Wrapped in Newspaper

Ethical lifestyle blog and vegan recipes


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Update from the allotment

Flowering potatoes

 

Potatoes

I may be a bit behind in terms of where things are in their growth development, but i’m slowly getting somewhere this summer. I have found it pretty tricky this year, what with the weather and mega slug problem and things haven’t gone as simply as they did last year, I’m told that I’m not the only one having problems though. But I have got to a point where the potatoes, broad beans, runner beans and tomatoes are flowering and I’ve even spotted some tiny tiny tomatoes – hooray! I may get to eat some vegetables after all this hard work!

Flowering broad beans

These were my second batch of broad beans after the first lot were obliterated by the plague of slugs that I had gone into battle with. I have lost count of how many runner bean plants I have lost to the little blighters, and I’m still growing some more in the hope that I will get a decent harvest.

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My Rhubarb plant is flourishing and growing brand new leaves! (Ignore the weeds)

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

 

I love to wear sensible gardening shoes!!

My onions are starting to look the size of onions and i’m going to have to start thinking about when to pul these beauts from the ground and start drying them out.

Red onions

I had a mini allotment breakdown a couple of weeks ago when things were not going my way, I couldn’t see any fruits of my labour and all I seemed to be doing was pulling out eaten bean stalks and had nothing to see for my efforts. I came home telling everyone that I hated it and that I quit! Apparently this is a normal phase to go through and I have managed to come through the dark allotment days! I usually go up there on my way home from work and spend a bit of time watering my crops and finding that little bit of peace and tranquility usually after a manic day at work – nothing can really beat it! It definitely makes me appreciate where my food comes from, when I eventually get to eat some beans or tomatoes I will savour every mouthful knowing that I put my blood, sweat and tears into that bite and having the satisfaction that I stuck with it, you can’t get that when you buy your veg at the supermarket that have  been flown in from who knows where can you?

Also, check out this beautiful wild flower garden that grows on someone else’s patch – I absolutely love it!

Wild flowers

Happy growing your own!

Veronica x


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Vegan in training (porridge addict)

It seems that both Veronica and I have jumped on the exercise band wagon and run with it, or in my case cycled alongside it. We’re feeling pumped and energised from eating well – keeping fit and being vegan is definitely part of that story.

cycling in yorkshire

It’s one of those key lines I always hear from people when they find out I’m vegan; “I don’t think I could get enough protein being a vegan” or “I have quite an active lifestyle and I just don’t think I would be able to eat enough if I went vegan”. Well as usual, we’re here to smash this vegan myth.

A few weeks ago Veronica completed her first half marathon and in the very respectable time of 2 hours 13 minutes. Now its my turn to step up and next week I’ll be cycling my first ever 100km ride. I’m cycling it as part of the Women’s 100 where over 5000 women all over the world will all cycle 100km on the same day. Talk about a bit of inspiration to keep me going.

So how on earth can a vegan fuel their way round those 100km, burning around 1600 calories?

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On the day of the ride, my eating will focus on three things, protein, slow release carbs and sugar, sugar lots of sugar. I’m cutting out refined sugar as much as possible theses days so I rely on dried fruits with a high sugar content like figs and mango to keep my going and fuel me up the hills.

cycling snacks

snacks for cycling

I’ll start of the day with a massive bowl of porridge made with soya milk and either berries or banana. I always top my porridge with seeds for that extra protein hit and some raw cacao for that extra bit of crunch. I honestly swear by porridge, the slow releasing oats, the protein from the soya milk and extra seeds combined with a bit of a sugar hit is exactly what I need on the day of a big ride. I’ll then continue to snack during my ride on dried fruits, the odd banana and of course my best friend, homemade energy bars. Of course I’ll be drinking plenty of water along the way and once I’ve completed the ride I will no doubt be eating a massive portion of anything I can find, keep an eye out on instagram for my post 100km meal!

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So wish me luck for the big day and enjoy this delicious bowl of blackcurrant and raspberry porridge.

blackcurrant porridge

Blackcurrant and raspberry vegan porridge

Serves 2

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup soya milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup blackcurrants
1/4 cup raspberries
Seeds for spinkling, hemp, sunflower and pumpkin
Raw cacao nibs

Combine the oats, milk and water in a saucepan and heat over a low/medium heat.
Add in the fruit (I always freeze mine so I can enjoy it all year round) and gently bring the pan to a simmer.
Keep stirring to make a nice and creamy consistency and the fruit begins to break up.
Serve and sprinkle with protein rich seeds and some raw cacao nibs.

