Newsletter Samhain 2014

Pumpkin It Up

pumpkinPumpkin season is in full swing and all sorts of squashes will cross  FareShares’ veg. rack over coming weeks, grown in East Anglia by a consortium that includes Breckland Organics, from the Norfolk village of Shropham, whose production of roots, brassicas – esp. broccoli – and squash complements our principal supplier’s, Hughes, salad and leaf crops. Hughes Organic is as a family business, run by Lizzie & Grahame with their son Josh, who usually delivers to London on Tuesday nights/Wednesday mornings.

Lizzie Hughes reports the ‘squash are safely gathered and are in high demand. Most varieties have done well except the Crown Prince from Wakelyn’s Farm in Suffolk, which for some reason has not. A great shame as this beautiful variety, which is pale green with a gold interior, serves well in late winter. Celebration, Harlequin  & Delicata lead the way; coming in later are Kabocha & Kuri,  which are like little red pumpkins with a nutty flavour that’s preferred by Alice Waters  for her classic pumpkin soup. Despite slight differences of flavour and texture, however, most squash do same thing when cooked and so can be substituted in any butternut squash recipe.

There are those who will tell you that the skin of most squash is edible, but what they mean is that it’s digestible, not desirable. So, you first consideration is, are you going to peel it before or after cooking? Serving pumpkin soup – or even, risotto! – in a hollowed out gourd is, BTW, passé and to commit such a faux pass risks exposure to social ridicule. Therefore, you won’t be retaining the skin. Either remove it with a peeler before cutting the squash, or lightly bake and cool it before peeling. Baking intensifies the flavour and makes it sweeter, which is a great tip for making soups & rissotti, such as this one,

The second consideration when dealing with a squash is, can you be bothered with the seeds? Pumpkin seeds can be delicious if properly prepared, but it is a bit of a faff. If you choose to discard the seeds, however, don’t get rid of the pulp! One tip is to put pulp and seeds in a pan with boiling water and scoop the seeds out with a spoon as the mixture cooks down. You can add sugar, or molasses, to make the sweet base of your pumpkin pie filling
or, perhaps, add chopped Scotch Bonnet chillies to make the fiery flavour base of a Jamiacan-style pumpkin soup.

Cost Of Living

FareShares is not a shop & it is nobody’s business. Nobody gets paid and we don’t make a profit. We exist to provide unadulterated basic foodstuffs as cheaply as possible and so we charge as small a mark-up as possible on the wholesale prices of the foodstuffs we sell. Which, until now, has been 10%. We put 15% on the fresh veggies to cover wastage and 0% on Zaytoun products, to show solidarity with the Palestinian farmers, and on Moonscups, to encourage that holistic approach to menstrual management.

We turn over around two grand on a good week and so should expect about £800 monthly excess. That should be more than enough to cover rent and utility bills for the building, but it hasn’t been. We’ve struggled with our deficit and the situation has stabilised, but it is never going to improve without putting up our prices. As it goes, we carefully manage our financial relationships with our lovely suppliers, to whom we owe hundreds. Without catching up the slack in its finances, FareShares can’t afford to hold a lot of stock on its shelves, never mind improve the premises.

From November 1st, for six months, we’ve agreed to increase our profit margin on all products sold in the FareShares store to 15%. Pre-paid orders from the Suma & Infinity catalogues shall incur a surcharge of 10%. We expect this will generate about £1800, which will considerably ease our deficit. We’ll review the situation next Spring and if we’re rolling in cash, may revert to the lowest mark-up possible, as per FareShares mission statement.

Future FareShares Collaborators

Back in Spring, Fareshares decided to stock Hodmedod’s British-grown quinoa from the fields of Essex, even if it wasn’t organic, but we need to be more financially stable before taking on new suppliers. In the meantime, Peter Fairs, the farmer who has grown quinoa since 1985 has been acclaimed by an article in The Guardian’s Food & Drink section as ‘the seeder of the pack!’ “I’m not an approved, registered organic grower,” he says, “but we don’t use any chemicals.” Look for Hodmedod quinoa in Fareshares soon.

Regular shoppers will have seen the posters advertising Sutton Community Farm, with which FareShares hopes to collaborate as a designated pick-up point for their weekly VegBox scheme, so that you can collect your weekly veggies from us without joining the scrum on Thursdays. To do this, we need at least a dozen people to commit to taking a box every week in order for Sutton Farm to justify a separate delivery to FareShares on Fridays. In the meantime, Jamyang, in Renfrew Road, SE11, already acts as a pick-up point and has a delightful courtyard café.

Agave Syrup Controversy

FareShares doesn’t sell refined sugar because, any fool knows, sugar is bad; in fact, it is as as dangerous as alcohol or tobacco. Sugar sure is sweet, though, and many of us are fatally addicted to that sweetiness. Perhaps the hardest drug for any true Brit to is kick is hot, sweet tea in Tony Benn-sized mugs! Honey may be a more acceptable sweetener to some, but its not vegan. However, we need not reach for the white granulated, as there are at least ten natural alternatives.

Conspicuous by its absence from this list, despite being the most popular sweetener supplied by FareShares, is agave syrup. We usually stock bottles of Suma’s agave syrup
in two sizes. Agave is a Mexican succulent plant that contains a lot of fructose – plant sugar – that may be fermented to make an alcoholic beverage called pulque and then distilled to make tequila. Ay Caramba! In recent years, however, the ‘agua miel,’ which is up to 90% fructose, has been processed for use as a sweetener. But there is no evidence to suggest that refined agave syrups are inherently healthier than refined sugar.

In fact, some say that commercially-available agave syrup is no better for one’s health than  corn syrup. This is not what we wanted!

While glucose is vital to life and can be metabolised by every cell in the human body, the  only organ that can metabolise fructose in significant amounts is the liver, which might get overloaded and start turning the fructose into fat! As Suma acknowledge, ‘according to some experts, if fructose is consumed after eating a large meal that overly raises the blood sugar, or with high glycemic foods, it no longer has a low glycemic value. Strangely enough, it will take on the value of the higher glycemic food. So exercise restraint.’

In the context of a high-carb, high-calorie Western diet, eating a lot of added fructose can wreak havoc on metabolic health. FareShres shoppers, who usually eat more consciously, will not need to be told to go easy, even with this wonderful sweetener. It is a good policy to eat fructose-based desserts on an empty stomach, in between meals or with other low-glycemic foods. Use it for an occasional sweet treat or to lighten up your mighty mug o’ Rosie Lea.

We Need Help

FareShares is a volunteer-run project and new volunteers are always needed and welcomed. They volunteer for a regular two-hour shift behind the counter, to unpack & display on Wednesday afternoons, or to help manage the ordering and finances.

Currently, we need help with two specific problems:

1) THE FRIDGE needs servicing, but we can’t afford to pay a commercial refrigeration engineer. Perhaps you are one, or you know one, who can help?

2) THE TILL is kaput! We experimented with a till, which did have its benefits, but now it’s beyond repair. If you have a working till to donate, or a more imaginative solution to FareShares’ POS conundrum, please help!


nottescoWe need you not only to ‘like’ FaresharesCoOp on Facebook, but to add your review of Fareshares’ service, with a star rating. Scroll down to the ‘reviews’ box on the right hand side, click the star rating and add a few well-chosen words. Becky Buchanan said: ‘A philosophical inspiration & a practical blessing, you provide a focus for alternative living vital for a healthy community & future.’

Such testimonials show the world wide web and our land lord that FareShares is nobody’s business and not merely a shop, but a much appreciated experiment in comm