New girl around the Blog
Organic Russia has a cooperation with Look Bio. The deal is that I will write about, what is going on in the organic sector, the newest scientific results, and what quality food is, and it will definitely also include recipes. You will find the english text here, and a link to the Russian text under each post. You can also follow the danish blog “Rusland set fra et køkkenbord”. (If you are abel to read danish)
Think Global, Act Local
(And a recipe on how to break the ice)
Currently a lot of good people are working on national Russian rules for organic production. I follow this work closely and really hope the result will be a set of rules equivalent to the international standards. So that it will be possible to export also Russian organic food to the rest of the world.
What is she saying? Why on earth should we do that? Isn’t the whole organic movement about local production, and not sending food half the way around the globe, but eat what you can produce close to where you live?
Yes! This is also what I think and have talked about for decades, but two things + a “Big Important Bonus” is from my point of view significant.
First of all I cannot see myself live without chocolate, bananas or coffee. And they are a bit difficult to produce in Tver or Copenhagen. Secondly, Russia and Europe are geographically very close, and the sale of organic food is booming in the EU at the moment. So it would, from an economical point of view, be unwise not to have the opportunity to export Russian organic products.
And “The Big Important Bonus” will be that sharing of Know How is much easier when we work within the same frame. Sharing of knowledge is how organic farming has developed since the beginning, and contrary to what people think, this has never been big business. Organic farming is a movement developed by people who believe it is important to have an alternative to the conventional farming system. And the amount of money used on developing organic farming are peanuts compared to the amount used on the conventional farming system, so “keeping our secrets to ourselves” will only make the development of efficient, sustainable (also economical for the farmer) organic farming slower and not benefit anybody but the conventional farmers.
The international umbrella organisation IFOAM have proved is possible to have a frame of organic rules that works all over the world. http://www.ifoam.bio/en/organic-landmarks/principles-organic-agriculture.
But I admit that it is not an easy task, and there are cultural differences we must consider and discuss. The development will not go as fast as many people, including me, could wish.
Fortunately life is not always about making complicated rules and trying to connect people that may not really want to be connected. Often it is about meeting friends, share a good meal, made from things you can find next door. Like this dessert. It is cheap, easy to make, and fun to eat. Hope you will enjoy it.
Break the ice
Kvass with strawberry and mint, under a lid of ice
4 (big) portions
1 l kvass
400 g sliced strawberries (or whatever fruits you have)
3 stalks fresh mint
2 big tablespoon liquid honey
Put the strawberries, and chopped mint in the kvass. The amount of honey depends on the size of your sweet tooth. So be sure to taste the dish
Put the mix into 4 portion glasses and put it in the freezer for 1 – 2 hours (not more). You will now have a lid of ice on top of the bowl. Serve the dish as dessert and let your guests ”break the ice”.
I have made it with peaches and great success, one warm sunny day
It’s all a question of trust between you and your customer
Find the Russian version here
One of the questions I most often get from consumers is: ”How can I be sure, that the organic products really are organic?” and the organic producers ask me: “How can I make the consumers trust me when I claim that my products are organic?”
To the consumer, the short answer is: “When you buy organic food you can be 90 % sure that pesticides and artificial fertilizers were not used. When you buy conventional food, you can be 100% sure that pesticides and artificial fertilizer were used”. We can then talk more about certification and control depending on the circumstances.
To the producer, the answer is a bit more difficult. The not so short answer is: “You have to do your best, follow all the rules and regulations, and be passionate about it. You must do a lot more paperwork and be controlled more often and more severely than your conventional colleagues. And have to live with, that after you have explained in details how you work,
you will hear the consumers saying: .. “year year year… You just spray at night”.
So being a producer of organic food, especially in pioneer times as it is now in Russia, takes brave people with self-confidence.
Here is a list of the most important Do’s and Don’ts when you want to build up a good, lasting and trustworthy relationship between you and the consumers.
