Organic September
This month, we're yelling even louder than usual about how cool and amazing organic is. Over the next four weeks we'll show you how it affects everything from soil to taste.
Soil
It all begins with soil and we
reckon it's pretty cool stuff
Wildlife
Why organic is best for our
fantastic birds, bees, butterflies
Taste
The top organic bits that
we (and you) love the most
Farmers
A celebration of our
amazing animal farmers
Organic, oh how we love thee, let us count the ways. For all the reasons to love organic, here's the tastiest.
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We think there are lots of reasons to go organic. We love that organic farms have 50% more wildlife than conventional farms. We love that organic farms have the highest standards of animal welfare. We love that organic farmers do their bit to look after the earth they rely on. And we really love how great organic food tastes. As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, good taste is in the mouth of the eater; however, there are very special things our farmers do to make things taste tip top.
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Just ask Judith Freane, maker of Brown Cow yoghurt and winner of a Great Taste award. "The cows graze our very lush pastures for nine months of the year. Organic grass is what they eat every day – it makes the milk rich and packed full of goodness, making the tastiest, creamiest yoghurt. They aren't pushed beyond their natural ability to produce milk and are fed the most tastiest, most nutritious grass that a farmer could ever grow; they live for many, many happy years here on the farm. All that happiness sparkles out into the yoghurt."
Shortlisted for a Best of Organic Market (BOOM) Award this year, Nick Gosling's milk is a crowd favourite. He and his wife Christine take great care of their Guernsey herd for their prized milk. What makes their Guernsey milk different? "Our milk tastes more natural in the sense that it follows seasonal variations, you'll be able to taste the spring, taste the summer and taste the winter. Our milk is not standardised, it's not homogenised, so you're getting the full flavour. In summer you'll taste more grasses and clovers and herbs."
Watch video
Watch video
Shortlisted for a Best of Organic Market (BOOM) Award this year, Nick Gosling's milk is a crowd favourite. He and his wife Christine take great care of their Guernsey herd for their prized milk. What makes their Guernsey milk different? "Our milk tastes more natural in the sense that it follows seasonal variations, you'll be able to taste the spring, taste the summer and taste the winter. Our milk is not standardised, it's not homogenised, so you're getting the full flavour. In summer you'll taste more grasses and clovers and herbs."
Video coming soon
Shortlisted for a Best of Organic Market (BOOM) Award this year, Nick Gosling's milk is a crowd favourite. He and his wife Christine take great care of their Guernsey herd for their prized milk. What makes their Guernsey milk different? "Our milk tastes more natural in the sense that it follows seasonal variations, you'll be able to taste the spring, taste the summer and taste the winter. Our milk is not standardised, it's not homogenised, so you're getting the full flavour. In summer you'll taste more grasses and clovers and herbs."

And unlike many conventional milk producers that use milk from lots of different farms and then mix it all together, Nick notes a big difference in the way they do things on Berkeley Farm.

"It's a very small source; the cows eat natural foods from just three farms. The cows stay out as much of the year as possible, they have a longer grazing season. They're fed hardly any concentrate. The actual flavour of the Guernsey milk is stronger and sweeter on the whole. It's an on-farm taste."
Our eggs, which come from Andrew Jackson of Haresfield Farm in Wiltshire, are from hens that roam free, and feed and scratch naturally on organic pastures. Packed with flavour, they're hands down favourites here at Veg HQ, and yours judging by all the 5 star reviews. One reviewer wrote, "Somehow these eggs are yummier than any supermarket found eggs – with big yellow yolks oozing flavour now a weekly regular."

So don't just take our word for it. From how our fruit & veg is grown, to how animals are raised and looked after by our amazing farmers, we think when it comes to taste, organic speaks for itself.
Watch video
Watch video
Our eggs, which come from Andrew Jackson of Haresfield Farm in Wiltshire, are from hens that roam free, and feed and scratch naturally on organic pastures. Packed with flavour, they're hands down favourites here at Veg HQ, and yours judging by all the 5 star reviews. One reviewer wrote, "Somehow these eggs are yummier than any supermarket found eggs – with big yellow yolks oozing flavour now a weekly regular."