Amy x


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Strawberry Galette

Vegan strawberry galette

Over here we’ve been consumed by all things sporting – I ran the Hackney half marathon a couple of weeks ago, and am running the British 10k on sunday. Amy has been cycling her way around Yorkshire supporting the Tour de France and is in training for the Women’s 100 cycle ride and we have both been enjoying all things Wimbledon related – usually we spend hours and hours queuing in a very British manner and then wetting ourselves with the excitement of being in centre court watching some top notch tennis! We all know what it means when Wimbledon is here – Strawberry time!

Strawberry

Last year I discovered the delights of Pick Your Own farms and the joy baskets of freshly picked fruit can bring. Reminding you how exactly they grow, the vast difference in taste compared to imported fruit and that they don’t just come packed and ready to eat in the local supermarket. Knowing that the food you’re eating has grown just down the road rather than hundreds of miles away definitely makes it all the more satisfying, plus spending a couple of hours in the sunshine and giving business to a local fruit farm is win win.

Pick your own

I’m still yet to have time to reach the local PYO farm, but I definitely will be making time in the next few weeks, but my brother and sister-in-law ventured up there at the weekend and kindly picked me some strawberries (and they took the above two photos too) -thanks guys!

Strawberries

What to make with all these lovely strawberries?? A little treat, a Strawberry Galette – a perfect summer pudding!

Strawberry Galette

Vegan Strawberry Galette

Strawberry Galette

Strawberry Galette
For the pastry:

5 oz Spelt Flour
5 oz Plain White Flour (or you can use wholemeal)
2 1/2 oz Trex vegetable fat
2 1/2 oz vegan margarine
2 tbsp Xylitol sugar
3 tbsp cold water (or enough to combine to a dough)

For the filling:
A punnet of strawberries
3 tbsp of Xylitol sugar
Hazelnut milk (or other vegan alternative)

1) Ina large bowl rub the vegetable fat and margarine into the flours until it resembles breadcrumbs
2) Add the sugar and stir through. Add the water and combine to make a dough.
3) Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is about a centimetre thick and approximately 30cm x 30cm (maybe a little bigger), you don’t want it too thin so you can transfer it easily.
4) Grease a baking sheet and transfer the rolled out pastry on to it.
5) Slice the strawberries and then place in the centre, pile them up so you have plenty of strawberries, sprinkle with sugar.
6) Brush the pastry with hazelnut milk and then fold the sides of the pastry into the centre.
7) Brush the folded pastry with milk and then sprinkle with a little more sugar.
8) Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C fo 25-30mins.
9) Be careful not to burn your mouth if you eat this straight from the oven – it is too scrummy to wait until it cools though!

Enjoy picking your own strawberries!

Veronica x


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How to find bee-friendly honey … a guide for bee lovers!

A while ago I posted a discussion about honey where I suggested a need for us to be more mindful of how much we consume at a time when honeybees are experiencing such vast ecological crisis. In this post, I’d like to expand on the honey discussion by sharing some of the issues to be aware of when deciding where [should you choose to eat it at all] to get your sticky little hands on some delicious honey! Our power as consumers is the most accessible source of influence available to us in changing the fate of the honeybee so where you source your honey is incredibly important.

Having talked to a range of beekeepers over the last year or so, it’s become clear to me that the way we commodify the honeybee for honey production has a direct impact on their health and survival globally. We have put our dear honeybees under incredible stress with our use of pesticides, the severe destruction of their forage ground and poor treatment from beekeepers [some beekeepers, not all!] that leads to starvation over winter and the spread of pests and diseases.

Honey Comb

 

Most worryingly at this time of crisis is how common it is in beekeeping practice to extract frames full of honey from hives [like the above] in autumn and as a substitute, feed the bees with sugar syrup to prevent starvation over winter. Aside from this seeming rather unscrupulous, what does it actually mean for the wellbeing of the bees to be fed on a sugar substitute rather than feeding on their own honey?

One beekeeper I’ve been speaking to, who has looked after colonies for over 30 years, talked at length about the important it is to feed the bees honey over the winter. He claims that winter baby bees [in their larval stage from January] fed with honey over the winter will develop the immune strength required to build up a resilient, healthy colony in the following season. These early bees have the incredibly important job of insuring the survival of a growing colony with the first foraging trips of spring to bring in vital honey stores. Honey truly is a miracle substance well known for its healing properties so I’m inclined to agree that honeybees need it all year round for their survival.

