Archive for the ‘healthy living’ Category

Orange pippins and other apples

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

You may remember that we had a delightful surprise at the end of Granny Smith Natural Food Market’s first summer of trading when we received a generous haul of heirloom apples from Orange. In 2003 our store was reviewed in The Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘Good Living’ guide. The review was seen by Borry and Gaye Gartrell, heirloom fruit orchardists and winemakers, who farm some magnificent country on the slopes of Mount Canobolas near Orange in central western NSW. My experience of community-supported agriculture, mentioned in the article, encouraged them to bring me some of their fabulous apple varieties. Everyone raved about the beautiful, developed flavours of the fruit. Like most fruits and vegetables, true heirloom varieties rarely make it to market. With more than 170 varieties of apples growing at an altitude of 1000 metres, Borry knows them all. Some are perfect for apple sauce, some for drying, some for eating fresh, some for cider. Some are super-early, ripening in January, and some – like Granny Smiths – can still be on the trees when the first snow falls on Mount Canobolas in May.

I’ve been intending to go up there each year to get some more of this amazing fruit but, being busy, it never happened. That is, until late March 2011, when I drove to Orange. Though the apple season was mostly behind us, the next-to-last of late season fruit was still on the trees, having grown slowly through the warmer months to become fully-flavoured. I helped Borry pick three late season varieties: Democrats, Roman Beauties and King Davids.

A few weeks later I returned for the last of the Cox’s Orange Pippins – the world’s finest dessert apple, Lord Lambourne, Lady of the Snows, the superb Carrington, and Buncombe. By this time – late in March – some of the Borrodell apples had developed a honey core: golden and juicy through the centre, like honey comb, the hallmark of intense flavour development in fruit still on the tree.

Lord Lambourne is described on authoritative website as one of the earliest of the season’s English-style dessert apples. Carrington ‘Early’ is described by a Tasmanian orchardist as a ‘Christmas apple’, small, red and with bland white flesh. This is not how I would rate the Carrington picked from Borry’s orchard this autumn past. Beautifully crisp much after Christmas, it was superb. Buncombe – also known in North America as Red Winter Permain or Red Fall Pippin – is thought to have been raised in North Carolina in the 1800s. It is described as a high quality dessert apple.

We’ve been very pleased at Granny Smith’s to enjoy a wonderful response from customers to our stocking – albeit for a short season – these heritage apples from Orange. One customer ordered a case of Bramley’s Seedling. She was overjoyed to find that someone not too far from Sydney was growing this quintessential English cooking apple. The intense acidity of Bramley’s guarantees, when cooked, ‘the lightest and fluffiest of purees’, according to England remains the only place in the world where a distinction is made between ‘eaters’ and ‘cookers’ among varieties of apple. Bramley’s is undoubtedly the perfect ‘cooker’.

Borry and Gaye Gartrell’s Borrodell on the Mount heritage apple orchard
Heirloom apple authoritative website

Sydney’s seasonal food guide

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Sydney's Seasonal Food, a Slow Food guide.

We’ve been very happy to see our farmers’ Sydney Sustainable Markets at Taylor Square support Slow Food’s Sydney’s Seasonal Food guide, released late in 2010. ‘For the first time ever,’ says the markets’ website, ‘a resource is available to assist in answering the question: ‘What’s in season now in Sydney?’ We’d recommend the guide to anyone who’s ever asked that question.’

Slow Food Sydney’s John Newton and I compiled the guide to help Sydneysiders to re-establish connection with our food supply. It is also another means of supporting Sydney region farmers and fishermen.

If we bow to the dictates of Australia’s two major food grocery chains – which care only about price – we’ll end up bypassing smaller, local growers in favour of larger, more industrial producers and imports. Larger growers often can produce food more cheaply, but smaller growers can produce a more diverse range of crops and get them to market faster.

Local growers also look after the land around our cities and provide the attractive rural landscapes we so enjoy. Losing this connection to our food supply is dangerous to our health and our culture. Strong societies have always been built on agriculture. We cannot afford to lose ours to the tenuous promise of a more efficient ‘somewhere else’.

The guide includes lists of local, seasonally-produced food month by month and detailed comments about the availability of particular varieties.

The zone which we consider local is the Hawkesbury-Nepean floodplain farming region to the south-west and north-west of the city. When we can’t (find produce that’s local), then we specify New South Wales or, in some extreme cases, such as rare turkeys bred seasonally, we point the reader to a useful source, wherever it may be.

The guide also contains information about Sydney seafood and the breeding and raising of animals for meat, comprising beef, lamb, goat, pork and poultry, including game.

The guide is available for purchase at selected Sydney farmers’ markets, such as Everleigh and Taylor Square, and from retailers, including our own Granny Smith Natural Food Market. John and I also hope that chefs and independent grocers and butchers concerned about food diversity and seasonality will also stock the guide.

Buying the Guide
Sydney’s Seasonal Food – a 40-page soft cover publication – is available over the counter from Granny Smith Natural Food Market for $10.00. All proceeds aid Slow Food Sydney. You can call in and buy one from us at 6 Princes Street, Turramurra, or email or telephone Slow Food Sydney’s Syd Pemberton on 0415 737 631 and she can mail you one (with a small additional charge to cover postage). Interested re-sellers should also contact Syd to discuss wholesale purchases.

Raw milk

Friday, November 27th, 2009
Healthy cows give healthy milk

Healthy cows give healthy milk.