So don't just take our word for it. From how our fruit & veg is grown, to how animals are raised and looked after by our amazing farmers, we think when it comes to taste, organic speaks for itself.
Looking to spice up your life?
Let's start with dinner time and a citrusy, fiery, flavourful zing of turmeric.
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We love eating a seasonal rainbow of foods. This autumn it's all about dark, leafy greens, crisp, red apples, and now let's throw some vibrant orange in there with amazing turmeric. Turmeric's gotten a lot of good buzz lately for being a bit of a wunderkind. (Rightly so, as it's been used for donkey's years in traditional Indian herbal medicine for all manner of things.) We love to add this bright orange root to everything from smoothies and juices to soups and curries to add an earthy, citrusy, fiery taste to food.

Botanically speaking turmeric is the cousin of ginger, which packs a healthy punch of its own, some people use turmeric root for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. We get our fresh, organic roots from La Grama, a Peruvian company that works with local communities from the Amazon rainforest, the Andes highlands and the desert. Fresh tumeric, which looks a bit like a friendly caterpillar, is rather rare, so we're excited to scrape it (again, much like you would ginger) into warming dishes all season long.
We love a pinch or two grated over roasted cauliflower. And for an easy, fast meal grab 6 eggs, a head of cauliflower, one onion, a clove of garlic and feta cheese. Fry up the garlic and onion, while gently boiling the cauliflower florets. Whisk together the eggs and cheese and pour them over the garlic and onion. Add the cauliflower and season with turmeric, cumin and paprika.
Tip: Fresh turmeric stains easily, so can turn your hands and kitchen yellow, but with a little squeeze and rub of lemon juice, it should come off like magic.
A few of our favourite things
Here are some of the recipes we love the most at Veg HQ – not a strudel in sight
(but we do have schnitzel)
Give them a go
We're proud to introduce you to our cracking bunch of British farmers, who raise the bar for organic meat.
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Watch video
Visit Chris Labdon's farm, Wood Green in Devon, at about 8am and find his award winning, organic chickens running out of their huts, where they've been since hitting the hay at dusk. His slow-growing birds are resilient, healthy and active. "The land area you need for organic is much bigger," Chris said, which means these chooks have acres to forage their own natural food. "They get a better life chasing around bugs."
Not too far from Wood Green, on Carswell Farm, Stuart Marshall's Aberdeen Angus, Longhorn and South Devon cattle can be found wandering the fields on the seaside cliffs of Devon. "It's nice and quiet here," said Stuart, looking out to sea.

The cattle are in these fields getting their fill of white cloverand native rye for most of the year, till it's just too cold, then they move inside to munch away on organic fodder.
Watch video
Watch video
Not too far from Wood Green, on Carswell Farm, Stuart Marshall's Aberdeen Angus, Longhorn and South Devon cattle can be found wandering the fields on the seaside cliffs of Devon. "It's nice and quiet here," said Stuart, looking out to sea.

The cattle are in these fields getting their fill of white cloverand native rye for most of the year, till it's just too cold, then they move inside to munch away on organic fodder.
Video coming soon
It's a family affair on Eversfield Farm where Mark, Hamish and Anna Bury all do their bit to look after their award-winning organic pigs. They have plenty of mud to roll around in, along with their pig arcs for shelter from the sun and rain. Hamish says,"The pigs have so much freedom in the fields that they stay in their outdoor yard all year round."
Kept in line by intrepid border collies Skye and Fern, Russell Ashford's sheep roam 1300 feet above sea level on the moors of Devon. Russell cares deeply for the animals and the land, "We always make sure we're not doing anything detrimental to the wildlife," he said. Russell's Scotch Black Faced ewes are a hearty breed which thrive in wet, wild conditions most wouldn't. They stay outdoors feeding on a diet of organic heather, rye and grasses. The fields also house beetles of all sorts, which are food for the largest population of greater horseshoe bats in the UK.