POEM

 

Young bees developing over the winter in colonies fed on a sugar substitute lack the nutrition provided by honey and as a result are far less able to fight the many pests and diseases that threaten them throughout the year. Such nutrition is effortlessly provided by the wonderful antibacterial, antioxidant and antimicrobial mix of sugars, vitamins, minerals, protein and enzymes found in the honey the bees make for themselves so conscientiously with their own bodies. It really is a miracle substance!

So what can we do as consumers of honey to make sure that the bees are left with enough themselves to be happy and healthy?  Here are some of my findings …

One … Bee Organic

The best deterrent against the unnecessary devastation of our land with harmful chemicals is to buy organic produce where we can. The use of pesticides is detrimental to the lifecycle of all species of bee and anything else alive in the food web, including us! Look out for the organic certification marks on jars of honey like these ones …

Organic Certification

 

Two … Buy local honey made by local bees

This might sound like a bit of an obvious one to those with their heads screwed on but reducing our reliance on non-renewable energy to acquire our food simply makes sense in a world running out of fossil fuels. Supporting local food production is essential for our future food security on this island. Eating honey produced locally also offers up a delicious connection to your local flora and rather wonderfully, significantly lessens the impact of hayfever!

dartmoor honey

 

Here in Totnes there are a few options for buying honey locally but to satisfy my bee-loving mind, there is simply not enough information presented on the labels. How have the honeybees been treated? Were the bees fed a sugar substitute for parts of the year? I’m finding that there is no way of knowing if the bees are left healthy and with adequate honey supplies without directly contacting the beekeeper. Some that market themselves bee friendly also state ‘Produce of the EEC and non EEC Countries’ which is a little bit suspect. This honey could come from anywhere!

honey_littleover pure 3

 

Although some honey holds an organic certification mark there is little indication of the range of forage available to the bees that made it. Bees need a varied diet just like we do and even though we can guarantee that land managed organically is pesticide free, it may still be part of a monoculture system where the bees find themselves low on forage for periods of the year. An excess dependency on particular plants such as dandelion or rape produce a very grainy honey which the bees have difficulty digesting and can lead to dysentery. Honeybees need a wide variety of plants throughout the year as sources of pollen and nectar to remain healthy and theres no way of knowing if they have this from the labels on the honey jars.

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A honeybee visiting borage … they love it!

So summing up, I’ve realised that it can all get a bit complicated when setting out in the shops to find bee-friendly honey because the information you need to make an informed decision is rarely provided. With the current labelling it really is rather hard to know how the bees are doing so I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to find bee-friendly honey is to find a bee-friendly beekeeper!

I’ve met some inspiring beekeepers on my quest who care deeply about the bees and are practicing a ‘bee-first’ approach. I think this is an attitude to beekeeping that has the potential to provide us with delicious local honey from healthy honeybees and I encourage you find someone doing it and support them : )

So three … Find your local Bee-first beekeeper!

Bee-first beekeepers [or Natural Beekeepers] will mimic as best as possible the conditions bees have in the wild by allowing them the space to simply be bees. They trust in the resilience of the colony and their inherent wisdom developed over millions of years of evolution, protecting and preserving them so they can play out their vital role in nature.

As a consumer of honey, the most important aspect of bee-first beekeeping is that the primary goal of the beekeeper is to respect and protect a colony so only the absolute surplus honey is ever extracted from the bees. Through careful observation of the weather and health of the colony, good beekeepers will judge how much honey is appropriate to extract and will only feed substitute as a very last resort to avoid starvation.

Every beekeeper will be slightly different in their approach and there will be varying degrees to which they will put the honeybees first. It’s worth seeking them out to ask them how they feed their bees over the winter and quiz them about the relationship they have with the bees to make sure you’re happy that the bees are happy!

Bee first beekeeping

Bee-first beekeeping at Embercombe, Devon

We are part of a system that teaches us that as long as we can pay our way, we can have whatever food we like on tap, no matter what is destroyed in the process. The crisis facing the honeybees highlights to me how hugely we, as living beings on this planet have become disconnected with our living world and the natural processes required to produce our food and support our lifestyles. The bee-first beekeeping approach means that sometimes there may be very little honey available for our extraction because the bees need it to survive over winter and I think we perhaps need to be more aware of this.

