Food is both cause and victim of climate change, but also a possible solution.
Our food choices have a direct impact on the planet. This is recognised by the Slow Food movement. I have just participated in the Slow Food – Food for Change Challenge – going meat free, creating zero food waste and eating only local products for a week. I added noting/reducing my packaging waste too.
Before we start eating, some quick facts that have inspired the campaign:
- Globally, food production is responsible for 21% of greenhouse gas emissions.
- The application of synthetic fertilizers is the fastest growing source of emissions in the agricultural sector.
- The production of animal feed occupies 40% of world agricultural production and 36% of world cereal production on is fed to meat and dairy animals.
- The creation of new pastures for livestock is one of the main causes of deforestation.
- Every year, across the globe a third of total food production goes to waste.
Breakfast: Wild Bread toast (made in Hilton, using wheat grown in Winterton and sold at the Karkloof Farmers Market) with bartered avocado and foraged Rhus dentata berries. The Rhus berries add a tart, spicy element. We need to start exploring local abundant alternatives, rather than importing sumac and the like.
Lunch: garden lettuce, radish pods, nasturtiums and spring onions with yellow beetroot grown by Gillian Milne in Currys Post and sugar beans grown by Thembi Zondi in Swayimani. Radishes are usually grown for the root, but the leaves of radish are delicious as a spinach equivalent, and the green seed pods are peppery and crunchy.
Supper: The last of this season’s purple cauliflower (grown by Gillian Milne and bought at Karkloof Farmers’ Market) roasted with bartered garlic and thyme.
Bread came wrapped in paper (compost heap) and cellophane packet from the cauliflower (unrecyclable) goes into an EcoBrick. Usually I refuse all the packaging – even the paper – and remove the veggies from the bag leaving it for the stallholder to deal with. I am delighted that Gillian is changing to compostable plant based packaging very soon, but still don’t really understand why a cauliflower needs a packet at all.
As I eat my local way through the #FoodforChange challenge this week, you will notice that ingredients are often sourced by bartering. The Midlands Barter Markets are magical phenomenon sweeping the Midlands and expanding rapidly.
Breakfast: La Petit France camembert (just up the road), with bartered pear chutney on toasted bread made by a young baker named Ryan that is sold at Dovehouse Organics: Farm Shop and Training Centre without packaging. I am not vegan (yet), mostly because we have such great dairy products produced very locally. I think that it is better to have local milk from small grass fed herds, than use the vegan equivalents (often imported).
Lunch: Braised organic carrots, from cooked with bartered dried coriander seed and served with loads of fresh mint and coriander from the garden. Once you start paying attention, and stop automatically reaching for the spices on the shop shelves, you realise we can grow a lot of the things we use – tumeric, ginger, garlic, coriander, curry leaves, chillies. Who needs saffron really?
Supper: An ikhowe mushroom foraged by Dovehouse Organics with bartered garlic grown by the beautiful Chisomo Bean in Merrivale, and Enaleni Farm speckled heirloom maize polenta – ukathi kathi actually. The seed of this maize has been saved and kept pure from contamination by GMOs for the last 25 years. Seed saving is one of the most important acts in safeguarding our food diversity which is disappearing fast. Sage leaves fried in La Petite France butter add extra magic.
Teatime treat for a rainy afternoon: Delectable cheese cake make with Tatsfield ethical dairy from Dovehouse. I keep a container with my shopping bags so I don’t ever have to have a takeaway container – even if it is cardboard. I forgot to photograph the cake before I ate it!
Packaging: The polenta comes vacuum packed in a strong plastic bag which looks like the type of plastic that can be recycled. Or else I will use it to package something to barter at one of the Midlands Barter Markets. Strong plastic bags are pretty handy – if you keep them out of the oceans.
An average meal travels 1200kms from farm to plate. How crazy is that? As the distance increases so does the packaging and refrigeration that is required to keep it fresh. You have a direct impact on the amount of CO2 you produce by eating local. By buying directly from farmers you can ask them directly about their methods and principles, while small scale production inherently tends towards more ecological and organic forms of agriculture.
Breakfast: Stewed guavas from Dovehouse Organics (grown and processed in Karkloof) with yoghurt by Tatsfield Farm in Caversham, and borage flowers.
Lunch: Broad beans, peas and mint from garden with feta made in Dargle (thanks Buttercup and Sharon Barnesly) and the zest of bartered lemon.
Sundowners: Bartered beer brewed in Dargle in returnable bottle. Brilliant – although I am sure the ingredients used to make the beer are imported. Must check.
Supper: Garden greens, bartered garlic, local pecans and Pasta Perfecta made in Kranskop. To reduce packaging and food miles even more, I could make my own pasta, of course. This delicious Bridget Ringdahl recipe is featured in Mnandi -a taste of Mpophomeni, which is all about seasonal, local and low-carbon.
Packaging: The plastic tub for stewed guava will be used again, many times. Heartbreakingly, Tatsfield Farm have stopped packaging their yoghurt in glass jars and use plastic tubs instead, citing economic reasons. This has made me very sad. I can get their yummy yoghurt directly from them, by dropping off my own glass container to be filled. This is one of the wonderful things about living in Howick – produce we can buy directly from farmers. Our milk comes like this. However, I think I am going to give up eating yoghurt as a start in my journey to no dairy. The Pasta packaging is not recyclable so will go into Ecobrick. A tip for other Ecobrickers – put each item of waste into the bottle IMMEDIATELY you open a package. If you leave it, thinking you will spend Saturday afternoon stuffing bricks, it becomes overwhelming.