1. Be honest, do your best. And be prepared to be mistrusted anyway.
If you are in it for easy money and a quick gain, find something else to do. The organic customer will always find out if you are making shortcuts, and you are not only ruining your own brand, but also the whole industry. So don´t do it. Please.
2. Focus on your real target group, and do not use energy on the others.
A lot of people have strong opinions about organic food, and they use every opportunity to let it be known.. They say: “Organic food cannot feed the world”, or “it is not scientifically proven that organic food is healthier”. And there is a special Russian version that says: “Organic production is not possible in Russia”. I must admit that I cannot see why Russia should be different when it comes to organic production. It is not a political issue, it is biology, and of course it is possible in Russia, like it is in the rest of the world.
These people will not buy your products what ever you do, so do not let them drain your energy and enthusiasm. Focus on the real organic customers, who want to buy your products, as soon as they understand you are doing your best, and that you are developing the production in the direction they also want.
But who are the real organic customers?
Source: Økologisk Landsforening Denmark
Very simplified we have here 6 different types of customers, and it is the idealist and the individualist you should aim at reaching.
The sceptic will most likely never buy any organic food, but they have strong opinions and, and together with the traditional, they can drain your enthusiasm and paint the sky black with worries. It is you uncle or previous employer, and they use a lot of energy to explain why organic food is a bad idea. They are often also the ones who do not care about nutrition or health. I think all of us who work with organic food have used far too much time discussing with them. But I also have to admit that they are the ones who help us sharpen the arguments, and check the facts one extra time. So there is reason to thank them for helping us being on our toes.
But they will never buy organic food anyway, so keep your commercial focus on the most likely buyers. That could be your aunt or colleges (especially the ones with kids), or your cousin who is an engineer and interested in healthy living. They belong to the group of idealists and individualist
3. Be transparent, always.
Let the customer know who you are, what you are doing, how you are doing it, and why you are doing it. Most people around the world rate trust in other people higher than certificates, and this is perhaps more significant in Russia than elsewhere.
Maybe you are afraid of opening up, because you will not give your ideas away. The problem is that your customers get the feeling that something dodgy is going on, and your trustworthiness drops. In my opinion no one should be afraid of competitors within the organic sector. The stronger and more trustworthy the whole sector is, the more customers will be attracted.
4. Focus on what is special about your produce and explain it in a simple way.
You have a complicated message to explain, biodiversity, certification, use of special seeds, special methods, crop rotation and so on. If you try to explain everything even the most interested customer will stop listening.
Use the time it takes to find out exactly why you want to produce and sell organic products. It is called the “Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and each producer has its own story and unique USP. People love to buy a product with a story attached.
If you have a lot of different vegetables and can deliver them fresh in the season, your USP is freshness in the season. If you have invested a lot in building storage, and you have a large quantity of carrots and potatoes in a homogeny quality, your USP is that the customer can rely on your product all year around. Maybe your milk comes from a special breed of cows, and they walk around in the mountains eating special herbs. Then that will be the USP, and a picture of the cows will help you building your brand.
1. Promise that you have scientific proof for whatever.
Like ex. Organic food cures cancer, or diabetes, or allergies, or that people who eat only organic food live longer than people who don´t.
I am well aware that many people truly believe in this. And I have met many organic producers whose main target was to make food with these qualities. But my advice is to keep it to your self. The only thing that happens is that you give the skeptic more ammunition, and confuse the real organic costumers. And remember that the people in our target group are not stupid. They can make there own conclusions.
2. Talk bad about conventional products,
If you are producing organic eggs, post some pictures of your happy chickens in the field, and leave it to the NGO´s (or me ), to show pictures of cage chickens without feathers.
3. And please do NOT talk bad about your organic colleagues and their methods.
This just gives the sceptics more to talk about. Even if you think your criticism is justified, remember that this definitely does not sell more organic products.
Negativity always attracts attention and clicks on the Internet. And the newspapers like a juicy negative story about someone who cheated or misused the term organic.
Organic producers are passionate people and all over the world organic farmers are discussing methods in details that confuse everyone outside the industry. Make a professional platform where you can discuss rules and methods. But keep these discussions among the professionals who understand the details.
