Tag Archives: supermarkets

Apples, straight from the tree…or why every garden should have one

The apple you see on that plate is the apple I just picked from my tree. I picked it, buffed it against my shirt and bit into it. Crisp but not ‘rock hard’, juicy and…so sweet the flavour was like an explosion in my mouth!

The apple in question is a Fuji, and Fuji are one of the sweetest of the commercial apples, but my home-grown beauty was a factor of ten sweeter because I didn’t pick it until it was fully ripe. Commercial apples are picked earlier and stored in a cool room to increase their ‘shelf life’ in the supermarket. Convenience and greater profits for the supermarket, a loss for the consumer.

How much of a loss?

I can only guess at the nutritional loss, but I can tell you that my apples taste amazing. And! The land on which they grew has not been sprayed for the 16 years of my stewardship. That’s how long we’ve lived here in Warrandyte. As the block was originally a horse paddock, it’s probably been herbicide and pesticide free for much longer than that. For me though, the bottom line is flavour.

I stopped buying commercial apricots the year my apricot tree had its first crop. The flavour of that warm, sun-ripened fruit took me back to my childhood when my Dad grew a few fruit trees in the back yard. The one I remember even now is the nectarine tree. It was big enough for an eight year old to climb without getting stuck, and I’d sit in its branches, eating nectarines.

In fact, there have been home-grown fruit trees in my life for all but a few years in my twenties when I was renting. There have been fruit trees in the Offspring’s life too, and I remember the look of wonder on a young nephew’s face when he picked a ripe apricot from my tree and tasted it for the first time. These are the moments that can trigger life-long food choices, and those food choices can influence life-long health.

Many schools in Australia have created veggie patches for the kids to tend and taste, which is great, but what about the home garden? How many kids get to go home after school and pick a sun-ripened apple for a snack instead of something that comes in a packet? And what better reason for a kid to go outside into the fresh air than to forage in the garden?

“Oh, we’re too busy to grow fruit!”

“The garden is too small.”

“I don’t have time to look after fruit trees. Just mowing the damn grass is enough.”

“Don’t you have to spray them to stop the bugs and stuff? I don’t want the kids to eat stuff that’s been sprayed.”

The excuses are legion, but I believe the root excuse, the one that no one acknowledges is that modern parents grew up eating only commercial fruit and vegetables so they literally have no idea what ‘real’ fruit tastes like. As a result, they can’t see the value of growing fruit trees.

To those parents I say – “Just give one fruit tree a try.”

My apple tree is small, and it has three different apples grafted onto it. For a while I thought the alpacas had ‘pruned’ one of the grafted branches to death, but it came back, and this year it is covered with so much fruit I’ve had to hold the branches up with ropes! Sadly I can’t remember what variety this rejuvenated graft belongs to.

Anyway, my point is that I did not take care of my apple tree for a long time, but it survived and when I gave it some protection [from the alpacas], and a bit of compost and mulch, it roared back with a truly bumper crop. Just in time for autumn/winter.

Feijoas are easy to grow too. They’re the small, dark green fruit in front of the apples:

Fuji apples and Feijoas

C’mon, parents. You don’t need a lot of space to grow one, single fruit tree, and the benefits will astound you. More importantly, you will see that same look of wonder on your kids’ faces the first time they taste fruit that actually has a flavour. Find a sunny spot and plant a fruit tree. Your kids will be the beneficiaries.

Okay, end foodie rant. Have a great day everyone.

cheers,
Meeks


Covid-19 – micro droplets

With so many countries re-opening after lockdown, the risk of a second wave grows every day, especially as research now shows that the standard social distancing recommendations are…far too optimistic.

The research, conducted in Japan, uses lasers and special cameras to capture how the virus is spread, and how far it goes. The video below has some English dubbing and/or English sub-titles. Although the whole, hour+ video is interesting, the segment about the actual research begins at 29:10 and ends at approximately 35:18:

The research shows that even speaking can spread the virus via both large droplets and tiny micro droplets. The large droplets fall to the ground fairly quickly, even in an enclosed space with little air circulation, but the micro droplets remain in the air for over 20 minutes. Because they’re so small, they also spread a great deal further than the recommended 1.5 or 2 metres.

The take home message is that confined spaces – like public transport, office buildings, shopping malls, supermarkets and classrooms – are the perfect breeding grounds for micro droplet borne virus particles.

