Finally a Solution for Food Waste

Recycle signAt last, there’s something I can do about my food waste. It was always frustrating to me that I couldn’t compost it.

I had seriously considered a Green Cone and a Bokashi bin, both of which are designed to process food waste unlike normal composting, but neither felt like the right solution for my home.

I do have a garden, but it is very small and public on all sides. The only place I could have put a green cone was right by my front door and I didn’t fancy that. The problem with the Bokashi bin was that I have very little space to dig in the compost, which has to be dug in a certain distance away from plants to avoid burning their roots.

Bokashi Bins

If you haven’t heard of Bokashi before, this is a system of composting kitchen waste using a special plastic bin with a tap. Each time you put in your kitchen waste you add a handful of ‘EM Bokashi’, a combination of sawdust and bran infused with Effective Micro-organisms (EM), a natural bacteria that accelerates the breakdown of the waste.

As the food begins to decompose a juice is formed, which can be drawn off using the tap. The liquid can be used as a drain cleanser or as plant feed when diluted 1:100 parts with water. Ideally you would have two Bokashi bins as, when full, the bin needs to sit for 10–14 days for the food waste to decompose effectively. After that time it can be dug into the garden.

You can read more about the Green Cone in one of my earlier posts.

The Council to the Rescue

So with Green Cone and Bokashi bin out of the running there was very little I could do with my kitchen waste . . . until last week!

Last week my council supplied all the houses in the area with a 23-litre food collection bin and a 7-litre kitchen food caddy. And this week they made their first food waste collection! Once all the food waste is collected it is taken to a composting plant where it is turned into compost or agricultural fertiliser.

Food Waste in Land Fill

According to the leaflet that came with the bin, approximately 40% of the borough’s waste is food waste. The problem with sending biodegradable waste to landfill is that it cannot decompose naturally. With a lack of oxygen, this waste causes the release of methane, said to be much more harmful than carbon dioxide and a contributing factor to global warming.

Thanks to the council, finally I can send my food waste to somewhere other than land fill.

Added Benefits – Less Plastic Bags

Now I’m using the food waste bins, I no longer need to use bin liners or put the waste in black bin bags, so this new service reduces the amount of plastic bags being used. Instead, the food bins can be lined with newspaper, which is also compostable. Bonus!

Plus, with no wet or smelly food items going into my usual kitchen bin, there’s no longer any excuse to use plastic bags or liners from the supermarket. I have my fingers crossed that less people will now choose to take plastic bags from the checkout when they shop.

UPDATE (17 Feb)

Another thing I’ve noticed about the food bins is that they make you realise how much food you throw away. I don’t know if I just had a bad week, but last week I threw away far more than I thought I would.

It certainly makes you think more about how much you are cooking. I think maybe smaller portions are in order, plus, keeping a check on what’s in the fridge so my fresh food gets used up before it goes off.

Photo via Flickr by dasistdasende.

 

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Why Bees Are Important to Our Food Crops

Bee in a courgette flowerSo what’s all the fuss about bees? Bees help to pollinate a wide range of food crops, including fruits, nuts, spices and vegetables. Without bees, food production would fall dramatically.

Pollination is important for a wide range of plants, but it is essential for those which cannot self-pollinate, particularly those that have separate male and female flowers.

Self-pollinating Plants

Some fruits and vegetables have flowers that contain both male and female parts (male – stamen/anthers, female – stigma/pistil/ovary). These types of plants self-pollinate when pollen is shaken off the stamen onto the stigma due to a breeze for example. Gardeners growing tomatoes in greenhouses often gently shake their plants to achieve the same result.

Plants that can self-pollinate include: • Tomatoes • Peppers • Beans • Chicory • Endive and • Peas.

Plants That Need Pollinating By Insects

Plants that have separate male and female flowers rely on bees for pollination. When the bee visits the male flower its legs and body become coated with pollen. When the bee visits the female flower, the pollen gets transferred to the stigma.

Some gardeners choose to hand-pollinate these flowers if bees are not visiting their garden. They do this by collecting pollen from the male flower using a paintbrush and then brushing it on to the stigma of the female flower. However, this method is only sustainable for very small crops.