You are always welcome to contact Organic Russia for a deeper discussion about these topics.
Can Beetroots save the world?
Well perhaps not all by itself and maybe it is also a bit too much to expect from a small beet. But using locally produced food, especially vegetables are one of the best ways to protect the environment.
I know I have written about the impact food have on our environment before, but it has been a while since. Now it is time to use the last beetroots and other winter vegetables for this season, and we all need some motivation keep them on the menu. To be honest we are all a bit tired of beetroots at the moment.
So to avoid us from jumping into the pool of imported goods and processed food here is a couple of arguments and recipes to keep them on the menu, while we are waiting for the new fresh greens to arrive.
Let’s start with the arguments: This is how the different kind of food influences on our environment.
Source. FBD Danmark
The more locally produced fruits and vegetables you can get into your diet the better. A side effect is that it is a lot better for your health than processed food, and it also has a positive impact on your food-budget.
And now to the recipes that hopefully can spice up your last portion of winter beetroots for this season
Beetroot cakes with oatmeal, goutweed and sage
100g root parsley
1 large onion
Sage (if you like it, otherwise it can be left out)
One big handful of goutweed if you have access to it (can also be left out)
Plenty of oil or butter for frying.
Grate the vegetables, and add the oatmeal, eggs, the chopped goutweed and the spices. Mix all the ingredients well.
Put the oil on a pan and heat it up. Use two spoons and put the mix on the hot pan. Like you would have done with meatballs. Fry them until they are crisp outside and warm inside. It takes around 10 – 15 minutes.
Serve with cottage cheese and roasted potato
For most people goutweed is an unwanted weed, that’s very difficult to get rid of. But it also a very healthy vegetable and one of the first fresh green we can get in the spring (and it is cheep!)
2 big beetroots
50 g pine nuts if it is Sunday. (If it is a normal weekday use pumpkin seeds)
3 big spoons of good olive oil
1 big slash of balcamico vinegar
Boil the beetroots tender, time depending on the size of the beet, around 30 minutes for an averages size beetroot. Put it in ice-cold water and rub of the skin.
Slice the beets as thin pieces as you can. And place the beets nicely on a plate. Sprinkle the oil over the beets. Put the seeds on a hot pan for 2-3 minutes remember to stir. Splash the vinegar in the hot pan, and enjoy the delectable scent. Sprinkle the seeds over the beets and serve it as a side dish to for example boiled tongue with horseradish.
You can also add your favourite cheese to this dish. I have with great success served it with blue cheese, parmesan or smoked cheese.
Steak tartare made from beetroots
2 fresh beetroots
1 big tablespoon mustard
1 big tablespoon graded horseradish
3 big table spoons Smetana
Toasted black bread (Rye bread if you can get it)
Grade the beetroots very fine. Add the mustard, horseradish and Smetana. Season with salt and pepper and serve it on toasted black bread.
If you want, you can add a fresh egg yolk, it will not harm the dish.
Bon Appetite… and remember that soon all the new vegetables will be ready
The Russian text can be found here
The world is moving on. Remember you are invited to join
“The Oil Age is over, like the Stone Age had its time. Not because we ran out of stone, but because we moved on”.
This is a quote from Herman Gref, Head of Sberbank, modified by a friend of mine. And I think the statement is correct.
We have today cars that run on electricity and soon 3D-printers will be common. It is hard to imagine what kind of changes this will bring. When a ship needs a spare part it can print it out while it is sailing and not spend time, money and fuel going to harbour to get it. The alternative sources of energy are developing rapidly in these years, so although we will find more oil, we will not need it. The world will move on.
Tesla. The first electric car that can drive really fast
This frightens of course a lot of people, particular those that have their income from the oil and gas industry, and they will probably try to ignore the fact, or to obstruct the development. This will undoubtedly cause some trouble here and there, but it will not change the overall fact that the world is changing, as it has many times before. And the smart people follow the changes instead of avoiding them.