I hope this is helpful to anyone wondering how to source honey without causing harm to honeybees and I hope it inspires you to hunt out your local beekeeper to discover more about how their honeybees are doing. Happy bee-friendly honey hunting!


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Ethical fashion

Last week’s news brought the spotlight back onto the ethics of our fast-fashion, high street shops. A story came to light that an “SOS” message was sewn into a pair of Primark trousers. The note alleged slave labour conditions in a Chinese prison, manufacturing clothes for the low cost retailer. The note read;

SOS! SOS! SOS! We are prisoners at Xiangnan jail in Hubei, China. For a long time, we have been producing clothing for export. We work for 15 hours each day. What we eat is even worse than food for pigs and dogs. The work we do is similar to (the hard work) that oxen and horses do. We urge the international community to denounce China for this inhumane act.

Last year I wrote about how making my own skirt had prompted me to think about the way in which we consume and dispose of clothes. When I read the Primark SOS story, I thought it was about time I revisited this subject. It’s quite simple - I don’t want people to suffer, work in awful conditions, suffer conditions of modern slavery just so I can wear a cheaper garment on my back.

Last year, I set myself a personal challenge to try to shop more ethically, to move away from the high street and look to shop for ethically sourced, fairly-traided items. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think I’ve done as well as I could have done. Although I haven’t shopped in Primark, I have purchased from other high street stores whose ethics I’m not entirely sure of and whose prices I’m sure don’t reflect a fair wage to the person who made the garment – the person who sweated over it, who cut the fabric, who sewed it together, and who sewed the labels in. But this news has woken me up!

As consumers we have to stand up and say NO – we don’t want to be part of this.  We need to stop buying these clothes and choose ethical alternatives to show the fashion industry that they need to change their ways!

So, to get us all inspired to ditch the high street and get our ethical head in gear I though I’d share a few ethical fashion companies.

People Tree: oh beautiful People Tree. People Tree have been around for a couple of decades and to be honest I never normally see anything I would buy from here, it just isn’t really my style. But today, oh no, I currently have two things sitting in the shopping basket over (oh dear)! They have some really lovely things and there is a sale on! Yes – they are more expensive than your average high street shop, but remember, you get what you pay for! And they do offer free delivery and returns – result!

People Tree top People Tree crop trousers

Here Today Here Tomorrow: This collaboration of four designers, aim to educate their customers with the time, effort, work and materials that have gone into making the products they sell. They design, make, mend, showcase, sell and educate, all under one roof, making the process accessible and visible to all. There is some lovely jewellery on their site and although their clothing range is a select, they have some great pieces. I’m definitely going to keep my eye on this site and will try and pop down to visit their shop-come-studio in Dalston the next time I’m east side.

Here today here tomorrow linen dress Here today here tomorrow wooden necklace

Monkee Genes: I have bought a couple of pairs of jeans from here, and i love them! You can also find them on Asos. They are a relatively new company and are accredited by The Soil Association and Peta. It’s nice knowing my jeans come from an independent business that cares and knowing no one has been exploited. Some pairs are pricey, but some pairs are £30 – that’s cheaper than Topshop!

Monkee Genes Monkee Genes Monkee Genes

Bibico: Oh hello all the dresses! Check these guys out, I love their statement that they are not trying to change the world just doing their bit! Exactly – lets all do our bit!

Bibico dressBibico floral dress Bibico dress

 

Finally, if you’re looking for kids clothing, you should totally check out Wrapped in Newspaper’s fav Corby Tindersticks. Created by our friend Carly (who also did the beautiful illustrations for our site) she keeps things ethical with eco-friendly fabrics and all items are made in the UK too, some by her own fair hands! Corby Tindersticks is a world full of colourful characters – not what you get on the high street for kids – pink totally stinks!

Corby Tindersticks Corby Tindersticks

So, now I have a few more places to check out so the next time I’m in need of something new. I’ll be sure to try even harder so I don’t revert to my old ways, after all the power is in our hands isn’t it?

Happy ethical shopping!

Veronica x

n.b This isn’t a sponsored post – these are genuine recommendations, we never write reviews or mentions in exchange for anything – alright!


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Mushrooms on toast with carrot top pesto

At last summer is here! The sun has come out and you can finally, safely, leave your coat at home. All those months of waiting have finally come to an end and you just can’t ever imagine the snow of winter or it ever getting dark by 3.

