What a waste!

According to a recently published report by the UK Institute of Mechanical Engineers a huge proportion of the world’s food – between 30 and 50 per cent – is thrown away as waste. Some crops are not even harvested because they do not meet the exacting demands for appearance (rather than flavour) of the big supermarkets. Up to half of all food bought in the US and western Europe is thrown away – a ridiculous effect of affluence and changed shopping behaviour.

I find these figures shocking. Lo Jardinièr and I rarely throw away any food at all. This is partly because we are lucky to have a weekly market and a very good épicerie in the village, within a couple of minutes’ walk from our house. This means that we shop for food every day, buying good quality food quickly and easily without having to do a big weekly shop at a supermarket which almost always leads to waste because it’s impossible to know what you’re going to need for a whole week and to plan to use all the ingredients that supermarket design tempts you to buy. Sadly, if people don’t use their local shops then they close, leaving the wasteland of out-of-town hypermarkets and car parks which are becoming common in all large and even smaller towns across western Europe. There are all kinds of issues involved here to do with planning, food quality and consumer expectations especially, but policies and practices have to change if we are to avoid ‘the tragedy of waste’, as the report calls it, and if we are going to be able to feed the estimated 9 billion people in the world in 2075.

One of the reasons that Lo Jardinièr and I rarely throw away food is that we love leftovers and always use them up in some way. Today’s lunch was a good example of this:

Roast vegetables with feta, chickpeas and tahini dressing

We had some pumpkin, potatoes, onion, garlic, a carrot, a couple of mushrooms, one goats’ cheese and a piece of feta.

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We parboiled the potatoes, pumpkin and carrot, chopped into 2 cm cubes. They could have been roasted from raw but we were a bit short of time. We put them all with the sliced onion and peeled garlic cloves in a roasting tray with some olive oil, salt, a whole paprika pepper and some bay leaves and cooked them in the oven until they were soft – about 25 minutes, although it would have taken about an hour if we hadn’t parboiled them first.

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When the vegetables were nearly cooked, about 10 minutes before the end of the roasting time, we added the sliced mushrooms, half a tin of chickpeas, and the two cheeses cut into 1 cm cubes.

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While the vegetables were cooking I made a tahini dressing by crushing a clove of garlic with some sea salt in a pestle and mortar, adding a teaspoon of paprika, a tablespoon of lemon juice and two tablespoons of tahini and mixing to make a thick sauce or dressing which we poured over the vegetables at the table. A delicious way of using up some of the oddments we had ‘leftover’ in the kitchen!

Today’s harvest

It has suddenly turned cold and windy and after some rain yesterday we didn’t need to water the garden.  We’d intended to eat our lunch there, but it was too chilly for that so we just did some work with the tomato plants – tying them and pinching out sideshoots because they are growing so quickly now – and picked vegetables.

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A basket full of lettuce and chard ….

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the chard again, some haricot beans and some last stragglers of mangetout peas, which are nearly over now.

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And in just five minutes or so we picked nearly a kilo of griottes (sour cherries) from our neighbour’s tree, at his invitation.  I’ve put a few in a jar with sugar and Armagnac to leave in the cupboard for at least six months until they make a delicious fruit-filled liqueur which makes a good digestif.  We ate a few of the cherries for lunch, but although they have a good flavour they are quite tart.   Most of them went into a pan, stoned first, with the same weight in jam-making sugar to make three pots of jam.

Global food justice

Today Oxfam UK launched a campaign for global food justice.  I was alerted to it by Blipfoto, the photo journal site on which I post a daily image, when it was suggested that we should have a virtual global picnic to help promote the Oxfam campaign.  This was my contribution (and a very good lunch too):

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All the food and wine in this photo except the slice of lemon (from Spain) comes from the village where I live or the nearby sea.  The global food and environmental crisis is something I think about a lot, and have written about on my food and gardening blogs for several years. In order to help change the world, we in western countries have to accept that our lives must change and that we cannot continue to exploit developing countries for our needs. As my small contribution to this, I try to eat only food that comes from within 100 kilometres of where I live and I grow as much of my own as I can.

We shouldn’t expect developing countries to grow the products which make our lives easier or more pleasant, at the expense of those people’s needs. An article in yesterday’s Guardian by Felicity Lawrence highlighted the problems of people in Guatemala who grow palm oil for biofuels so that people in rich countries can feel less guilty about driving their cars while the workers themselves are unable to feed their families properly.

Apart from concern about my carbon footprint, sustainability and my share of the earth’s resources, I have selfish reasons for eating local food – it tastes so much better if it hasn’t travelled long distances and especially so if it’s been grown in our own garden!

>Carbon footprints / Empreintes de carbon

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There’s a campaign in the UK and the rest of the world for everyone to reduce their carbon footprint by 10 per cent by 2010. It something small which we can all do for the future of the planet, even though I believe that politicians have to take a much bigger role in this.