We love going to the farms and seeing how dedicated each of the farmers are to their craft. We share the same values and love Stuart's penny plain philosophy on farming. "Keep it very simple," he said. "Don't complicate it." We couldn't agree more, Stuart.
Watch video
Watch video
Kept in line by intrepid border collies Skye and Fern, Russell Ashford's sheep roam 1300 feet above sea level on the moors of Devon. Russell cares deeply for the animals and the land, "We always make sure we're not doing anything detrimental to the wildlife," he said. Russell's Scotch Black Faced ewes are a hearty breed which thrive in wet, wild conditions most wouldn't. They stay outdoors feeding on a diet of organic heather, rye and grasses. The fields also house beetles of all sorts, which are food for the largest population of greater horseshoe bats in the UK.

We love going to the farms and seeing how dedicated each of the farmers are to their craft. We share the same values and love Stuart's penny plain philosophy on farming. "Keep it very simple," he said. "Don't complicate it." We couldn't agree more, Stuart.
We like to be quite adventurous when it comes to our food. We also like to make sure that we're not really wasting anything. With fruit and veg, we like to use our things from top to tail. There's plenty nifty ways you can do this and we're sure you might have a trick or two up your sleeve as well. We like to do the same with our meat. We like to use as much as we can, because remember folks, sustainability is the name of the game. And also, not only does that offer some exciting culinary adventures, it's also quite delicious.

We have some amazing new cuts in our meat range (which is now all organic) that will introduce you to a whole new world of tastes and textures.
Here are some of the highlights
Beef
Tomahawk steak
This is an on-the-bone rib steak, cut from the fore-rib of the animal. The entire rib bone is left on and French trimmed. The large amount of fat it has, along with still being on the bone, gives the meat a sweet gelatinous flavour once cooked. It's absolutely kingly. Sear it, pop it in the oven, then let it rest for a few minutes once you've taken it out (this will take willpower).

Beef shortrib
These are taken from the brisket and are incredibly meaty and versatile. They love a good marinade (try soy sauce or red wine) then stick them in the oven so they cook evenly.

Ox cheeks
Cheek meat is uniquely lean and tender and some of the best meat on the animal. It's naturally tough so give it a bit of a braise or long slow cook.

Pork
Pig cheeks
These are generally quite hard to find but we've tracked them down and we're so glad we did. They're incredibly flavoursome and wonderfully versatile. They're at their most tender when braised or stewed. Cook them for a long time on low heat and pair with some mash and gravy.
Pork collar joint
The pork collar comes from the neck of the pig and is incredibly versatile. It can be cut into chops, pork steaks, diced, or minced. It's slightly fatty, having a bit of a marbled effect, so it doesn't dry out easily which makes it perfect for slow-cooking and roasting.

Pork riblets
These come from the back loin section of the pig and are meatier and less fatty than other cuts. Think of them as a full set of spare ribs but cut in half. They're packed full of excellent flavour and the best way to enjoy them is to slow cook them in your oven.

Lamb
Lamb fore-shanks
Fore-shanks are cut from the lower part of the lamb's leg. If you pop them straight into a pot and roast them whole in the oven they'll take added flavour from the bone and you'll get some beautifully rich, fall-off-the-bone tender meat.

Lamb neck fillet
Lamb neck is a surprisingly underrated cut of meat. It's a bit on the tough side so it needs very long, slow cooking, but once you've given it the attention it deserves, you'll have meat that's wonderfully tender. Try it in a curry or in an Irish stew.

Mutton chops
Mutton chops are slightly tougher than lamb chops, but have a much stronger flavour. These suit casserole-style cooking perfectly.
Nose to tail eating
Go on a culinary adventure with our fantastic meat cuts – there's a recipe for everyone.
Give them a go
With wild bees, butterflies and other wildlife on the decline, it's up to our organic superheroes (and us) to save our British countryside
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We have some amazing wildlife in the UK – however our bees, butterflies and other pollinators have lost a lot of their natural habitat over the last few years. There are many reasons why, but one of the biggies is the chemical pesticides used in conventional farming.

