Wrapped in Newspaper

Ethical lifestyle blog and vegan recipes


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Sloe spelt cake

When you eat the seasons you can’t help but rejoice when you reach that time of year when there is food a plenty. Late summer is such an amazing time for food, there are an abundance of vegetables around and at last there’s plenty of fruit to be found. And I don’t mean in the supermarket!

Sloe-berries

Wander outside and keep your eyes peeled in hedgerows and parks. There’s berries galore to be found and this year there is a bountiful crop of sloes to be found!  The hot start to summer followed by a whole load of rain has left the blackthorn bushes dripping with sloes. You’ve endured the rain so you may as well enjoy its fruits.

Sloe-spelt-cake

I know that sloes are synonymous with gin but I have a love for spelt cake right now and I think a little sloe compote makes the perfect accompaniment.

Vegan-spelt-flour-cake

The cake is made with spelt flour, ground almonds, coconut oil and a little xylitol sugar. I won’t pretend its like a Victoria sponge, because its not. But what it is, is healthy, tasty and filling. The high sugar content in ordinary cakes combined with lots of fat and innutritious white flour will give you a sweet fix but won’t leave you satisfied. There’s just nothing in there to nourish you and make you feel full so you keep on wanting more. This spelt cake however will leave you feeling great. Spelt is a whole-food unlike wheat which means it retains all its nutrients which can be easily absorbed by your body due to its high water solubility. See, you really can have your cake and eat it.

Spelt-and-almond-cake

I will let you in on a secret, I was actually going for a slightly marbled cake, using the sloe compote but I didn’t quite put enough in. To get a more marbled effect don’t over stir the compote into the cake batter but also be careful not to add too much as your cake might not come out in one piece.

Spelt-cake-with-sloe-berry-compote

Vegan-sloe-spelt-cake

Sloe spelt cake

125g spelt flour
100g ground almonds
75g xylitol sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
200ml almond milk
80g coconut oil
1/2 tsp almond essence

For the compote:
150g sloe berries
2 tbsp xylitol sugar

  • Start off by greasing a 8″ cake tin and lining the base with baking paper. Pre-heat your oven to 180C.
  • If you’re coconut oil is solid, place it in an ovenproof dish for a few minutes when preheating your oven to melt it.
  • Weigh out all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stir through and set aside.
  • Wash the sloes and remove any stalks. Place them into a saucepan and just cover them with water, bring them to the boil then simmer on a low heat.
  • Once they start to break up, drain off the water and rub the fruit through a sieve into a clean pan.
  • Return to the heat and add 1tbsp of xylitol sugar and stir until dissolved then remove from the heat.
  • Return to your cake mixture and stir in the almond milk and coconut oil.
  • Promptly pour half the mixture into the cake tin as the batter will quickly start to thicken.
  • Spoon in a few tablespoons of the compote, lightly swirl into the batter before pouring the remaining batter on top.
  • Be careful, unlike me, not to let the compote go to the edge of your cake as you will end up with blackened edges to your cake, like I did.
  • Bake at 180C for 40 -45 mins until a knife pushed into the cake comes out clean.
  • Carefully turn the cake out onto a wire rack and cool.
  • Serve with the remaining compote.

Happy foraging. Happy caking.

Amy x


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Super easy summer curry

I’ve been asked several times, well actually about a thousand times what I actually eat and I often find it hard to answer without sounding like I eat nothing but nuts and dust! I eat lots of exciting different things, but put me on the spot and all I can think of is oatcakes and almonds, sounds pretty dry! This doesn’t look boring though does it?

vegan curry

I eat lots of yummy things – honestly! One of my favourite things that I eat for dinner is curry. It REALLY is simple to make and you just let it cook away with whatever is in season and in your fridge. To be fair though I didn’t know how to start making a curry from scratch until a couple of years ago, I just thought you opened the jar or called the local takeaway! I mean it all seemed a little complicated, when the list of ingredients is super long, and talk of making a curry paste and you know you have quite a few ingredients missing! No wonder it seems simpler to reach for the “oh hello takeaway menu” option! Fear not this one is for you!

