THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Feb25

Fairtrade Fortnight: Peeling back the Banana Story

Yesterday was the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight. This year the campaign is in support of banana farmers who are struggling to make a living from their crop. Supermarkets have almost halved the price of bananas over the last ten years, meaning it is farmers who bear the brunt of our savings.

Buying Fairtrade bananas means workers have:

Safe conditions to work in.

Earn enough for a decent standard of living.

Have rights and benefits.

The idea of sourcing all your food from the local area is a good aim. But in the winter months the body begins to crave something a little more exotic. A fruit like pineapple becomes a real treat. We bought one from Riverford Organic last week and went to roast it with vanilla seeds…

Pineapple

… delicious. Less acidic than orange or grapefruit, and the flesh has a strong almost meaty texture.

For a more luxurious dish, try adding rum and star anise as well.

If you want to stay local with your pineapple, why not grow one yourself? Full instructions are given here by Bob Flowerdew. You may find they are surprisingly easy to grow!

Two hundred years ago a Head Gardener’s reputation was built on their ability to grow a pineapple for the household. Originally a South American plant, the first pineapple came to England from Barbados in 1657. Dutchman Henry Telende, the head gardener at Pembroke House, began cultivating nearly 50 fruiting plants. In a brick-lined pit they placed a layer of fresh horse dung. They then covered this with an even thicker layer of tanners bark (a powder made from oak bark, which would keep a constant heat of 25 degrees.) The pineapple would go into this pit and then be covered with glass. The water given to the pineapples by Telende and his team was also heated to be at soil temperature when given to the plant.

James Barnes (who had worked at Cranford House in Essex, but most famously gardened for nearly thirty years at Bicton in Devon) became acknowledged as the best pineapple grower by the mid 1800’s. He had the use of a pit, which meant he could have, “a thorough command of the root temperature… abundance of light, heat and ventilation.” That seems about right for growing such an exotic looking fruit.

Do think Fairtrade when shopping. It is not more expensive, it is actually the true value of the product – when everyone involved in producing it gets the fair deal you yourself would want.

And good luck growing pineapples at home!

Mar19

Wasting Water

Well worth a read in the BBC today – a note on how wasting water in the UK “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby.” Read the report here. I have written a talk about how we use water in the  garden. It was written when I moved from Hampshire to Essex and found out for myself just how dry this area of the UK is. It completely changed the way I garden. The lack of such a precious resource as water made me question what we can do to save it, store it and …

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Mar14

The Foie Gras That Tastes Like Nature

Ethical Foie Gras? Is That A Real Thing?   Foie gras – can it be ‘grown’ ethically? The video showing how this farmer works suggests it can… We first read about this in a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber. I loved it and I love how Eduardo the farmer, who farms on the Dehesa in Spain, has a ‘take half leave half rule’. When talking about how the geese eat his olives… “They’re always quite fair. If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s …

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Mar04

Hardy Orchids Via James Wong

Hardy orchids – here is a subject I would love to know more about – so lo and behold, James Wong has written about it in the Guardian! Read the article about hardy orchids here. I love having orchids in the house, just your usual run of the mill buy them in any shop orchids, but it is a pleasure to read about the plants that will grow outside and cope with this weather. (This insane weather! From the hottest days of February on record to Storm Freya, all within a week. Weather is always such a factor in gardening, but …

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