Our bee friends have really taken a hit in recent years, but they aren't the only ones in a right pickle. In the UK, 75% of UK butterfly species have dropped in the last decade.

The good news is our organic farmers won't have any chemical nonsense on their land which keeps wildlife away from conventional, intensive farms. So all creatures great and small flock to our lot where they leave hedgerows between crops and plant all sorts of flowers and trees to create a proper oasis for wildlife to thrive.

In fact, according to the Soil Association, organic farms have on average 50% more wildlife, which means more honey and bumble bees, birds and butterflies buzzing and flitting about.
Supporting organic farming is a great way to protect the critters
Take eco warrior/farmer, John Danby of Brickyard Farm in Lincolnshire, who grows many of our brassicas. He makes sure brown hares, rooks and pheasants have room to roam.'
And James Foskett in Suffolk, who grows our carrots, is just as green minded as he is green fingered – he's been a member of the countryside stewardship scheme for the last 10 years and 19% of his farm is uncropped, inviting all sorts of wildlife, including kingfishers, barn owls, oystercatchers and water voles.
And James Foskett in Suffolk, who grows our carrots, is just as green minded as he is green fingered – he's been a member of the countryside stewardship scheme for the last 10 yearsand 19% of his farm is uncropped, inviting all sorts of wildlife, including kingfishers, barn owls, oystercatchers and water voles.
And it's not only our veg growers who're doing their bit. The Bury family, who look after our organic pork, turned what Mark describes as "the most inorganic farm in Devon" into an organic haven for wildlife, planting 32,000 trees and rebuilding miles of hedgerow. "It's wonderful to see the wild fish return, too, to the streams that surround the fields," he adds.
If you're looking to do your bit to revive the beauty and diversity of wildlife near you, there's lots you can do
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Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees. Ignore what the neighbours might think, and let your garden run wild, and leave insect nests and hibernation spots to do their thing. (See below for what we're doing at Veg HQ to help our buzzing bees.)

The charity Butterfly Conservation is running a Garden Butterfly Survey for people to record and report the butterflies that visit their gardens over the course of a year. By submitting what you spot, you'll be helping them learn about how butterflies are faring in UK gardens and help struggling species. Head here to take part.
Without our busy pollinators, we'd be rather stuck – bees pollinate one third of the food in the UK, so we need to look after them.
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A new study that's been in the works for the last 18 years by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology gives more proof that (science goggles at the ready) neonicotinoid pesticides (gunk used in conventional farming) are harming our bees. The fuzzy little things pollinate 1/3 of the food here in the UK, so without these busy pollinators, favourite chomps like apples and broccoli would become more and more scarce. Imagine that. We can do our part though by ensuring the bees have somewhere to live.

Bee-friendly farming

This is where organic farming comes in. All the nasty things (herbicides and pesticides) are steered clear of in organic farming, and instead, the farmers put all the emphasis on creating and maintaining natural habitats for the surrounding wildlife. They work as one with nature (Mother knows best after all), and this approach helps organic farms support more wildlife.

Paul Ward, our apple man from Mole End Farm, explains: "In our orchards we have vast areas that are left as conservation areas – we have grass areas, a minimum of 10 metres wide that are left uncultivated to grow wildflowers during the summer months and only cut once a season."
Here at Veg HQ, we've recently adopted several bee hives (60,000 bees in total) from the fantastic folks at Plan Bee and our buzzing friends are now busy busy pollinating gardens, wild plants and exploring their surroundings (and making a little honey for us to enjoy at Veg HQ along the way).

We've recently welcomed the arrival of a new queen – while colonies are capable of creating and selecting their own queens, they're just as happy to have one flown in for the job. Game of Thrones fans will know that crowning new royalty can be a tricky business, and their egg laying function is vital for the health of the hive, so our man from Plan Bee oversaw the introduction of our new queen to her subjects and ensured the transition was a smooth as possible. Long live the queen!

