treetop protest from 1 February 2015 against this week’s planned felling of the trees.

Pip Sheard from Alliance to Rethink MetroBus says: “The Stapleton tree felling is  the start of a year of Metrobus environmental vandalism. Each month will bring fresh damage and loss to our local green spaces,” reports Bristol247.

 

 

Making sauerkraut

A jar of purple sauerkraut looking jewel-likeSauerkraut is a traditional fermented food which produces probiotics, cheaply and naturally.

Probiotics are good bacteria which help good digestion, as Sacramento Natural Food Co-op explains.

“Fermented” food can sound a turn-off to our modern ears. But, for aeons, every traditional society has used lacto-fermented food – kimchi from Korea and cortido from Latin America, says Nourishing Days – for healthiness.

Sauerkraut hails (as do my ancestors) from Eastern Europe, Germany/Poland etc

I have been thinking about making sauerkraut for ages.

I bought a Kilner jar in preparation. I procrastinated. I had never made it before so feared failure. Making any food is a leap of faith. Will its mysterious alchemy work?

Then, by chance, I got a comment from Annie Levy, who holds UK-based lacto-fermentation workshops. Can you imagine? The maven of probiotics turns up on this ‘ere blog. Of course, I have to make sauerkraut. Now.

So I read Annie Levy’s great piece on making sauerkraut.

I also consulted this sauerkraut one from the Kitchn and a few others. Exciting to be in the zeitgist – there is no shortage of posts on lacto-fermentation.

Lacto, I query? It means the type of bacteria which creates lactic acid. Lactic acid protects fermented food from being invaded by bad bacteria, says Natural News.

Basically, to make sauerkraut, you add salt to cut-up raw vegetables. Salt naturally draws out the water from the veg. Then the veg soaks in its own salty water for days (and then keeps in a fridge for weeks). The soaking-in-the veg’s-own-water creates the fermentation process which in turn produces sauerkraut with loads of friendly bacteria.

Sauerkraut 

1 raw cabbage (and/or raw carrots/garlic etc)

1 tablespoon salt

Spices of choice: I used 1 dried chilli, fenugreek, cumin seeds and black peppercorns

organic purple cabbage sliced in half

Method: Slice cabbage thinly (my food processor did the job otherwise use a sharp knife). Mix the salt and veg in a bowl, rubbing the salt in with your fingers. Leave the salted veg in a covered bowl. I am amazed how quickly I was squeezing water out of salted cabbage. Mix again. Keep cabbage submerged in its water with a heavy plate.

Making sauerkrautHere is me submerging the veg in the Kilner jar using a cabbage leave to press it down. I got anxious about this bit. However, it is OK to add a few dessertspoons of water to make the sure the veg is covered. After 12-24 hours, transfer the salty cabbage from covered bowl to a Kilner jar and keep in the fridge.

I used two organic cabbages (and two tablespoons of salt). I thought two cabbages would not fit in the Kilner jar …but they did not even fill it!

The quantity of salt to use is up to you, but 3 tablespoons per 5 pounds of vegetables is a good ratio to follow, says website, Paleo Leap.

The result: Having lived with my jar of sauerkraut for the month of July, with regular servings with a variety of dishes, I can report: it is delicious. A blend of salty and sweet, and easy to eat.

And, it works. For instance, last night, my digestion felt weak. I could not be bothered to eat. So, I had a small bowl of sauerkraut and within an hour, my appetite had returned, heartily. The magic of friendly bacteria!