So, here is a simple curry that gets you started on your making your own curry adventure. In my humble opinion when making one there are a few key spices that you need, one being Cumin and  the other Ground Coriander. I like to always add Turmeric because it is super good for you and makes the dish an awesome colour, but be warned it stains! So, those are the three spices you need here, no long list required!

With these perfect Petty Pan summer squashes and still a shed load of courgettes to get through, a summery squash curry fits perfectly on a chilly August evening!

Patty pan squash

I’m being deliberately vague with how many extra vegetables to add in, as it depends firstly on what you have to hand  – I had mushrooms and some broccoli, and secondly how many there are of you eating. You can use any vegetables!

Summer curry

Summer curry

A spoonful of coconut oil or regular oil
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric
A thumb size piece of grated ginger
A couple of spring onions
1 chilli (unless you don’t like heat)
A tin of coconut milk
A couple of courgettes
3 petty pan squash
A handful of mushrooms
Broccoli
Salt and pepper
A bunch of fresh coriander

1) In a large pan melt your coconut oil and add your cumin, ground coriander and turmeric to cook for a minute. The trick here is to not let them burn, so it is best to not be on too high a heat.
2) Add the onions, ginger and chilli and coat in the spices.
3) Add in the rest of the vegetables and stir.
4) Add the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Turn it down to simmer gently for half an hour or so.
5) I cooked up some brown rice so it is good to get that on at the beginning because it takes about 30 minutes to cook.
6) When ready to serve mix through some chopped coriander and plate up!

You will be licking the plates with this one!

Don’t be intimidated by cooking from scratch it just takes a little planning and then gradually you will get the confidence to start adding some more spices and experimenting.

Happy cooking!

Veronica x

 


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What’s in your make-up?

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The funny thing about writing blog posts is that they rarely turn out how you planned. From the initial concept, to creating it and then typing it up, all sorts of things can happen that will change the outcome.

When I first thought about setting this blog up about a year ago, this was one of the first posts I had in mind. Having been vegan for a couple of months it wasn’t really figuring out what to eat that was challenging, it was figuring out what make-up and toiletries I could buy.

I had a whole host of products that as they ran out I had to replace with cruelty-free alternatives. It all seemed a bit daunting! I was happy to shake up my diet and found it exciting to think of new recipes and discover different foods but I wasn’t that happy about changing my skin-care routine. I mean I had all these products that I’ve been told I NEED for healthy skin. I didn’t want to suddenly start changing them, what if my skin reacted and flared up?! What if, what it… change… argh!

One year on, I finally feel ready to write this blog post, although it is not quite the guide to vegan skin care I had initially envisaged. I have now completely changed my skin-care routine and I can honestly say I feel great about it!

What I’ve realised, funnily enough, is that I really don’t need all those products that glossy magazine are telling me are must haves! First of all I have stopped reading glossy magazines altogether. Once you remove unrealistic and unattainable “beauty” from your life, you really feel a lot better about yourself!

Secondly I realised that my skin has been evolving for millions of years, a bottle full of chemicals isn’t going to suddenly transform how my skin works. In fact all the exposure to synthetic “skin purifying” lotions is going to do is increase my chances of getting cancer.

Thirdly and finally I’ve realised how harmful and wasteful the cosmetics industry is, all the synthetics and chemicals are bad for your skin and bad for the environment. Animals suffer needlessly at the mercy of our of pursuit of beauty and landfills continue to fill up with the insane amounts of packaging. So why oh why am I a part of this ‘beauty’ system?

Over the course of a year I have just about managed to free myself from this system.  I now barely wear any make-up and have significantly cut down on the amount of different products I use. So here is my guide to natural, ethical beauty that follows three simple rules.