But where are we going? My guess is that we are going greener and we focus on quality in life. The quality that does not include that we shall impress our neighbor, but the kind of quality that makes us genuine more happy. This is a worldwide trend and not only seen in the rich countries. Greentech and cleantech companies are today some of the most innovative and fastest growing industries
A small example is the invention of the eatable spoon. India uses yearly 120 billion pieces of cutlery made out of plastic. Plastic is cheep, but it leaves a huge pile of garbage, and it is about to be obvious for everybody that we have been polluting the world with far too much plastic since the 1960’ties.
This spoon will disappear when you have used it. Either because you eat it, or because it will compost. A plastic spoon will pollute the environment for decades.
So a smart guy invented the eatable spoon. It is a spoon made from millet, rice and wheat, and after you have used it you can eat it, or let it turn into compost. It will not end up in the stomach of a defenceless turtle or in big ugly piles of garbage. He started in 2010 and has now so much success that he makes a new production line that can make 800.000 spoons a day! This is just on example on how the smart people find new way of making a living while the world is changing.
Use local food
Another trend is eating food that is produced as close to you as possible and eaten while it is best and fresh. But without compromising the good life. We want food that tastes good, but does not give us heart deceases or affects the environment in a bad way.
Photo: Helena Drewes Bollesen
If you want to move things in the right direction for your health and the environment, a nettle soup is a good start. Nettles are super food when they are best. Bursting with vitamins and minerals. And the nettles cost noting. Remember to wear gloves when picking them, and pick them now when they are at their best.
This recipe is with a Russian touch, and one of the many ways I teach my Danish friends to eat buckwheat.
Nettle soup with crust of garlic and buckwheat
100 g of fresh nettles
1 l chicken stock
1 big potato
1 red pepper (not important, but it adds an nice colour to the dish)
2 tablespoon oil,
Dice the onion, potato, and carrot. Fry the vegetables in oil and add the nettles. Add the stock and boil it for 20 minutes.
100 g of cooked buckwheat (use a leftover from yesterday)
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves of garlic
Chop the garlic into small pieces, and roast the buckwheat and garlic on a pan in the butter, with middelhigh heat. It takes a while before the buckwheat get the right crust, so be patient. At my stove it takes approximately 15 minutes.If you haven’t had nettles before then be prepared for a strong black pepperish taste. It is good and incredible healthy.
You can find the Russian text here
10 minutes in Ryazan
I am on my way to Ryazan. There is a conference at the agricultural university, and they have told me that I will have 10 minutes to explain why I think it is important that Russia should develop organic farming. 10 minutes is not a long time, so I really have to focus. There will no time for guff or my bad jokes that nobody understands anyway.
The most obvious thing would be to show some figures about the development of the organic market in the rest of the world. And it has been growing well for a long time. In France the market has doubled in the last five years. And even during the crisis in 2008 more and more land was converted into organic farmland.
But the problem with using this perspective is that someone could get the idea that organic production is an easy way of making money. And that is definitely not the case. A farming system that does not use any kind of doping requires dedication, experience and brave people who are not in it for the money. Event though it looks like it from the outside, because of the better prices.
It is to serve this specific customer
So my approach will be different. The main reason for developing organic farming in Russia at this stage in Russia, is to cover the demand of the customer. Before the sanctions imported goods covered this demand. And if this particular production is not developed it will be covered by expensive imported goods, when the sanctions are lifted. And that is stupid.
Russia is the largest country in the world, and the prosperous flow of oil is not that prosperous anymore (which is good). So now it is time to develop all other industries, including the farming industry. The conventional industry is working hard to optimize and streamline the production. And the organic farming industry should do the same. A country has to meet the demand of all their citizens, also those who want a niche product. And we should remember that for the time being organic food is a niche market. It is not so that there are millions of people who will only buy organic food. But even then it would be stupid to leave this sale to the companies who import food.
The real organic customer is actually very easy to work with. He or she understands that it is more costly to grow organic food, and is ready to pay the price. But! This customer does not want a semiweonlyusealittlepesticides product but food from farmers dedicated to organic farming.
