Going organic with the Ethical Co-op

“What on earth are these?” I asked Tuffy-Cat, holding up a bunch of vegetables that looked like gigantic radishes. Tuffy-Cat was watching me closely, as I was unpacking a big cardboard box, and laying each of the items out on the kitchen counter. “These can’t be radishes. They’re massive.”

“Mreow?” responded Tuffy-Cat, with a questioning intonation.

“Oh, okay, you want a sniff?” I lowered the bunch of whatsits to her head-height, and she gave them an inquisitive sniff, before turning up her nose and stalking off to her foodbowl, where she’d deliberately left a few korreltjies for a post-lunch snack.

“Well, you’re a lot of help today,” I said, turning my attention to the print-out I’d made of the order. “You know what, I think they must be turnips. But what do you use them for? Soup, perhaps?”

Those must be turnips - not giant radishes

Those must be turnips – not giant radishes

I continued removing the other items from the box. I’d heard about the Ethical Co-op a couple of years ago, and had thought their idea, of acting as an intermediary between small-scale local farmers and residents who are looking for organic and biodynamic produce, was absolutely brilliant.

This week, I took the plunge and placed my first order with them. The process was painless: go onto their website, register by filling in some contact details, choose from a wide range of products, place the order, and pay by EFT… then wait for the delivery date.

They really do have a vast range of products, including fresh produce; bakery and breakfast items; eggs and dairy; dried fruit, nuts and seeds; savoury and sweets; rice, pasta, grain and beans; supplements; things for the pantry; beverages; edibles for pets; items for baby and childcare; personal care; home cleaning; books and magazines; and home and garden.

On Thursday afternoon, I zooted on over to the Millstone Farmstall in Oude Molen Eco-Village, which was my nearest drop-off point, where I collected a big cardboard box with my name on it. It was like receiving a surprise parcel in the mail! And, a bit like a lucky-packet, as – although I had ordered certain items – I did not know exactly what the Small Mixed Box of Fresh Produce for R100 contained. Well, as it turned out, quite a bit! And they even tell you where the items come from, which I think is totally cool:

  • Bellevlei Farm – Lemons, Genoa/Eureka 300g
  • Camphill Farm, West Coast – Sweet Peas 250g
  • Kleinjongenskraal – Oranges, Valencia 500g
  • Naturally Organic – Bananas 500g, Beetroot bunch, Carrots bunch, Kale 160g, Leeks bunch, Potatoes 500g, Radish bunch, Emma Salad, Spring Onion bunch, Turnips bunch

In addition, I had ordered lavender soap from Bloublommetjieskloof, fabric softener and peppermint toothpaste (non-fluoride, yay!) from Enchantrix, an avocado from Naturally Organic, and – probably the reason why Tuffy-Cat was so curious about the box, apart from her natural curiosity about boxes (oooh!! look! a box! for me!) – a pack of catnip crunchie treats from Vondis Petfoods.

Our first order from the Ethical Co-op

Our first order from the Ethical Co-op

The crunchie treats were – sadly – a bit too crunchy for our elderly cat who doesn’t have too many strong teeth left. So I will probably give them away to another deserving cat family.

In order to fit everything into the fridge, I had to chop off the leafy tops of the various items; I suppose if I had washed them thoroughly, I could have used them as soup stock, but I wasn’t feeling quite so energetic. Instead, the worms in the compost bin were in for a delicious meal!

That evening, I proudly showed off the contents of the fridge to an impressed hubby, beaming brightly at him, as I identified each of the items we had just purchased. The turnips, admittedly, flummoxed him too.

“Hand one over,” he instructed, and promptly sliced off a thin sliver from the largest specimen. As he began to munch away, I protested, “I don’t think you can eat them raw?!” “Nonsense,” he said, firmly. “Don’t you remember, Po in Kung Fu Panda also ate them raw?”

“Hmmm,” he said, chewing, “tastes like…. potato or something like that… Doesn’t have a strong flavour…. Oh! hold on… Oof! there’s quite a sharp taste afterwards… Oooh! it’s more like a radish!” He scrunched up his face, exclaiming, “Strong!”

“Well, what we do with them?” I asked.

“Soup. We make soup,” hubby declared, authoritatively. It sounded good to me.

“We haven’t yet harvested our own carrots and radishes yet,” he reminded me, “Shall we do so now?”

We traipsed out into the garden, Tuffy-Cat following close behind, always hopeful that we might just reward her with a leaf or two of her favourite catnip, which we have growing in a wall-mounted pot, sensibly out of her reach.

And so we proceeded to harvest our entire stash of radish and carrots. Look!