I love seeing leaves bud in Spring and watching with anticipation as everything turns from grey/brown to that vivid green that only new life brings. But Summer, oh you just can’t beat Summer!

The long, warm evenings that never seem to end. The sudden urge to spend every waking second outside. That bite into the first Strawberry of the year. Oh Summer, why must you ever leave?

carrots

The warm weather of course brings plenty of new season vegetables to enjoy. June has brought us through the hungry gap and I’ve been indulging in broad beans, cucumber, chard, radishes and have even had my first courgette of the year. New season carrots are now also on the menu and I’ve been enjoying that juicy, sweetness that had started to disappear from those remaining stragglers from last season. Not only are the first carrots of the season super tasty and crunchy, they come with lovely leafy tops that look too good just to throw away.

Last year I began to resent throwing these leafy tops away each week so came up with a pesto recipe to use them in. Whilst I still add in a little basil for flavour, I love this pesto recipe and I put it on everything from toast to salads. For me, things always taste better when you know you’ve put every last morsel to good use. As my Mum always says, waste not, want not.

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Carrot top pesto

Make the pesto as soon as you get your carrots home when the leaves are fresh. It can be stored it an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. I drizzle a layer of olive oil over the top to keep it at its best. Have it with pasta or stirred through potatoes, in a salad or with fried mushrooms on delicious homemade soda bread.

Carrot tops from one bunch of carrots
Small handful of basil leaves
3 tbsp pine nuts
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Toast the pine nuts on a medium-high heat in a dry frying pan. Stir frequently to avoid burning. When they begin to brown, remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Remove the leaves from the main stalks and rinse thoroughly.
  • Blend the leaves in a food processor with the garlic until they are finely chopped.
  • Add in the toasted pine nuts and olive oil and blend again.
  • Finely add in the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and blend together, taste and add in a little more olive oil if necessary.

Spelt soda bread

250g spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
150ml non-dairy milk (or mix together 75ml each of non-dairy yogurt and milk)
A good pinch of salt

  • Weigh out the flour in a large mixing bowl, stir in the baking powder and salt.
  • Slowly pour in the milk or yogurt/milk mix and combine to form a firm but slightly wet dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a clean surface, gently need for just a few seconds to bring the dough together.
  • Using your fingers press the dough out to form a flattish circle then fold the edges into the centre, in turn to form a round.
  • Turn the dough over and gently press down to around 2cm thick.
  • Place onto a baking tray or stone and coat with flour ,then score the loaf to make a deep cross.
  • Bake at 180C for around 20 mins until lightly browned and it sounds hollow when you turn it over and tap the base.

Mushrooms on toast with carrot top pesto

Serves 2

3 large portobello mushrooms
2-3 heaped tsp carrot top pesto
4-5 slices of soda bread
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Fry the mushrooms in a little olive oil on a medium heat until the water release and they start to brown.
  • Meanwhile lightly toast the bread under the grill.
  • Stir the pesto into the mushrooms and add a little extra olive oil.
  • Add a little extra salt and pepper if needed.
  • Spoon the mushrooms onto the toast and serve hot.

Enjoy your carrot top pesto and the sunshine!

Amy x


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Running is changing my life!

I’m running a half marathon on Sunday and I’m a little nervous. I’ve put in the hours, done the stretches and rolled around on a foam roller trying to soothe (torture) my achey muscles. I have followed a twelve week training programme and have worked my butt off in preparation for this race and now it is time to see if all my effort, hardwork and sacrifices have paid off.

Now running isn’t something we normally talk about here, but I wanted to give a little glimpse into the benefits I feel now I have taken up regular exercise, am the fittest I have ever been in my life  and why I won’t be giving up running once this race is over.

When I tell most people that i’m off on a ten mile run at the weekend, or I’m running a half marathon they tell me they would never be able to do that, they can’t even run up the road and how amazing I am, well they’re wrong. I am not at all amazing. I too used to not even be able to run up the road without wanting to die and I sure am no super woman. I have put in the work to get here and there is definitely no quick way to get to this point, you just have to keep going and going and going. It has meant going for runs as soon as I get home from work two or three times a week, and  sacrificing my weekend lie-ins, getting up early on a sunday morning and then feeling exhausted for the rest of the day. But, I feel so good for it, I feel fit and healthy, my legs are strong and my body is toning up. Having lost nearly two stone cutting refined sugars from my diet, my body has changed and I am working on strengthening it to become strong and athletic NOT skinny.

