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Natural Agriculture Rapeseed Oil

Many of us have enjoyed a late spring drive through the country side where shades of lush, green colors and cultivated fields greet the senses.  Often that vastness of green space is interrupted by the bright yellow stretches of rapeseed.

This plant, from the genus of brassica and related to cabbage, cauliflower and mustards, has been widely cultivated for thousands of years. Its many beneficial properties and versatility of application have taken it from the fields and transformed into vegetable oil but also into biodiesel.

The byproduct of the  oil production is high –protein animal feed; besides, it is an excellent cover crop that helps prevention of soil erosion whilst at the same time its own root system improves soil tilth.

Together with soy bean and palm oil it is the largest source of vegetable oil. After barley and wheat it is the third most important crop grown in the UK.  And although that is and was so, back in 2015, according to The Soil Association sources, there was no organic rapeseed production in the UK.

The Natural Agriculture explorations therefore, had to be taken over the border, to the Republic of Ireland and the County Kilkenny. This is where Ben Colchester and his wife Charlotte have been tirelessly developing and promoting organic farming for over 40 years. They met at the agricultural college in England and their vision of mixed organic farming found a promising base here, away from large-scale monoculture farming favored in the UK at the time.

 Their home, the Drumeen Farm, has been a lifelong stage for the family life that included growing own fruit and vegetable, producing own meat and dairy. Every meal with almost every ingredient was prepared with the produce dug or picked minutes before being turned into a breakfast, lunch or dinner – all fresh and all traceable. Despite not having enough hours in a  day for all the  projects they dreamed up, they immersed themselves in organizing the new organic movement  and, for a while,  their farm was even the headquarter of  The Organic Trust.   

In 2006 Ben and Charlotte bought their first oil press designed to produce high quality, culinary oil for the house with a view to use the rape meal, the byproduct, as food for their livestock.

Around the same time, their daughter Kitty was doing her voluntary work on the Somali/Ethiopian border in refugee and food camps and the experience helped her decide to start a sustainable food enterprise.  This is how The Second Nature oil business was born; at the time 100% of culinary oils were imported to Ireland so it comes as no surprise that this organic oil, staring modestly on farmers markets, won the JFC Innovation Awards in 2007 for the best innovative idea.

Produced organically, this oil therefore sees nothing of the usual industrial applications of pesticides fungicides, extraction chemicals etc in order to maximise the yields. Additionally, as Ben puts it “the plants bearing a lot of seeds are usually weak and easily affected by the environmental changes”.  This means great variation in yields from one year to another and unpredictable profit; yet the shire determination and desire to get the best organic product possible means that the oil is extracted by gently pressing seeds ONLY ONCE. The valuable and considerable amount of leftover oil goes to livestock, in form of a nutritious “expeller cake” usually fed to animals during the winter time. This not only adds to the happiness and heath of animals but is also respecting the nature and showcasing the essence of organic production and promotion of sustainable farming.  The feel good factor is, hence, added to the receiving end, the consumer.

Let’s not forget to mention that, in order to mimic the way Mother Nature treats this seed, the entire production process is designed in a similar way.  What does that mean?  The little seeds (1.5 – 3.00mm in diameter) are developed inside a long, green pod that turns into a hard brown shell at maturity. This is how they are protected from heath, light and oxidation.

During the pressing of the oil at the Drumeen farm, only dark, food grade piping is used (this minimises the exposure to light) along with stainless steel tanks; the oil does not go through filtering or sitting in the tanks. Once the pressing is finished the oil is immediately bottled in order to avoid oxidation from exposure to air and moisture. This precious liquid is bottled in only dark bottles and tins to protect it from the possible light damage that may affect the taste and flavour of the oil.

Being a man of a pioneering, open mind, Ben Colchester, with all his years of experience and expertise, believes that there is always a more natural way of farming. With this in mind, he started growing his rapeseed in Natural Agriculture way in 2016.