So let's think bees. You don't have to become a beekeeper or adopt a bee hive (although if you fancy it, Plan Bee will help you out). Bumble bees and wild honey bees are jolly important too – they forage at lower temperatures and higher wind speed so will pollinate when cultivated bees are snuggled up in their hives. You can do one very simple thing: fill your garden with as many flowers, shrubs and trees as you can. Bees love a varied diet. With our help bees can keep being the brilliant, busy things we need them to be.
Let's get cooking
You've read about our bees, now get buzzing in the kitchen with our savoury and sweet honey recipes.
Try them all
Did you know?
.................................
On Pollybell Farm in Doncaster, they have 198 different species of birds
Let's get down and dirty, shall we? This week we're talking about organic soil.
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It all begins with soil, and we reckon it's pretty cool stuff. Unsurprising when a tablespoon of it has more micro-organisms than people on earth (we weren't kidding about it being cool).

All this and it grows our food. Pretty special, eh? It sure would make sense to look after it. For our farmers, it's where it all starts. Soil can take thousands of years form, being made up of minerals, rock particles, organic matter, air, water and living things, so it's little wonder that the folks at Pollybell Farm in the East Midlands take their soil very seriously.



Crop rotation
Rotating their crops is just one thing they do to ensure there's good soil for the future. And while crop rotation isn't anything new (it's been around for centuries), it's alarming to see that it's not the done thing outside of organic farms.

Where conventional, intensive agriculture uses artificial fertilisers, which causes soil erosion, contamination and chemical run-off into water systems, organic farming is all about working in tune with nature to prevent erosion and encourage soil fertility.

"Rotation promotes a balanced environment in which to grow and organic farms overcome low levels of soil disease by having an increased level of fungal and earthworm activity," says Peter, resident soil scientist at Veg HQ.

Green Manure
Another great way to increase fertility in the soil is using ‘green manure'. Some of our organic farmers use red clover and rye grass to start and end a rotation cycle, and these provide loads of organic matter to feed the soil, while the clover roots capture nitrogen from the air. As well as feeding the soil, the green manure is great for attracting bees, butterflies and other insects. (For more on these lovely critters, come back next week.)

Packed with the good stuff And what does this mean for us veg lovers? Well, it's easy to see how the healthier the soil is, the healthier and more nutrient-rich our food will be. The best bit is that eating organic fruit & veg is the same as adding two extra portions to your five a day. When there's more organic matter in the soil there are more nutrients for us and these are all delivered to crops in the soil; things like potassium, calcium, iron and copper (and loads more).

Save our Soils
Here's a 20/20 vision for the future of our soil. The Soil Association is doing its bit to increase organic matter in our soils by 20% over the next 20 years, which will mean healthier, more nutrient-rich soil for everyone. You're already helping the cause, supporting organic farming (thank you). So, let's look after the soil and the soil will look after us.

Let's get cooking
From ravishing roots to brilliant beans and gorgeous gourds, we have loads of recipes for our brilliant veg grown in nutrient rich soil.
Try them all
Did you know?
.................................
95% of the world's food relies on soil

It can take 1000 years for 1cm of topsoil to form
Fancy giving composting a go but don't have much space? Never fear, you can compost indoors using every gardener's friend - worms.
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Why?
Did you know that the average person throws away seven times their own body weight in waste every year? (Yuck.) Worm composting is a really efficient way of turning kitchen waste and some garden waste intro beautiful, nutrient-rich compost. Wormeries are great for small spaces – they don't take up much room, don't smell and make compost faster than conventional composters.

How?
Some councils offer wormeries for sale at discounted prices, or you can build your own. Worms need an environment that meets their basic needs for air, darkness and moisture, and they shouldn't get too hot or cold. You need to use specific types of worms – brandling, manure, red or tiger worms – not your average earthworm which lives in the soil and isn't suitable for composting.
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