The good news is that masks do reduce the distance that both large and small droplets can travel. And /that/ is why countries that mandate the wearing of masks in public have less viral transmission than Western countries in which people are ‘self conscious’ about wearing masks. Apparently it’s okay to become infected and infect others, but heaven forbid that we should look silly

And now a word about the hypocrisy of my government in scolding protestors attending the Black Lives Matter demonstrations:

  • those protests ALL happened in the open air where normal air circulation [with or without wind] would have dispersed the droplets quickly,
  • this is in contrast to people returning to work – at the behest of this government – in confined spaces with air conditioning instead of natural ventilation. Does anyone else remember the legionnaire outbreaks caused by contaminated, commercial air conditioning units?
  • a great many of the protestors wore masks,
  • this compares to people travelling or working in confined spaces without masks.
  • the organisers of the protests, at least here in Australia, were handing out masks and hand sanitiser to help reduce the risk of infection,
  • I’m not aware of any public transport employee handing out masks or hand sanitiser to travellers. Ditto supermarkets. Office buildings etc etc etc.

It’s the height of hypocrisy to say that it’s okay to catch the virus from public transport, or offices, factories, shops, restaurants etc…to save jobs…and the economy…and the effing budget bottom line…but it’s not okay to catch it while protesting state sanctioned murder.

And we all nod wisely and say ‘tut tut’.

I find that more disturbing than I can say. When did we turn into such placid sheep?

Meeks

p.s. My thanks to Dr. John Campbell for talking about the Japanese research in his latest video update: https://youtu.be/kmo_1Tcdp30


Diversity and supermarket shelves

big supermarket 2

courtesy of wikimedia.org

Has anyone else noticed how little true diversity there is in our supermarkets?

We have a staggering amount of food for sale, but most of it comes from the same, few manufacturers. And the bigger the supermarket chain, the fewer the actual brands they carry.

Now I understand that supermarkets are businesses, and to succeed they have to give customers the products they want, but why do we have to have half a mile of breakfast cereal all starting with a ‘K’? Or soups all starting with… nevermind.

Now contrast that first photo with this one :

Courtesy of teachandtravelblogspot.com

Courtesy of teachandtravelblogspot.com

This is a supermarket in Iringa, Africa. The thing that struck me was the lack of blinding patterns on the shelves. Yes, it is a very, very small supermarket, and you or I would probably not find what we wanted on those shelves, but you must admit the produce has variety!

I personally do most of my shopping at the smaller supermarkets, like IGA, [Independent Grocers Association] because :

a. The fresh produce, including meat, is fresher, and so I waste less food [and money],

b. The smaller supermarkets actually have far more choice in terms of grocery products. For example I can buy Jalna sour cream at IGA. I can’t buy it ‘S…way’.

c. If I ask my local IGA to bring in a product for me, 9/10 they will.

The times when I do go to the Big Two supermarkets it’s usually to stock up on cheap items like toilet paper, or a particular brand of cat food.

So what’s going on? Are the Big Two supermarkets doing what bookstores do, and selling premium shelf space to the highest bidder? [You did know bookstores did that, right? That’s why bestsellers are shown with the cover out, or on tables, or in the front window. Or maybe that’s how they become bestsellers – by being so visible].

Anyway, my point is that those miles and miles of one brand items do more than just restrict the choices available to consumers, they restrict competition as well. And competition is the cornerstone of Capitalism.  The instant you allow a few players to monopolize supply and demand, you are undermining the whole capitalist system.

We can see the effects all over the world as capitalism mutates into corporatism. However, nowhere is it more in your face than with food. Food, like air, is a basic commodity that no one can do without, yet if you look at the supply chain you will see that a few ginormous multinational companies control most of the seeds used in agriculture. That translates into food production.

That raw food is then taken, and manufactured by a few more multinationals, who then sell it to other corporations who control food distribution – i.e. supermarkets. And the end result is lots of ‘stuff’ that is all basically the same.

If you walk down the aisles of your local supermarket you will see a Who’s Who of the biggest companies on earth. And we put them there.

We could change this status quo by not buying certain brands, but how realistic is that when we have so little real choice about what to buy?

In many ways, this lack of choice is the direct result of killing off the small deli’s, the small greengrocers, and the small butcher shops of yesteryear. Those small businesses epitomized what Capitalism was meant to be. But of course, whenever you have competition there is the expectation that someone will ‘win’, and the corporates have won.

R.I.P. consumer choice. 😦

Meeks


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