The tree main reasons why the customer wants organic food
- Own health
- Animal welfare
- To protect the environment
To fulfil this demand the organic farmer have to focus on keeping his soil alive and vibrant. This is done by a good crop rotation plan and knowledge about how to feed micro life. All animals are kept in a way that meets their natural behaviour to the extent possible, and of course no chemical poison is used.
“Organic food” have such a great sound
One of the biggest challenges for developing organic farming system in Russia today is that the word has such a positive vibration. “Organic, bio, sustainable produced”. It looks so good when we see it on a label. And no doubt it helps selling produce, the same way that statements like: “This food makes your hair grow, or makes you slim” sells food products.
We can call it green washing or smart marketing. And in a free world we cannot forbid it.
But we can kindly ask for a platform where people who will produce food without any compromises, and those people who want to pay the price can meet. And for me it would be very good if we called this platform organic and bio-products. And then let the producers who want to produce vegetables in aquaculture or welfare chickens find other words and other platforms to work from. Balanced production or whatever they want, it is their decision.
This is what I want to say in Ryazan, hope that I can manage it in only 10 minutes.
You can find the Russian texts here
Go Veggi? Don’t worry, just keep an eye on the essential amino acids
Recently there was a Veggie festival in the Sokolniky Park. I was invited to talk about organic food, and was pleasantly surprised to see so many people that were genuinely interested in discussing quality food.
The theme was vegan food, and all day I kept thinking about the approach my teachers in nutrition had 25 years ago. They told me, and my fellow students, that it was very very difficult to get a fulfilling diet if your food only came from plants. Getting the essential amino acids was simply too complicated… “Eat meat and be safe”, was the message.
All proteins are built from different amino acids. Our body can make most of these amino acids except a small group we must have with our food. We call them essential amino acids. They are in meat, and especially eggs, but also in nuts and legumes. So if you remember to incorporate nuts and legumes in your daily food, you are home free. The names of the essential amino acids are: isoleucine, leucin, lysine, methionine, cystin, phenylalanine, tyrosine, threonine, tryptophan, valin, and histidin
And to all meals (including breakfast if possible) we ate meat like beasts. Well assisted by the food industry that for the last 50 years had been focusing on making meat cheaper and cheaper to saturate the market and the consumers with it.
There is a price that has nothing to do with money
But there are many good reasons to cut down on the meat. Meat production is one of the highest energy consuming productions we have. And a lot of the fertile land is used to make food for animals instead of food for people. I am not a vegetarian, and I have with great pleasure worked with product development in an organic meat-processing factory. We told our customers to eat less meat, and instead focus on the quality. “Less is more”
And it is undeniable that cutting down on the meat helps the environment. The figure below shows CO2 emission and water usage pr. kilo for different kind of food production. Meat uses far the most.
Cutting down on the meat will also most likely increase the health of the individual person. You get less saturated fat, and more vitamins, minerals and fibers.
But why did my teachers say that being vegan is very difficult? My best guess, beside the fact that Denmark is a meat producing country, is that at that time, studies of vegetarians was mostly made with groups of people from poor countries. Here the diet was inadequate and mainly consisting of rice. The classical picture of a child with very thin arms and a swollen tummy (kwashiorkor) is the sign of protein malnutrition.
But we have the possibility to eat a lot other products than rice, and if the diet every day contains nuts and legumes it is not that difficult to cover the need for essential amino acids.
Here is an example of a vegan day that will cover your need for essential amino acid. And if you take vitamin B12 as a supplement, there should be no argument for not being a vegan.
Oat porridge with soymilk, fresh apple and almonds
A piece of rye bread with peanut butter and a carrot
½ avocado, hummus, green salad and a wholemeal bun
Vegetable lasagne (wholemeal lasagne) and a glass of soymilk
1 banana and a ½ handful of cashewnuts
You can find the Russian text here
Pesticides, diabetes, and the need for an organic choice
Different surveys show that there is a connection between diabetes and consumption of pesticides.