Natural, vegan beauty

1. Natural ingredients (no parabens or nasty things)
2. Cruelty free (no testing on animals and no animal products)
3. Minimal / recyclable packaging

Face

One of the main changes to my skin-care routine is that I no longer have use a face wash or cleanser. After battling with acne I realised that stripping my face of its natural oils certainly wasn’t helping things. Now I simply use hot water and a flannel to wash my face morning and night. I use apple cider vinegar as a toner to help control breakouts and around once a week I use my homemade face scrub.

1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Mix together and rub gently over your face, rinse off with warm water, then finish by pressing a warm flannel over your face to remove the coconut oil. I use any leftovers as a foot scrub, why not!

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Make-up

My make-up bag is now pretty empty, I now mainly use just a little eye-shadow and mascara. Neal’s yard have a great range of organic, paraben free, vegan make-up. I also use a little foundation every now and then, unfortunately this Lush one does contain parabens but it is vegan and has a recyclable glass container, so 2 down, 1 to go there.

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Skin care

I have recently started using a solid deodorant from Lush. Having tried many aluminium, paraben-free deodorants over the years, finally, I can say I have found one that works! I use organic coconut oil as a make-up remover, simply rub is gently over your eye lashes then wash off with warm water. Turns out our skin is pretty good at taking care of itself if you keep hydrated and eat well but I occasionally use a little raw shea butter or coconut oil as a moisturiser. One ‘product’ I do still use is suncream, this one from Jason is vegan, oil-Free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic and comes in recyclable packaging.

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Bath & Shower

All these beauties come from Lush in nothing more than a paper bag. The soap, shampoo and conditioner are all solid bars, they contain no preservatives and are vegan!

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Teeth

Natural toothpaste and mouthwash are easy enough to find at your local health food shop. I really like the Kingfisher toothpastes although the tube isn’t recyclable so I’ve still got some work to do there. The Sarakan mouthwash is great and ticks all the natural, vegan and packaging boxes.

I may have set out on this journey to find like for like replacements for my mountain of products but what I discovered has been much better than I had envisaged. Not only are animals no longer suffering for my skincare routine but I have minimised the use of chemicals on my skin and subsequently on the environment and I am creating minimal waste.

The one, very important thing I have not mentioned is diet and the how that affects our skin, nails and hair. It is of course the most important thing of all and something I’m STILL working on. So in the meantime I’d strongly recommend watching Hungry for Change for inspiration.

Enjoy your natural, beautiful self!

Amy x


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Courgette Cake (refined sugar-free)

Summer has to be my favourite time of the year. I mean I’m a big fan of all the seasons really, but there is something about these long light evenings, walking around with bare feet and there being no need to worry about how many layers you need to wear to stay warm….just what to wear when it pours with rain (ah British summers!) I’ve been on the road this week with work and eating away from home as a vegan, and as sugar free as possible is hard! I couldn’t wait to get home for some home cooking and some naturally sweet treats that keep my tummy feeling good.

I’ve been taking some of these and this to work but wanted to come up with something slightly different. We are currently in the midst of courgette season, if you are experiencing a courgette glut (the courgette plant – a plant that keeps on giving) then you will no doubt become a little tiresome of thinking up different ways to cook them!

So a naturally sweet treat that uses up some of those courgettes and it is super easy too……

courgette cake

courgette cake

 

courgette cake

courgette cake

 Courgette Cake

350g grated courgette
1 banana
2 tbsp flax seed egg(add 3 tbsp of water)
80g chopped dates
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tspn vanilla extract
300g spelt flour
2 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn ground ginger
1/2 tspn mixed spice
120g sultanas
1 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn bicarbonate powder
80g chopped walnuts

1) Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
2) Mash the banana and in a large bowl add the flax seed egg, dates, vanilla extract, courgette and coconut oil and mix together to form a big slop.
3) In another bowl combine all the dry ingredients, flour, spices, bicarb and baking powder, walnuts and sultanas, when mixed together add to the wet ingredients.
4) Throughly mix together.
5) Line a loaf tin or grease lightly with oil. Spoon the mixture in a spread evenly.
6) Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

This cake taste lovely when it is still warm or pop it in some tupperware and it will make a perfect eleven o’clock snack at work!