I have run a few 10ks in my life, and I thought I would never be able to build upon that distance, but my dream is to run the London Marathon, and my dream isn’t going to happen unless I make it happen.

Running in the Chilterns

The benefits of training for this half marathon have gone beyond just fitness though. I am fitter and healthier than ever before but I’m also getting out there, into the fresh air when I would have normally been inside. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by picturesque English countryside and running week in, week out, whatever the weather, has got me much more in tune with the seasons and what’s actually happening out there, in the real world.

Half marathon training

The happenings in the hedgerows, what flowers are blooming, what berries the birds are eating, nature is busy working away and I have been getting to see it all.

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I think its so easy to get caught up in our own lives, our routines have us into work and home again, out shopping, meeting friends, cleaning the house. The time I’ve spent running out there, in the world, has given me time for reflection.

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We’re just a small part of a bigger picture, yet what we do as humans is having an enormous influence on the planet and the balance of its ecosystems.

Running route

I’m glad that running is getting me out there, into the countryside and giving be time to reflect on why I’m trying to live a more ethical lifestyle. We need to minimise the negative effects our lives, our habits, our farming methods have on natural ecosystems and to protect, not exploit our natural resources. With all this extra physical and mental strength that running is giving me, I’m more determined than ever to keep on doing my bit to minimise my impact on the planet.

photo 3-35

Happy running everyone!

Veronica x


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Sugar-free, vegan energy bars

At last, summer is on its way.  Officially summer starts at the end of June so just before we all dive head first into the hot weather I wanted to bask in the last days of spring and share a final spring-time recipe.

That was of course until I had a crazy, busy week and weekend and didn’t manage to test my recipe and tried to make it last night after getting home from a 80km bike ride… It was never really going to work out was it!

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Nettles are what I wanted to talk to you about. The end of spring is just about the last chance you have to pick nettles at their best whilst they still have nice young leaves. However, the nettle and spinach crepes I had planned to share with you didn’t exactly work out. Brown rice flour and a flax seed egg made for a tricky crepe batter so I’ll go back to the drawing board with that recipe, get to work perfecting it and share it with you all next year.

One of the reasons for my busy weekend was that I started training for my first 100km bike ride which I’m doing at the end of July. I kicked my training off with a gentle 80km… I felt pretty good and although I did have plenty of stops along the way, I’m certainly feeling less nervous about the 100km than I was before.

Having nearly collapsed the first time I did 50km on my bike I thought I’d best make myself some super, duper energy bars to help me round this time. And I can tell you, they worked a treat! They made for the perfect combination of a burst of energy, slow release energy and plenty of protein and nutrients. Not only that, they are free from refined sugar. That’s right 80km without refined sugar and still feeling good!

So get yourself out into the sunshine, don’t bother yourself with the nettles, make these energy bars, grab your bike and start peddling!

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 Sugar-free, vegan energy bars

Adapted from Angela Liddon’s, Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars

Note: If you’re going to be eating these on the move when cycling and you want something easier to digest, run all the dry ingredients through the blended first before mixing them in.

1 ripe banana
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp all spice
180g porridge oats
180g dates
40g sunflower seeds
40g pumpkin seeds
40g sliced almonds
40g chopped walnuts
Pinch of salt

  • Mash the banana in a large bowl then mix in the coconut oil, maple syrup, spices and salt.
  • Chop the dates as finely as you can and stir them into the mixture along with the nuts and seeds.
  • Add in the oats and stir the whole mixture thoroughly until well combined.
  • Spoon the mixture onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Press down firmly with a spatula or the back of a spoon so the mixture all holds together.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for around 15 mins or until it just begins to brown.
  • Remove from the oven and carefully score into evenly sized bars, leave to cool and then break apart the bars.
  • Store them in the fridge in an airtight container. Pop a few in your cycling jersey pocket when you head out for a ride and tuck into one when your energy levels begin to dwindle.

Happy cycling!

Amy x


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Keeping a green allotment

Wellies

I’ve been trying to do too much lately and I have neglected my little sanctuary for too long. A few weeks back, the sun was shining (in between rain showers), it was time to dust of my wellies and head back up the allotment and try to create some sort of order amidst the grass that had grown extremely long and the weeds that had grown back with a vengeance. So we dug and dug. Then we planted these little broad bean plants that I sowed a month or so ago.