Il y a une campagne pour la réduction d’émissions de carbon de tout le monde par 10 pour cent avant 2010. C’est quelque chose que tout le monde peut faire pour l’avenir de la planète, mème si les politiciens doivent prendre un role plus important.

I used the calculator on the website Carbon footprint to calculate our footprint and found that Lo Jardinièr and I are each responsible for 4.74 tonnes of carbon emissions per year:

House 0.41

Flights 0

Car 1.16

Bus & rail 0.06

Secondary 3.11 (food, entertainment, clothes, etc.)

J’ai calculé sur le site Carbon footprint et j’ai trouvé que chaqu’un de nous deux, Lo Jardinièr et moi, sommes resonsable pour 4.74 tonnes d’émissions de carbon par an. La moyenne pour la France est 6.2, mais il faut réduire ce chiffre pour le monde entière à 2 tonnes pour sauver la planète.

Our problem is that we already lead a comparatively low-carbon life, so that it’s difficult to find ways we can reduce it further. The average for France is 6.20 tonnes, for the UK it is 14 and for all industrialised nations it is 11. We can’t let these figures make us feel complacent, though, since the target – what we must do to save the planet – is 2 tonnes per person.

There are some suggestions for cutting emissions on the Guardian website – here. I’ll be reading through them carefully to see what we can do. / Il y a des suggestions (en anglais) pour réduire les émissions de carbon sur le site du Guardianici.

While I’ve been writing this it has started to rain! We hope it will be enough to make a difference to the garden, as we’ve had no proper rain for three months.

>Another Cuban link / Un lien cubain encore

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I’ve mentioned before the amazing efforts that Cuba has made to develop self-sufficient organic agriculture due to the economic isolation it has experienced since the collapse of the Soviet system in 1990.  Cuba has had to make the sort of adjustments to industry and agriculture which we will all have to make as oil production declines over the coming decades.  Putting political arguments aside, there is much to admire here.  The country has progressed from reliance on imports and industrialised, chemically fertilised agriculture and horticulture to locally based organic fruit and vegetable production.  In the capital city, Havana, 50 per cent of the food needed for the population is produced within the city in community gardens and roof terraces.  In smaller towns 80 to 100 per cent of food is grown within 5 km.

Depuis l’effondrement du système Sovietique en 1990, Cuba doit développer un système d’agriculture biologique et autosuffisant.  À Havana, la capitale du pays, ils produisent 50 pour cent de la nourriture dans la ville, dans les jardins communitaire et les terraces.  Les villes plus petites produisent entre 80 et 100 pour cent de leurs besoins alimentaires.

On the Guardian gardening blog today I found the link to this film about what is happening in Cuba: The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.  It’s quite a long film – about 50 minutes – but it’s worth watching because it shows what can be done by people faced with the energy crisis which all developed and developing countries will certainly face very soon.  Most importantly, I think, the film shows the importance of communities, of people working together for each other as well as themselves.  As Patricia Allison, a permaculturalist, says in the film:

It’s not the technology, it’s the human relationships …

I hope that, if one good thing comes out of the current economic crisis, it will be an end to the culture in developed countries where people get into their cars and drive to a supermarket to buy their food, and that more people grow their own food or buy locally produced sustainable food, helping and supporting each other, as they do in Cuba.

Sur le blog du jardinage du Guardian aujourd’hui, j’ai trouvé le lien pour ce film autour de l’agriculture en Cuba: The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.  C’est un film long, mais ça vaut la peine parce qu’il montre ce qui est possible dans une crise de l’énergie et surtout l’importance des communautés dans lesquelles les gens travaillent ensemble pour les autres ainsi que eux-mêmes.  Patricia Allison, une permacultrice, dit dans le film:

Ce n’est pas la technologie, c’est les relations humaines ….

J’éspère que la crise economique va apporter la fin de la culture d’aller aux grandes surfaces en voiture pour acheter la nourriture.  J’éspère que encore de gens cultiveront leurs jardins et acheteront la nourriture locale et durable, comme ils font en Cuba.

>Old walls and spring growth / Vieux murs et la croissance de printemps

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Archaeologists have found the remains of medieval walls on ground near the gardens where building work is scheduled to start soon.  The walls are part of the system of water mills and streams on the hillside.  Maybe the find will delay the building work … who knows?

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Les archéologues ont trouvé des vestiges des vieux murs mediévaux près des jardins où le lotissement va être construit bientôt.  Peut-être cette découverte retardera les travaux …?

Sowing tomatoes / Semer les tomates

Even when we’re away from home Lo Jardinièr can’t stop picking up recyclable materials.  In Uzès after the market on Saturday, he found on the pavement some polystyrene cases which had been used to carry shellfish.  He couldn’t resist picking them up and bringing them home – they’ll be very useful for sowing our tomato and pepper seeds in.