Enjoy cake time!

Veronica x


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Rainbow chard abundance // Cauliflower base pizza

Living in a flat I don’t exactly get the chance to grow and harvest my own food. Even my window sill gardening has come to an abrupt end after that outbreak of flies! So I couldn’t wait to get out of London and head to a pick your own farm with Veronica, and this weekend I finally got the chance.

chard growing

There’s something about harvesting your own food that makes it taste better. And nothing beats eating a sneaky just-picked strawberry. We headed straight to the soft fruits and found some amazing redcurrants that seemed to glow in the sunlight. The strawberries however had pretty much come to an end and the raspberries weren’t quiet ready. The vegetables, well they were in full swing!

rainbow chard

The beans and peas were plentiful but nothing compared to the aptly named rainbow chard. Abundance doesn’t even describe it. It was a bit like being a kid in a sweet shop, so many exciting colours, which one to pick next?

I hadn’t even planned on harvesting any chard as I often get it in my veg bag and its not a particular favourite of mine but when I saw it all growing, I couldn’t resist.

Rainbow chard stems

So what to do with all this chard? I decided on wilting it down with some onion and garlic to get that deep, rich irony flavour. I quite fancied rolling it all up in a crepe but having still not mastered the vegan crepe I opted for topping a pizza with it.

With cauliflowers back in season I thought I’d share a cauliflower pizza base recipe. If you don’t have a cauliflower to hand you can always use Veronica’s spelt flour base.

IMG_1176 IMG_1175

Rainbow chard pizza with a cauliflower base

For the base:

1 cauliflower
100g brown rice flour
2 tbsp flax seed
4 tbsp water
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
large pinch of  za’atar (or dried herbs)
salt and pepper

For the topping:

1 tbsp tomato puree
1 green onion
2 cloves garlic
Large bunch of rainbow chard
Nutmeg
Rapeseed oil
Mushrooms
1/2 block of tofu

  • Start off by making the base. Grind the flax seeds to a fine powder and whisk together with 2 tbsp water until it starts to thicken, then set aside.
  • Roughly chop up the cauliflower and place the florets into a food processor and blend until the become fine breadcrumbs.
  • Place the ground cauliflower into a large piece of muslin and squeeze out the water from the cauliflower.
  • Measure out the rice flour in a large mixing bowl and add the cauliflower, nutritional yeast, za’atar, salt and pepper and mix together.
  • Give the flax seed mixture another whisk and pour into the cauliflower mix and combine with your hands.
  • Add in 2 tbsp of water bring the mixture together to form a dough like ball.
  • Place the dough in a pizza tray lined with baking paper and flatten out using your hands to about 1/2 cm thick.
  • Bake in a pre-heat oven for about half an hour until golden brown. After 15 mins take the base out of the oven and place another sheet of baking paper on top of the base and another tray or large flat plate. Very carefully flip the base over and transfer back onto the pizza tray. Bake for the remaining 15 mins.
  • Whilst the base is cooking, prepare the topping. Finely slice the onions and fry off in a frying pan in some olive oil until they start to brown and caramelise.
  • Add in the crushed garlic cloves and the finely chopped chard stems. Cook for 5 mins until the stems start to soften.
  • Add in the finely shredded chard leaves and cook until they most of the water is cooked out.
  • Grate in some nutmeg and season to taste.
  • Whilst the chard is cooking, finely slice the mushrooms and break the tofu up in a bowl using a fork.
  • Remove the cooked base from the oven and spread 1 tbsp of tomato puree over the base.
  • Spoon on the cooked chard mixture and spread out evenly.
  • Sprinkle on the tofu, scatter the sliced mushrooms and season again before putting back in the oven for around 10 mins.
  • Remove from the oven and carefully slice and serve the pizza. The cauliflower base isn’t as robust as a bread base but if you have this in mind and handle it carefully it will hold together nicely.

Amy x


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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.

afterlight-7

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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