Broad beans

I think broad bean plants are the most beautiful of little plants, they are so delicate looking but when they grow they are tough as anything – and the flowers they will develop are so pretty.

Broad bean

Then a gardeners foe turned up to ruin the party. SLUGS! Look what they did to my beans!

Slugs

Eaten – all except one! I nearly cried – I didn’t though, those that know me know I’m not one to cry.

It was my own fault really. I left them overnight in their seed tray as the weather took a turn for the worst and a family of slugs descended onto my beautiful climbing beans and enjoyed a right little feast! So, now I’m back to the drawing board sewing some more seeds in the hope that this wet weather won’t last too long – so that my next round of seedlings won’t just be a slugs dinner again.

I can understand the temptation of throwing down some slug pellets so as not to see my lovingly nurtured seedlings eaten within minutes, but that just is not what we’re about here. So, I’m going to investigate ‘Slug pubs’. Apparently they love a little bowl of beer, in a shallow container, buried into the ground – they get a little merry and there is no easy way of saying this, die. Now, I’m all about the animals and insects, but I definitely think killing a few slugs in some beer is the better option when it comes to The killing, after all Hayley has taught us about the damage pesticides can do to our ecosystem. I’m going to continue on the quest to keeping a green allotment despite this little set back.

One thing that is doing well are my red onions. Check them out!

Red onions

I’ll let you know how me and the slugs get on! Any green allotment tips you have would be very welcome!!

Happy growing!

Veronica x


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Extra-floral activity

Laurel hedge

 
Walking home along the hedgerow the other day I was distracted by a deep humming sound. Being prime swarm season for honeybees, I got a bit excited and thought I might finally be about to witness my first swarm!

I was not in luck with the swarm but quickly realised that the entire length of the hedgerow was humming! This seemed a bit strange because there were few bees on the wildflowers and there was nothing flowering in the hedge. Why were all these bees here? I climbed up to take a closer look!

When I looked into the hedge I found it was full of honeybees, bumblebees and lots of fly species. The hum from inside the hedge was incredible and based on the number of honeybees I could see in one section, I estimated that there must have been 400+ bees along the 30-40 Metre hedge. The bees seemed to just be walking around the leaves with their tongues out like this one!

honeybee tongue on cherry laurel

 
I was puzzled … with no obvious source of pollen or nectar from flowers what were they all doing in there? The strangest thing is that even though I walk past the same hedge everyday, I have only experienced this phenomenon on one occasion.

Later on, I managed to identify the hedge as a cherry laurel [Prunus laurocerasus] and with some help from google, I found lots of information from beekeepers about how popular the plant is as a source of nectar for honeybees. It turns out that the plant releases nectar through glands on the underside of its leaves called ‘extra-floral nectaries’ which explains why the bees were licking the leaves in the way they were. But this is not for pollination so what is the plant getting in return for giving away its nectar to the bees?

I’ve found a few theories that say a plant releases nectar in this way as a defense mechanism against pests. A plant under attack from pests might give off nectar from its leaves to attract predatory insects like flies, ladybirds and wasps who will feast on the nectar but also gorge on any small plant-eating types [rather clever]. There was some visible damage to the leaves [like in the photo below] so it might make sense that the plant took some defensive measures.

damaged leaves

 
Based on this plant defense theory, it strikes me that the bees are getting a free lunch feasting on the cherry laurel nectar because to my knowledge I don’t think bees eat other insects?

Nature’s communities are packed full of beneficial relationships and it makes me wonder whether there is a role for the bees here that we do not yet understand. Or perhaps there is such a thing as a free lunch in nature and the cherry laurel simply releases its nectar to the bees out of pure pleasure : )

Bees and plants have been working together in this way for the last 100 million years [the oldest honeybee fossil was found in Burma in 2006] and have built highly sophisticated relationships as a result. Modern humans have had about 200,000 years to develop our communities. I think there is so much we humans can learn from observing the beneficial relationships that exist in nature, especially in times of worrying political shift and economic over-dependence.

bee bum in cherry laurel

 
I feel lucky to have been walking past the cherry laurel hedge when it decided to engage its extra floral nectaries and fill itself with bees!!! It’s given me another little glimpse into the complex relationship bees have with their environment and its been an excellent reminder of how important our hedgerows are for biodiversity.

Apparently there are many other plants that partake in extra-floral activities that we can watch out for like Bracken and Field beans so keep an eye and an ear out for ‘em!

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