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Toujours le recyclage.  Après le marché à Uzès, Lo Jardinièr a trouvé des cartons de polystyrène sur le trottoir.  Il les a apporté chez nous pour semer les tomates et les poivrons.

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We divided one of these into four sections with thin strips of  wood(recycled, of course!) and sowed Roma, Coeur de Boeuf, St Pierre and Ananas tomatoes.  The Ananas seeds were from our own tomatoes last summer.

Next we’re going to make a heated seed starter box, using instructions from Mother Earth News – more on this soon.

Allotments in the UK / Les potagers en Grande Bretagne

Good news from the National Trust in Britain in today’s Guardian newspaper online.  The National Trust, the body which looks after historic buildings and land in the UK, is campaigning for an increase in vegetable growing and will be offering some of its land for the creation of 1,000 new plots.  I know that the effects of the global financial crisis can be tragic for some, but perhaps it will lead people back to their gardens and to valuing home grown vegetables, not just for economic reasons but for simple enjoyment of gardening and for the future of the planet.

More truffles / encore de truffes

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pommes de terres gratinées au truffe

Gratin of potatoes – pommes de terres gratinées – is one of our favourite dishes and last night I made one of the most delicious ever, using some of the truffle we brought back from Uzès.  I only wish I could include the scent of truffle in this photo!  Potatoes, butter, crème fraîche and truffle … it was wonderful!  The recipe will be on the Mediterranean cuisine blog..

>A weekend away and some rare treats / Un weekend de petits plaisirs

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We spent the weekend in Uzès, near Nîmes, a beautiful old town of narrow streets and turreted buildings. One of the highlights of our stay there was the Saturday market in the arcaded place aux Herbes.

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Nous avons passé le weekend à Uzès, près de Nîmes, une belle vielle ville de ruelles étroites et de tourelles. Un des points forts de notre séjour était le marché à la place aux Herbes.

Under the arcade in one corner of the place we found La Maison de la Truffe – Uzès is a centre for the sale of truffles which grow under oak trees in the surrounding hills. I was shocked when I asked the price – over 700 € a kilo – but they are very light, so we were able to afford a couple of small ones as a treat.

Au coin de la place nous avons trouvé La Maison de la Truffe – Uzès est un centre de la production de la truffe. J’ai été étonnée quand j’ai demandé le prix – plus de 700 € le kilo – mais les truffes sont très légère, donc on en a pu acheter deux petites.

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more truffles than we could afford
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…. and one that we could
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thinly sliced (beautiful patterns)
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and added to pasta with melted butter, a treat when we got home.

And there’s still one small truffle left which I’m going to use in other dishes, and I’ll add a small piece to some olive oil to make truffle oil.

Vegetables stuffed with artichoke purée /

Les légumes farcis à la purée d’artichaut

We had some excellent meals in Uzès and one of the vegetable accompaniments which inspired me to experiment at home was a yellow pepper stuffed with a purée of artichoke hearts. In the summer I’ll make this with our own vegetables from the garden, but when I found a stall in the market selling ready-made artichoke purée – caviare d’artichaut – I couldn’t resist trying it with some courgettes and serving them today with olive bread from an organic bread stall.

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Trying to think positively about building development / En essayant d’être optimiste quant au lotissement

I was upset to see that the building work on land around the gardens has now started. Trenches dug ready for foundations and services. We’ve known this has been planned for several years, but seeing it happening was a shock today. I’m trying to be positive about it. We should still have the same uninterrupted view from the garden and we’re sheltered by old stone walls and bamboo. I tell myself I shouldn’t be selfish – people need houses and why shouldn’t they live on the hill next to our garden. I like having people around me, that’s why I live in the village rather than in an isolated rural house ….. but I find it hard to accept that a small village like Gabian with 700 inhabitants, can absorb the increase in population which an extra 100 houses will bring without changing its character. We’ll see.

Les travaux ont commencé sur le terrain autour des jardins. Vers 100 maisons. J’essaye d’être optimiste, mais c’est difficile d’accepter qu’un petit village de 700 habitants peut se developper sans changer son caractère. On vera.

Organic local food – the only hope for the planet / la nourriture bio et locale – le seul espoir pour la planète

If you haven’t already read it, you should read Kate’s recent post on Hills and Plains Seedsavers about the cost to the environment, to the planet and to all of us of industrialised agriculture. As Kate reports, it takes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food using ‘conventional’ agriculture, whereas Producing food naturally, in your own backyard or close to home actually produces 10 calories of food for every 1 calorie put in to its production. How can we afford not to eat organic local food? There need to be huge changes in the way societies agree to produce food. Organic local food should no longer be seen as elitist and expensive – it has this reputation in developed countries, although it is considered normal in many other parts of the world. I can only hope that the global economic crisis can help to put a stop to the progress of large-scale food production and GM crops and begin a return to more rational methods.