Breakfast: Bartered strawberries with foraged mulberries and elderflowers.
Lunch: Fennel grown by Ntombenhle Mtambo in Mpophomeni, radishes grown by Marie Mlambo in Karkloof and bartered oranges grown by Tamara Mork-Chadwick in Howick.
Supper: Bartered maize and beans grown by Thembi Zondi with heaps of garden herbs and bartered garlic. So fortunate to be able to source organically grown beans when those I have grown run out. I saw big sacks of sugar beans for sale on my recent trip to Weenen (100kms away) but wasn’t tempted. Although they may be localish, a local pesticide ridden monoculture is still a pesticide ridden monoculture!
With imifino aka mixed greens aka weeds – a selection of leaves uncooked. Wild greens are the ultimate climate friendly food I reckon – thriving without any input at all.
Breakfast: Grated carrots from with bartered oranges and a few flowers.
Lunch: Bean puree with garden lab lab beans and lettuce, foraged Halleria lucida fruit and the last jar of pickled courgettes from last season. Rather than buying out of season ingredients from the other side of the world, plan ahead and preserve summer abundance to enjoy all year.
Supper: Roasted sweet potatoes from Dovehouse with home made mayo (thanks Tamara Mork-Chadwick for the gift of two backyard eggs) crammed with herbs – coriander, thyme and parsley. I only eat eggs, produced by hens that live in people’s gardens. While they obviously have a good life, I also do not wish to support the industrial food system that feeds copious amounts of cereal to even the freest ranging commercial chickens.
Today was also Garden Day in South Africa, so obviously there had to be a few more flowers in my food than usual!
Breakfast: Foraged mulberries and wild strawberries with a frozen berry mix grown in Nottingham Road that makes summer last forever. I don’t usually buy frozen berries, but did so especially for this challenge and they are certainly delicious!
Lunch: Bartered avocado and African horned cucumber with nasturtium, sorrel and invasive Alium flowers and pickled nasturtium seeds. These cucumbers grow really easily and produce masses of fruit – just the sort of food we need to be producing and eating. It is one of the marvels of the Midlands Barter Markets that we get to try out unusual fruit and veggies and share seeds of successful plants. Pickled nasturtium seeds are a revelation! Capers are one imported food that I have found hard to let go of, but honestly, nasturtium seeds are a good substitute and now I think the flavour of capers is a bit too obvious.
An incredibly beautiful afternoon demanded some extremely beautiful ice cream made from all local ingredients, properly free range eggs and real mint by Francesa & Charlie. While, I had bought a small container to eat (which was plastic), the 500ml size comes in a 100% compostable container lined with plant based plastic and printed with water based ink. I love it when producers pay attention to the details and the impact their products will have once eaten. I think that even when I stop eating all other dairy, I may still indulge in an occasional ice cream like this lovely local one. Just need to make sure the milk is not only local and grass fed but calf friendly too.
Supper: Foraged artichoke from a share garden on a pavement nearby. Share gardens are so fabulous and there are a few in my neighbourhood.
Packaging: Reusable ziplock bag for frozen berries. Plastic ice cream container might be handy for pesto or something, will keep it in case.
Local really is the way to go – ideally your own yard – even if only for greens, herbs and easy things, the impact on food miles and packaging is big. Farmers Markets and Barter groups are good options and easy to access in KZN. Fabulous waste free stores like Good Source SA are popping up all over now to make life even easier. If you really care about not contributing more than that which is absolutely unavoidable to climate change then meat free is the way to go. Limit or cut out dairy too. Oh, and you’ll get healthier and eat more delicious food too!
Breakfast: Green eggs. Two bartered backyard eggs with heaps and heaps of fennel, coriander, parsley and spring onions from the garden and a tablespoon of Champagne Valley flour from Winterton (paper bag).
Lunch: Choggia beetroot grown in Currys Post with garden radish pods and homemade pickled fennel. Earthy, tangy, sweet and peppery – delish.
After lunch, I collected a basin full of radish pods to pickle. Just half an hour of effort and I have 6 jars to enjoy when I need an extra zip in my salad – or to barter with. Before refrigeration, air travel, and globalization, our ancestors lived off what was around them. So rather than imported ingredients from the other side of the world, dig up an old recipe and get to work with the produce that you have in abundance while it is in season.
Supper: Sorghum (from small scale farmer in Zululand) with lots of rosemary, celery, sage and thyme from the garden. Also the stalks and leaves of the beetroot and roots of the onion – Waste Free means eating every edible part of a plant, not discarding anything. I added some oyster mushrooms, grown locally to the ‘risotto’, but forgot to add them to the photo. Eating locally produced grains – sorghum and maize rather than rice – is an interesting transition. Surprisingly, whole sorghum is hard to find, although ground porridge type is easily available. I cam across some at my local pet shop where it is sold as bird food. I bought up the entire stock!
I have thoroughly enjoyed this challenge. Although I usually eat locally and seasonally, paying extra attention has meant I have tried new things and found new suppliers. I heartily encourage you to find your local farmer’s market and make the most of fresh and seasonal fruit and veggies – often much cheaper than the stores. Building relationships with local farmers and producers will help you learn about different fruit and vegetable varieties, as well as how to make the most out of them.
In November, Slow Food will be celebrating the producers of good, clean and fair food along with the whole Slow Food network. Thank a Farmer Month. I guess I’ll have to join in!