I grow a modest amount of fruit and vegetables in my back garden. This year the list has included cherries, pears, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, raddichio, peas, beans, courgettes, red onion squash, cabbage, chickpeas, leeks, kale and chard.
Aside from the sheer pleasure which gardening provides, I also know exactly how each plant has been grown: carefully and tenderly nurtured. Of course, I grow only a tiny proportion of the fruit and vegetables that we eat. Most of the rest comes via a weekly veg box from a local organic farm.
The only additions I put into the soil in my garden, apart from water, are home-made compost and – during the height of the growing season – a weekly dose of organic seaweed solution.
I’m sure the food I grow and eat tastes good in part because I know that it contains only natural goodness.
By contrast, non-organic, commercially grown fruit and vegetables are grown routinely with a variety of agrochemicals. As a result, 30% of fruit and vegetables for sale in UK supermarkets contain traces of glyphosate, as does non-organic bread. Glyphosate is a herbicide which the World Health Organisation has labelled “probably carcinogenic“.
Significant residues of other pesticides and herbicides are also to be found in non-organic fresh produce.
Those fresh fruit and vegetables which have been found consistently to have the highest levels of pesticide and herbicide residues include citrus fruits, strawberries, spinach, pears, pre-packed salad leaves, cucumber and tomatoes (non-organic tomatoes can be treated with up to thirty different pesticides, which penetrate the skin into the fruit itself).
Those fruit and vegetables with the lowest levels of agrochemicals include beetroot, onions, figs, mushrooms and corn on the cob.
Organic does not always mean more expensive, but even if it does it seems wise to pay extra for organic wherever we can, especially when it comes to those worst offenders. We only have one body, we really should be careful about what we put into it.
It’s been an astonishingly good summer for growing outdoor tomatoes. The yield from just a few tomato plants in my garden has far surpassed my hopes as well as my expectations.
Here, I am using some of my lovely matina heritage tomatoes to make some simple but very more-ish tomato fritters.
This quick and simple vegan dish, based on a classic Greek called keftedes, would work well as a light lunch or a dinner party starter, accompanied by the vegan tzatziki sauce and a simple green salad.
750 g ripe tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and finely chopped
120 g organic self-raising flour (use GF flour for gluten-free version)
3 spring onions (scallions), white and green parts, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsh sea salt
for the tzatziki
250 g organic vegan yoghurt (I used coconut)
1 cucumber, peeled and deseeded with a melon baller or spoon
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
pinch sea salt
pinch smoked paprika
1. For the tzatziki, grate the cucumber then place in a clean tea towel and squeeze firmly to remove as much moisture as possible. Tip the yoghurt into a bowl and stir in the cucumber, garlic, olive oil, mint, sea salt and lemon juice. Sprinkle the smoked paprika across the top. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
2. Place the chopped tomato, mint, parsley, oregano, spring onions and sea salt in a mixing bowl. Sift the flour into the bowl and stir until the mixture comes together in a thick, sticky batter.
3. Pour the olive oil into a frying pan and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully place spoonfuls of the fritter mixture into the pan. Do this in batches to avoid crowing the pan. Cook the keftedes for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown on one side, then carefully flip over and cook the other side for the same amount of time. Remove from the pan, drain on kitchen paper and serve whilst still warm, accompanied by the tzatziki and some lemon wedges.