Plants that need pollinating by insects include: • Apple • Asparagus • Aubergine • Avocado • Broccoli • Brussels sprouts • Cashews • Cauliflower • Celeriac • Celery • Cucumber • Kiwi • Melons • Onions • Papaya • Pumpkin • Squash • Strawberry.

For a more in-depth list click here.

When a plant is successfully pollinated, the ovary grows to become the fruit or vegetable. If it is unsuccessful, the ovary will wither and die. Sometimes the fruit grows only a little and this may be due to inadequate pollination where not enough pollen has been transferred.

Photo via Flickr by eNil.

 

Vegging Out’s Year of the Bee

Bee by Danny Perez PhotographyThis year at Vegging Out there’s a buzz in the air – or rather, I am hoping there will be a buzz in the air.

Inspired by Damian Grounds of Help Save Bees, I’m making 2010 Vegging Out’s Year of the Bee.

Bees are crucial to many of our fruit and vegetable crops. Without bees our harvests would be extremely disappointing and food choices may become limited.

Bees Under Threat

Unfortunately the bee population has been under threat over the last few years with what is now referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder – you may have noticed less bees in your garden.

The cause of colony collapse is as yet unknown, but some of the reasons that have been touted include: a virus, malnutrition, the use of pesticides, immune disorder, mites and fungus.

Help Save Bees

Damian Grounds set up Help Save Bees to raise awareness about the plight of our native British bees. His website and blog are great sources of information for anyone interested in learning more about bees.

For my Year of the Bee I plan to help spread the word about the plight of bees through this blog. I also hope to discover and share ways of encouraging bees back into our gardens, and am keen to make my tiny garden as bee-friendly as possible. There is also a local apiary that holds beekeeping courses, which I hope to be able to get to and I will of course write about those here, too.

Vote for The Bumblebee Conservation Trust

I’ve started my campaign for bees by voting for The Bumblebee Conservation Trust to help them win £25,000 for their latest conservation project.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust wants to restore a habitat for the Shrill Carder bumblebee (Bombus sylvarum) one of the UK’s rarest bumblebee species. This is one of six eco-projects in the running to win £25,000. You can help the Trust by voting for their project here.

Photo via Flickr by Danny Perez Photography.

 

New Posts Coming Soon

Regular visitors to this blog will know that I haven’t been writing many new posts over the last couple of months. This is because, alongside my full-time job, I am also training to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and this has taken up a lot of my time.

The good news is that my training is coming to an end – only a few more weeks to go! I am looking forward to getting back to Vegging Out and writing regular new posts very soon.

If there’s something you would like me to write about, let me know by using the Contact form.

UPDATE – 7 Feb: I’m pleased to report that I have now qualified!

The iPhone App that Tells You What’s in Season

Seasons iPhone App showing food in season

Eating with the seasons is one of the best ways to get the optimum nutrition and taste from your food. But when you’re sitting in that restaurant or visiting your local shop, how do you know which of the foods on offer are actually in season right now?

Well, if you have an iPhone, you can now find out at the touch of a button with ‘Seasons’, a new iPhone app created by Christian Klotz and Saskia Schmidt.

Behind the Seasons App

Christian and Saskia are passionate about eating with the seasons and used to go to farmers’ market every week. They started their iPhone app just for fun, but it soon blossomed into an indispensable guide to seasonal fruit and veg – a harvest calendar for the whole year that you can put in your pocket.

After completing their first calendar – a guide to the German fruit and veg season – they continued to cover the different growing seasons of the UK, Ireland, France and the US. Now, using GPS/WLAN, the finished app will auto detect the region you are in and covers West and Central Europe, UK and Ireland, the US and Canada.
foods in season

How Does it Work?

If you click the star icon, you’ll get a complete overview of what fruits and vegetables should be available right now. You’ll be given several categories to choose from, from a screen featuring four stacked pallets. From here you can find food at the beginning of its season, food in season, food at the end of its season and food that is always in season.

Touch the relevant pallet section and you’ll be given a list of the foods available in that category, each with a photograph for easy identification. Select a food and you will be presented with further information on its growing season, history and uses.

As well as finding foods in season right now, the Seasons app also gives you the choice of searching by month, category and keyword. This is really handy if you want to plan in advance.

Gardeners will also find it a handy tool for helping them plan their crops to make the best use of their plot.

In all the app covers 170 foods spanning fruits, vegetables, lettuces, herbs, fungi and nuts.

How to Get the Seasons iPhone App

If you are interested in the Seasons iPhone app you can find out more information about it here. The app is currently being sold for just £1.19 ($1.99/€1.59) from the Apple App Store and through iTunes.

strawberry seasonin season info

Guide to Buying Fruit and Vegetables in Season

At supermarkets we can get most fruits and vegetables all-year round no matter what the season, but buying out of season comes at a price, including lower nutritional quality and greater burden on the environment.

Greater Nutrition

If you are looking for the greatest taste and nutritional benefit it is unlikely that you’ll find the answer on your supermarket shelves. Food grown locally – which is able to reach you within hours of being picked – will give you the most nutritional value.

The reason for this is that from the moment fruit and vegetables are harvested they begin to lose nutrients. This doesn’t bode well for food that is flown or shipped from abroad, which not only takes longer to reach our stores, but also undergoes extra handling, packaging and storage all of which can degrade its quality.

How to Find Local Food

You can use websites such as Local Food Advisor to find food growers and suppliers close to where you live – and you could be surprised at what is just around the corner from you. Fill in the quick search form on the home page and you’re sure to make some discoveries!

You may also find that there is a regular farmers’ market near you. Check out the Certified Farmers’ Markets website to locate markets near you. At the farmers’ market you’ll find food sold by the farmer who grew it and who probably harvested it earlier that day – it will be seasonal and fresh, and you should notice a difference in the taste.

Another way to ‘eat local’ is to organise a veg box delivery. Some of the most well-known companies that do this in the UK include Riverford and Abel and Cole, and you can even get a veg box from your milkman.

What’s in Season When?

Before supermarkets, more people grew their own fruit and vegetables out of necessity or bought from local stalls and shops filled with fresh supplies from local farmers. We all knew what was in season back then, but these days we’ve lost touch.

Luckily, today there are a number of websites that can tell us what’s in season when. Jamie Oliver’s website has a handy table which shows the seasons of around 50 popular foods, including fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and seafood. A similar chart can be found on the website The Time is Ripe.

If you have an iPhone you can have all this information on the move with the Seasons iPhone app.

If you don’t already grow your own or buy local, give it a go and see if you notice a difference. I believe that buying local food in season is the way to go if you want to get the best taste and nutritional value from your food. As well as avoiding all the negative aspects of buying out of season, you will be supporting your local farmers and other food producers, too.

 

Video… Radish Seeds Sprouting (time-lapse video)

Radish seedlings


It’s amazing how fast radishes grow. This YouTube video brilliantly captures the germination and sprouting process. The camera was set to take one frame every 14 minutes, 24 seconds over 9 days.

The Cost of Buying Out-of-Season Fruit and Veg

At supermarkets today we can get most fruits and vegetables all-year round no matter what the season. Convenient, yes, but what are we really getting when we choose to buy out-of-season fruit and veg?

Buying produce that would normally be out of season in our country means that it has either been imported from another country or grown in heated greenhouses. Both processes create carbon emissions, which is bad news for the environment.

Extra Food Miles

In the 1990s the term ‘Food Miles’ was coined by Dr Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at London’s City University. Food Miles refers to the distance a foodstuff has travelled from the farm to our plate, which is then calculated in terms of impact on the environment.

Food Miles don’t take in to account all the energy and materials used in growing, processing and packaging the food, but it does give us environmental food for thought.

For example, planes that import food generate 177 times more emissions than ships, but whichever way food arrives in our country it is then transported by HGV to the depot and then to the store. The final trip is the one you take to and from the supermarket.