A comparative study with this conclusion was presented on the annual meeting of “The European Association for the Study of Diabetes” in Stockholm September 2015.
The study included 21 different surveys with more than 66.000 people. And to my mind we can learn two important things.
First of all that the cause of diabetes 2 is more complex than the factor of lifestyle and genes. We have a tendency to stigmatize people with this decease, and think people “just” should get a grip on themselves and change their lifestyle. But using fear and stigmatization as motivation is definitely not working even though it is a widely used method. So if a broader view on the cause of this decease could take away some of the stress of the patients, a lot would be gained.
Diabetes is a global decease. At the moment there are more than 350 millions diabetics and the number is estimated to rise into 550 millions in 2050.
Secondly it shows the importance of an organic choice. The survey cannot pinpoint exactly which pesticides causes diabetes, and how the mechanism works in our body, but it clearly shows that people who are exposed to pesticides have a higher risk of getting diabetes. So again (people who know my point of view will know that I have said this before) it is of outmost importance that we continue to develop the organic farming industry with focus on making the soil more fertile. We must not in a weak moment think; “Well can’t we just try to minimize the use of pesticides and fertilizers? That would be a lot easier, and how much harm can such low doses do?” My opinion is: “We do not know, but more and more surveys show that food grown in fertile organic land, have some advantages and it is important that the consumer have this choice”.
Foto: Lone Virtus
The Russian version can be found here
Less pesticides in your body when you eat organic food
One of the trickiest questions I always get when I teach about organic food and health is: “Can you prove that organic food is healthier for humans than conventional?”
The correct answer is “No!”
It is simply too complicated to make valid scientific surveys to such a general question, and the reason why one gets cancer and another one arthritis, involves so many factors that we only in very specific cases can tell why.
But it is important to underline, that it is not the same as saying organic food is not healthier than conventional food. It just says we cannot prove it. So we have to use our common sense and be as objective as possible, when we discuss this question.
This also goes for one of the newest surveys from Sweden. It showed that a family who switched from conventional food to organic food had a significant drop in the level of pesticides in their urine after only two weeks. Especially the level in the children’s urine dropped.
The family was tested the first time after one week in which they ate conventional food, and then again after two weeks in which they only ate organic food.
The two pesticides that were found in the period where the test person eats organic food are often found in grain and grapes (chlormequat chloride and Mepiquat). The father is the test person with the highest level of pesticides in the urine after the period with organic food. The reason is unknown. The rest of the test persons show very low content of pesticides after the two-week period.
This survey proves that when we eat food with pesticides it is absorbed in the human body and when we eat food without pesticides, the level drops. One of the big questions is if this consumption of pesticides has an impact on our health?
Scientist work individually with the different chemical substances and on background of these test they make the international standards for ADI. This we have been doing for many years, and today we have ADI for most of the artificial substances we use and eat daily.
ADI: Maximum amount of a substance (such as a food-additive or pesticide residue) to which an individual can be exposed to (through contact or intake), on a daily basis over his or her life span (estimated at 70 years), without causing any harmful effects. ADI is measured usually in milligrams of the substance, per kilogram of body weight of the exposed person, per day (mg/kg/day).
But when we mix different chemical substances, and this happens every day in our body, the individual substance can change character and be much more potent than when it is tested individually. This is called the cocktail effect.
At the Danish Technical University a survey was made on rats. This study showed that a mixture of five pesticides that individually caused no harm in low doses, together made endocrine disruptors for the animals.
When the parent animals had the chemical cocktail mixed up in their feed, the result was fewer live-born pups, and an unusually large number malformed genitalia in the pups.
This shows us how difficult it is to make the right laws and recommendations, and in my opinion we cannot leave it to the scientific experts to tell us what to eat. This is a decision we have to make ourselves; based on the information the science gives us at the present moment.
When we choose organic food, we decide not to eat pesticides.
International Journal of andrology, årgang 33, nr.2 april 2010.
IVL Report U 5080 Human exposure to pesticides from food
The Russian version can be found here