The Second Nature oil that was conceived in the minds of ambitious, hard working  and determined parents and additionally developed and marketed by their daughter Kitty has been brought out of Ireland and, apart from the UK, can be found in Dubai, Hong Kong, Japan and China.  Needles to say, this successful family story has served as a beacon of light to growing number of followers.

For those of you in the UK, who would like to taste this organic oil and enjoy its many health benefits, Shumei London Centre is the place to contact.

The oil that found its way onto the menu for the historic state visit by Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland in May 2011 needs no introduction and no marketing – it is quite literally fit for the Quinn.

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Newly harvested Japanese Tea

We have received Japanese tea from Japan.

Mr Ogose is producing tea in Shizuoka prefecture in Japan, which is famous for Japanese tea production. Unlike other Japanese tea, he is growing “Sancha” variety. This is Japanese heirloom variety which is grown in mountain areas naturally.

Another producer, Yûsando, is producing teas in Uji in Kyoto and Nara which is another famous tea production area. (Yusando’s website: https://yusando.com/)

Both producer is growing tea according to Shumei Natural Agriculture principles without using chemicals, fertilisers including animal manures. Please enjoy slightly sweet and gentle, with a refreshing aftertaste. 

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Ancient wheat flour from Italy

Vestri farm is growing varieties of ancient wheat. We have just received flours of three varieties.

Gentil Rosso

This ancient grain owes its name to the reddish tinge that its ears take on when ripe. Rich in proteins, but low in gluten, Gentil Rosso flours are ideal in the production of bread, pizza and focaccia.

Inallettabile

Named after this because it is less prone to lodging, this soft wheat is widespread in Emilia and Tuscany. Inallettabile flours are mainly used in the production of Tuscan bread.

Frassineto

Ancient wheat with high ears, particularly subject to lodging in the event of storms or strong winds. Low in gluten, but with a substantial percentage of protein, it makes the products more digestible and assimilable. Good for pastry and cakes

Each variety (1kg) £3.40

 Manuela Vestri 

I am a registered farmer, keeper of ancient grains in the region of Tuscany. My farm Vestri is in the province of Arezzo, and we grow ancient durum wheat from the Senatore Cappelli family.

After we harvest the grain we use a sifter to select seeds for the next crop, a tool that my grandparents used. We then make stone-ground flour in a small mill on the slopes of Mount Amiata where the microclimate of the area allows us to keep the grain without having to use artificially cooled containers, and the grinding is done with a local peperino stone, which imparts a special fragrance to the flour. Grinding is done a little at a time so that the flour in the final product is no more than two months old.

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Tea from Japan added!

We have received Japanese tea from Shizuoka which accounts for 40% of Japan’s overall tea production. The producer, Hakkei-en, started production of sencha green tea first but now their hoji tea (roasted green tea) became very popular as well.

This time, we have received sencha loose leaf, hoji tea loose leaf, hoji tea bags and sencha stick.

Powdered green tea is in the stick. You can make tea just like an instant coffee. (Sorry, this is not matcha…)

Sencha green tea

Hakkeien hoji tea bag
Hoji tea bag
Hakkeien sencha tea stick
Sencha stick
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Podere Midolla Olive oil

Antonella Rastrelli – Podere Midolla 

Antonella
Antonella Rastrelli

Antonella has been practicing Natural Agriculture since 2008 and produces healthy high-quality Natural Agriculture olive oil. Podere Midolla also has guest lodging facilities and serves Tuscan cuisine with homemade olive oil. 

Antonella’s work at Podere Midolla includes caring for the olive groves, milling and bottling the oil, managing the lodging facilities and cooking at the restaurant.   

Harvest season is the busiest time. In order to keep its high quality, harvested olive needs to be processed at the oil mill as soon as possible after harvest. To avoid the contamination with other organic olives, she goes to the mill in early morning and she is always the first person to press olives. Antonella works night and day during harvest season. Bottling is also a hard work. