I've been thinking about organic food issues (or really, about the bad things of non-organic) for a while. I got into it a bit in Auckland in 2000 where I was lucky enough to live close to the organic shops in Grey Lynn. Then I got into it in a more committed way in London. Spitalfields market sold organic fruit and veg (and cheese to die for sold by a sexy Italian guy) at good prices and with the bonus that my favourite handyman likes markets so he did the shopping for us quite often. Getting the man to Tescos by comparison, was like asking Tony Blair to avoid the limelight. I also set up a local food buying group to get organic staples from Infinity Foods at trade prices.
Then we came 'home', to small town New Zealand. There are a few, very few, organic items in our local supermarket, all of them wrapped in plastic and largely sourced from overseas and very expensive. Plus we were by this time paying to run a car and seriously saving for a house. Death, disease and disaster or not, it was time to eat like everyone else and aim in the medium and long term to get a garden going to grow my own organic produce.
I like doing food co-ops. I figure they are good community activities as well as providing goods otherwise not available or not at such a good price. So I've done one for avocadoes from this guy: http://www.ecoavo.com/index.html. Doug is lovely. I did another to get some organic garlic for myself and some others from a grower in Raglan. The best cloves went into the ground for my own harvest. And later this week we should get our first group order from Biograins.
I've had some interesting (well to me) chats about grains with the Biograins people. Due to some draconian NZ regulations, chickpeas and various other legumes have to be heat treated for something like 72 hours on arrival into NZ in case they carry bad legumitis disease of some kind. Seventy two hours of heat treatment renders food inedible and unsproutable. This is a particular pain for those of us who like to make hummous with chickpeas from scratch. The drought in Australia has also impacted negatively on chickpea supply, heat treated or not. Anyway Biograins, who are in Ashburton, tell me that they have leased more land and plan to grow their own chickpeas and also that they have something called whero peas which sprouts well and also makes good hummous. I'll be reporting back on that once I receive my order and start playing in the kitchen. (I do cook, and today I even swept and tidied more than one room in the day, but usually I just cook).
Of course that has got me thinking about whether I could grow my own chickpeas. As I shall internally combust if I add one more element to my companion planting and crop rotation schemes, chickpea experiments won't be this summer. I am having a go at Borlotti beans though. Look how gorgeous they are for a start:
The idea of growing something that I'd only ever seen come out of a can and which I remember a special report on on my revered Radio Four about them being fresh at Borough Market is just too exciting not to try.
Have I mentioned Borough Market before? Yes I know it is expensive, middle class, touristy, blah blah blah. It also tastes divine and introduced me to various Spanish delicacies, the best Lebanese food I've ever tasted, exotic mushrooms, lots of things wtih French names, smoked garlic, different pig breeds, gorgeous New Forest hot cider and more and more things than even that. They also had a stand there called Pots for Tots (or something similar) which sold organic food for toddlers (like with texture, not gross mush) which I used to buy and then add more veg to at home to pad it out and then pass it off as home cooked food to my child minder. I've been known to eat it myself if I got too hungry on the train home.