Organic Glossary of Terms

ANTIOXIDANTS
Antioxidants are chemicals found in foods that are believed to inhibit cell damage by slowing or stopping the process of oxidation.

BETA CAROTENE
Our bodies are good at converting Beta Carotene into vitamin A. As the name suggests a good source of Beta Carotene is the humble carrot.

BIODYNAMIC
A method of crop growing that takes influences from Organic principles as well as popular magic (lunar phases and spells etc)

COMPOSTING
As waste green matter decays (due to the actions of worms, bugs, bacteria and fungi) it turns into a form of soil rich in organic matter, nutrients and bacteria that are vital for growing next year’s plants. Almost all materials from organic sources can be composted and the compost heap is core to the success of an organic garden. If the heap is large enough, lots of heat is generated and material gets fully broken down in a matter of a few weeks. A smaller heap takes a few months, but in the end both will deliver richly fertile humus back to the gardener.

DIVERSITY

A garden with a wide range of plants is a better home for more species, creating a wider ecosystem which will be healthier than a garden with fewer species.

EARTHWORMS

Worms are one of the most important living beings in the garden but we rarely see them. They are essential to composting and airating the soil. If you have lots of worms it is indicative of a healthy soil.

Oven Drying Mushrooms

Wild Mushrooms are a great delight if you are careful and only pick the right varieties. If you find a crop of parasols or perhaps some ceps, then you will want to dry some and use them throughout the coming year.

I know mushrooms aren’t technically vegetables, but forgive me this little faux pas.

To dry mushrooms in an oven, first slice the cleaned mushrooms thinly. Woody stalks (the parasol for example) can be discarded.  Place the sliced mushrooms in shallow unoiled trays and place in the oven. Heat the oven to no higher than 150 degrees Fahrenheit (about 70c) and let the mushrooms dry for an hour. After an hour turn the slices and return to the tray for another hour of gentle drying.

If they still hold water, just do it all again until they are bone dry. Now you can store in sealed jars (with a little salt to absorb any atmospheric moisture).

Of course, to be really environmentally friendly, consider air drying and for something special why not have a go at cold smoking the mushrooms you collect.

Giving Potatoes a head start

In February get good organic seed potatoes and teat them to a little tender loving care. By placing them in eg boxes in a light (but not directly sunny) spot where the temperature stays around 10 degrees (a conservatory is perfect) you can let them send up loads of green shoots. In a month’s time plant these out and your potatoes will have had an excellent head start.

This is particularly good for early varieties such as Accent, Duke of York, Arran Pilot or my favourite, Pentlan Javelin. However it will also benefit second early and maincrop potatoes too.

Is it really Organic?

As the demand for organic food has increased so has its availability. We are now able to buy organic food from supermarkets, delis, farmers markets, farm shops and organic box schemes.

The good news is that with this increase in demand there is a greater emphasis on ensuring food is labelled correctly and the high standards of organic food production are met.

The bad new is that there are unscrupulous people out there willing to make a quick buck on the back of this rising demand, with non-organic produce being sold as organic at a higher price.

So, as a consumer what can you do to make sure you’re buying something that genuinely conforms to organic standards?

1. Check the labelling of packaged goods.

By law, the labelling of certified organic products must display the certification number, eg “Organic Certification: UK 3”. This is often accompanied by the name, initials or logo of the certification body.

The certification number shows that the organic product complies with minimum government standards.

When choosing organic produce always check packaging for the certification number prior to purchase.

Current government approved UK certification bodies are:

Organic Farmers and Growers Ltd, UK2 www.organicfarmers.org.uk
Scottish Organic Producers Association, UK3 www.sopa.org.uk
Organic Food Federation, UK4 www.orgfoodfed.com
Soil Association Certification Ltd, UK5 www.soilassociation.org/certification
Bio-Dynamic Agricultural Association, UK6 www.biodynamic.org.uk/demeter
Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association, UK7
Organic Trust Limited, UK9 www.organic-trust.org
Quality Welsh Food Certification Ltd, UK13
Ascisco Ltd, UK15

2. Ask for proof of certication for loose organic produce.

Where organic produce is being sold loose, proof of certification must be on display to consumers. This should be a certificate from the organic certification body, accompanied by a trading schedule that lists all the licensed products.

Where these aren’t on display, ask the seller for proof of certification. If they cannot provide this you could approach the supplier of the product to ask them about their certification.

3. Report your concerns where you have failed to see proof.

If you are not fully satisfied about the authenticity of a product you should contact your local Trading Standards Officer who will investigate your claim.

To find your local trading standards office visit www.tradingstandards.gov.uk.

To make a complaint visit www.consumercomplaints.org.uk