We are asked for raw milk several times a week. Whereas raw goats’ milk is legal to produce and sell for human consumption, cows’ milk is not. Regulations against its sale for human consumption are clear and our government has determined that its ingestion is potentially dangerous. We sell both types of milk here, though we must advise you that only raw goats’ milk is suitable for human consumption. The raw cows’ milk we sell is only for bathing. One suitable use might be to swirl no more than 1-2 tablespoons under the running water as the bath is filling. This makes its use very economical, especially with its reputed skin-softening properties.

It’s been pointed out before that the human race existed long before Louis Pasteur was around. You can find a lot of information about raw versus pasteurised milk online, including Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s working papers. Interestingly, despite working jointly on almost all food regulations, New Zealand is parting ways with Australia on this issue and is set to allow the production of all raw milk cheeses. It is not clear however that they will allow raw milk sales. Australia’s proposal is to possibly allow the production of hard cheeses using raw milk but stopping well short of permitting the manufacture and sale of soft cheeses or raw milk for human consumption.

Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, was recently in Australia. He reported having dinner with the Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia and pointed out that the cheese they were eating was made with raw milk in Europe and then imported. “Are Australians to be protected against the “dangers” of raw cheese made by Australians but okay eating raw cheese from Europe?” he asked. If you’d like to see Carlo Petrini’s speech at the Sydney Opera House in October, click here.

If you are interested in the issue of raw milk and raw cheese, you may like to sign the online petition organised by Slow Food Australia, which is being conducted by pioneering, beyond-organic farmer Michael Croft.

You can also find out more about this subject from Real Milk Australia, advocates of raw milk.

Note that the views expressed by Real Milk Australia are not necessarily those of Granny Smith Natural Food Market. We most certainly do not condone the consumption of raw cows’ milk.

Please remember that we do not advocate that you or any of your family drink raw cows’ milk. It is clearly sold as a bath milk only and you should be very careful to avoid getting any on or near your face when you’ve put it into your bathwater. Please be careful!

New season’s olive oil

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

RESEARCH demonstrates that a Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest to eat. The basis for much of this type of eating is olive oil.

Now there are good oils and not-so-good oils, so you should be discerning about what you buy. In addition, oils don’t last forever so like any food, it’s better when oils are fresh. That’s why we’re so excited to offer new season 2009, fresh, 100 per cent Australian, 100 per cent pure, extra virgin olive oils from both South Australia and the Hunter Valley.

If you’ve looked through Maggie Beer’s latest magnificent cookbook Maggie’s Harvest, you’ll find in the entry under ‘Extra virgin olive oil’ a glowing description about Dr Rod Mailer, principal research scientist with the NSW Department of Primary Industries. ‘At the forefront of olive oil industry research, he has worked for many years to define the right harvest times and the best storage conditions to produce optimum-quality olive oil,’ Maggie writes.

I’m very pleased to say that the two oils we’re stocking at Granny Smith Natural Food Market have both been personally recommended to me by Dr Mailer, so you know they represent the best in terms of quality, genuine provenance and flavour.

The Bunna Bunoo olive oil from the Hunter Valley is made by Chris and Irma Iacono from their olive vineyard at Vacy. It is delicious, grassy and deliciously flavoured. Our own brand oil comes from the Limestone Coast of South Australia. Its perfect Mediterranean climate has imbued this expertly blended oil with a mild yet distinctively olive flavour you can use on everything.

We want you to enjoy olive oils as part of your day-to-day eating so we’ve worked hard to offer these premium products at an everyday price. Come on in and ask to taste one!

Tomato Magic

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Sometimes something really special appears in store. Let me introduce you to Alf and Lee Sorbello’s magnificent heirloom tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are those that grow true from seed and can be passed from one generation to another. They are gold. Today most growers will choose hybrid varieties that give them the highest yield and can be tumbled into a box and transported vast distances. Taste, quality and beauty are secondary. Many varieties have entirely disappeared: a blow to our culinary heritage.

Alf and Lee have decades of tomato growing experience and what’s more, they are absolutely passionate about tomatoes! That’s why they grow dozens and dozens of varieties of tomatoes with poetic names like Black Krim, Green Zebra and Yellow Pear. You’re unlikely to find most of them anywhere else in Australia. In fact with their years spent collecting tomato varieties, you’d be hard-pressed to find their selection anywhere else in the world outside a tomato seed bank.

Now you know how much I bang on about seasonality. It’s important to understand what grows locally and when. A local diet means less energy spent on transport and fresher produce on your table. Seasonality can be affected by many things: weather, greenhouses, storage and even the expertise of the grower.

There’s no doubt tomatoes are a real taste of summer. Their delicious flavour was something you had to wait until the warmer months to enjoy. In the past you ate tomatoes through the colder months from cans: in rich pasta sauces and stews for example. So much so that many people don’t realize that tomatoes only appear in the Sydney region at Christmas when they’re grown outdoors.

Alf and Lee’s expertise allows them to grow their fruit all year round. Yes tomatoes are a fruit! Grown undercover just across Galston Gorge at Middle Dural, Alf and Lee represent a vital but disappearing part of Sydney’s food production heritage. They minimize or entirely avoid the cocktail of unwelcome chemicals many conventional growers use. Their investment in covers for their crop allows them to reliably turn out dozens of varieties right through the winter when other tomatoes are trucked in from far north Queensland, thousands of kilometres away.

The tomatoes Alf and Lee grow are magnificent. Full of flavour and beautiful to look at, don’t be caught out thinking that they all have to turn red. Some of them stay yellow, some black, some green even. When they give under slight pressure, they’re ready to enjoy. For a beautiful and special Sunday brunch, try slicing some perfectly ripe tomatoes of various colours on a platter, drizzle them with quality olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar and finish off with a generous grind of salt and pepper. And don’t forget to toast the growers for all their hard work!

The Real Granny Smith