Our crop of carrots and radish - with the new mosaic gecko for scale

Our crop of carrots and radish – with the new mosaic gecko for scale

Okay, okay, they won’t win any awards, to be sure, and it had taken them about 6 months to get to this size (erhrrmm – throat-clearing sound), but a taste-test confirmed that, in this case at least, size did not matter. They might have been the tiniest carrots and radishes in the world, but the richness of their flavour was superlative. So there!

And guess what we had for supper?

Gooi all the ingredients together into a pot and simmer

Gooi all the ingredients together into a pot and simmer

Soup. Consisting of half a butternut (non-organic, alas), a couple of potatoes (organic), a turnip (yes, organic), a gently fried onion, and a dash of salt for flavour. Bring to the boil, simmer until soft, then smoothe with the whirr-whirr. Add a couple of toasted sweet-potato breadrolls from the local Kwik Spar, and our supper was decidedly more-ish. I’m glad we made a big enough portion so that we can have it again tonight!

Soup - yum!

Soup – yum!

Now, if anyone can advise me on what to do with kale, that would be great! I’ve got a whole packet of it, and it’s supposed to be one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet, but I haven’t a clue how to use it. Help?

10 thoughts on “Going organic with the Ethical Co-op

  1. AAh Reggie – what a great haul – all round. If you haven’t given Tuffie cats bikkies away – just give them a soak in some hot water. I do that for my old girls and they manage a softer biscuit very well – and love the flavour. Let me know about the kale chips!

  2. Young turnips are lovely, raw, in salads. Bigger, older turnips are good in stews. Tiny young turnips lightly boiled/steamed, eaten as a veg accompanying a main dish. You can also juice them thru your juice extractor, ditto the kale.

  3. Our paths just crossed as we commented on a post by 2ME4ART, so I thought I would drop by. I love this post and seeing the produce you bought and grew and how you cooked something wholesome with it. Growing stuff is hard work but eating your own produce brings with it so much more flavour…and fun!
    I have to confess…I love Tuffy-Cat!


    • Hello Karen – what a sweet comment! Thank you! I love the pictures that Amy posts on 2ME4ART, so it is nice to find a fellow fan. Our success with growing our own veggies has been very limited, unfortunately, but luckily herbs do seem to like growing in our garden. Our garden area is rather a mess at the moment (as you’ve probably noticed on http://findingfrohsinn.wordpress.com/!) but once the contractors have finished their work, and we’ve cleaned things up, I’m planning to give our little sanctuary an overhaul.

      P.S. I am thrilled that you love Tuffy-Cat too, Karen. I absolutely adore her (and all her little quirks), and cannot imagine living without her.

      • It looks to me as if Tuffy- Cat is a great building site manager. She looks quite a big cat. I have three cats, all black and white and all quite old and often ill. I have had many cats in my life and I love every one with every little piece of my heart. They are all so special. Is Tuffy-Cat a Tortoiseshell? That is what we would call her in England.
        I thought the vegetables you grew looked really good and that you should be proud of them. Gardening is not always easy and sometimes crops are hard to raise. I am guessing it is hot where you live?
        I am going to follow you too, so that I don’t miss any Tuffy-Cat and gardening news flashes!
        I too love following Amy, her work is great….and she loves animals!

      • Hello Karen

        Miss Tuffy-Cat is an *excellent* building site manager – she keeps a watchful eye on proceedings, does quality control inspections at irregular times throughout the day (to keep the workers alert, you know), and reminds them in a gentle but firm manner to be nice and not to cause any damage to her domain.

        But she is not a big cat; the vet keeps telling me that she’s underweight and needs feeding up (preferably with fresh fish and fresh chicken, which doesn’t come cheep… err… cheap!). Perhaps it’s the perspective (wide-angle lens from a low angle) that makes her look bigger than she is.

        Yes, you are correct, she is a indeed a tortoiseshell. I particularly adore the little white patch on her back (it makes her a bit easier to spot when you have to get up in the middle of the night), and of course her cute white paws, and the fluffy white tummy… oh, actually, every square inch of her!

        She’s been our (and my) only cat. When I was younger, I was more of a dog person, and certainly hadn’t anticipated that something so soft, fluffy, snuggly and quirky (and persistent! she gets top marks for persistence!) could capture my heart so completely.

        Although we live in South Africa, it’s actually not that hot down here. Yes, we do have temperatures soaring into the 40s in summer, and occasionally below freezing in winter (though not on the coast). But we actually have a very pleasant climate, particularly here in the Cape, which has a more mediterranean climate with winter rain (most of the country has summer rain). So, theoretically, I should be able to grow far more veggies than I have so far! I hope to learn!!

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