L’agriculture globalisée et industrialisée prend 10 calories d’énergie pour produire 1 calorie de nourriture. La production naturelle, locale et biologique prend 1 calorie pour 10 calories de nourriture. Comment peut-on refuser la nourriture bio?

>My list for the planet / ma liste pour la planète

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For the past few days, since I read Kate’s post on responsibility for the planet on the Hills and Plains Seedsavers blog, I’ve been thinking about my own list.  I believe that we should all have such a list, but that this doesn’t absolve governments from responsibility.  Individuals cannot save the planet – governments have to do something too.  However, in spite of the occasional hopeful sign, politicians are failing the planet, so we have to do what we can while we try to persuade them to do their bit too.

Pendant ces derniers jours, depuis que je lis le poste de Kate au sujet de la responsibilité pour la planète, je pensais de ma propre liste.  Je crois que tout le monde doit avoir une liste, mais il faut aussi que les gouvernements prennent la responsibilité.  Les individus ne peuvent pas sauver la planète.  Cependant, malgré des signes d’espoir de temps en temps, les politiciens manquent à leurs devoirs envers à la planète.  Donc on doit faire ce qu’on doit pendant que nous essayons de les persuader.

This is the list of ways in which Lo Jardinièr and I think we can take responsibility for our lives and the future of the planet:

1.  Growing our own food / cultiver le potager

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We grow almost all the vegetables we eat, almost all year.  This is mainly because we enjoy gardening and because they taste better. (I wrote about this in August.)  But it also saves on transporting food by road, or even worse by air.  We cook all our food – we hardly ever buy anything ready prepared.

On cultive le potager parce qu’on aime jardiner et les légumes ont plus de gout.  (Voir mon poste en août.)  Mais aussi ça utilise moins de ressources du monde.

2.  Buying local, buying sustainably, recycling / acheter localement, durablement, et renouvelablement

Almost all the food we eat comes from within 100 km of the village, although we do buy fruit from Spain and North Africa  When we eat meat, it is usually pork, poultry or lamb, which are sustainable, rather than beef which is not.  As far as consumer durables are concerned we’re lucky to have reached the stage in our lives when we have furnished our house, so we don’t buy much.  We also keep using these items while they are still working, rather than throwing them out for the latest fashion – for example our oven which is old and ugly, but it works, so we’re keeping it.  On the rare occasions when we take things to the dump we pick up building materials that others have thrown out.  We’re hoping to find wood for a cold frame there and will buy old windows for it from Emmaus, a recycling charity.

On mange les produits qui viennent de moins de 100 km du village, a part des fruits de l’Espagne et de l’Afrique du Nord.  On mange le porc, la volaille et l’agneau.  On continue d’utiliser les machines qui marchent toujours.

3.  Minimal packaging / emballage minimal

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Because what we do buy comes from local shops and markets, there is very little packaging.  Anything we buy in the market goes straight into our wicker basket and we refuse offers of plastic bags.  Cheese and meat from the local shop are wrapped in paper, and vegetables are put in paper bags which we re-use to collect food from the garden. 

Car ce qu’on achète vient des magasins locaux et le marché, il y a très peu d’emballage.  On refuse les poches en plastique.

4.  Share and exchange / partager et échanger

One of the nice aspects of living in a village is having a community of people nearby with whom we can exchange and share.  Just a couple of examples: Friends give us fruit, we make jam with it and then give them back some jars of jam in return.  We’ve bought a second-hand trailer to share with our neighbour, since neither of us need to use it every day.

On partage et échange avec les autres habitants du village.

5.  No air-conditioning / on refuse la climatisation

The units look ugly on the outside of lovely old village houses, the air quality they produce is unnatural and in cars air-conditioning uses extra fuel.  In summer we shut the shutters in the afternoons to keep the heat out.  In the car we open the windows.

En été on ferme les volets l’après-midi.  Dans la voiture on ouvre les fenêtres.

6.  We don’t fly / on refuse de voyager en avion

We never fly.  This isn’t a choice that everyone can make, we know.  But when we go on holiday we go by train.  And we enjoy it!

On voyage en train, et on l’aime!

7.  A few (unsustainable) luxuries / quelques luxes non-durables

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Italian coffee – roasted in Italy, grown in South America or Africa.  Very occasionally, we eat steak.  And because I can’t walk up hills easily, we go by car to the garden.

Le café italien.  Le steak, de temps en temps.  Aller en voiture au jardin.

This list isn’t complete, but it’s a start.  Everyone has to make their own choices for their own lists.  This is ours.  What’s yours?