In the UK, the transportation of food alone is responsible for 25% of the distance clocked up by HGVs. Buying food grown in your local area can cut this down dramatically, however this may not always be the case if you buy your local food from a supermarket.

Even food grown down the road from you may have had to travel to the supermarket’s central distribution depot before it comes back again to be put on the shelves in your store.

I am only scratching the surface of the environmental impact of out-of-season foods here, but if you want to know more, the article ‘Food Miles’ by Caroline Stacey on the BBCs Food pages expands on the issue.

Ever-Decreasing Nutrients

Other factors of importing fruit and veg, are the time it takes and the handling and storage that is involved. These can all affect the nutritional content of the food.

From the moment fruit and vegetables are harvested they begin to lose nutrients and taste. You’ll know this yourself if you’ve ever ‘grown your own’.

A carrot eaten minutes after being pulled from the ground is vibrant in colour, smells amazing, is crisp, juicy and full of taste. Each day that that carrot sits in a fridge, box or shelf, affects its quality. Its colour becomes dull as it begins to dry out, it loses its smell and taste, and eventually it becomes bendy. The invisible side-effect of this is the loss of nutrients.

Fruit and veg that has been imported can sit in storage containers, trucks or on supermarket pallets for days and weeks. During this time it can be exposed to oxygen, light and heat, all of which will rob nutrients.

Modified for Transport

Because food can spoil in the transportation process, through bruising from handling and packing, many fruits and vegetables have been modified to help them better survive the journey.

These modification have included thicker skins (which doesn’t do any favours for the taste) and changes to shape and size so they can fit more uniformly into their boxes.

Is it Really so Convenient?

So, yes, supermarkets are convenient, but when it comes to shopping for fruit and vegetables, it’s easy to see how these days more and more of us are stepping back and really starting to think about our choices.

 

Lettuce – the Natural Diuretic, Sedative and Beauty Ingredient

Lettuce close up

LettuceRedGIf there was a poll for most boring vegetable surely lettuce would win a place near the top.

With this in mind, Vegging Out has taken a pledge to give this humble and largely overlooked salad vegetable a new lease of life.

The lettuce make-over began in my last post where I explored different ways to eat lettuce with 10 Tasty Lettuce Recipes. My hope is for us all to banish those cold and uninspiring lettuce and tomato salads in favour of something a little more adventurous.

So . . . what else is there to say about lettuce?!

Lettuce Opium

One of the most interesting things about lettuce can be found in its stem.

Break the base of your lettuce stems and you should see a milky fluid appear. When dried, this fluid, best seen in the wild Lactuca virosa species of lettuce, is called ‘lactucarium’. Lactucarium is also known as ‘lettuce opium’ because it has a sedative quality.

Lactucarium was popular in the 19th century, but it was discovered and used way before that. The Romans and Egyptians took advantage of the lettuce’s opium-like properties by eating it at the end of a meal to put them to sleep.

Lettuce – the Natural Diuretic

Lettuce is a good choice for those suffering from water retention and bloating because it is highly diuretic.

Diuretics help the body to eliminate sodium and water, which is why they are often prescribed by doctors to lower the blood pressure of those with hypertension. However, diuretics can also rob the body of essential minerals such as potassium and magnesium.

The good thing about lettuce is that it couples its diuretic properties with a good dose of minerals, including manganese, chromium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and calcium.

The best way to use lettuce as a diuretic is to juice half to a whole head and drink on its own or mixed with other vegetable or fruit juices such as spinach, carrot, garlic or apple (that’s not a recipe by the way!). It’s easier to juice a hard-headed variety such as iceberg.

Lettuce – for Natural Beauty

Lettuce contains nutrients that are important for maintaining healthy skin. Here’s a few ways you can use it in your beauty routine:

Nutrients in Lettuce

According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, lettuce contains excellent quantities of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese, chromium as well as very good quantities of potassium, molybdenum, fibre, vitamin B1, iron, vitamin B2, phosphorus, and good quantities of calcium, tryptophan, vitamin B3 and vitamin B6.

Discover 10 Tasty Lettuce Recipes here.

[Photo by skylarprimm from Flickr.]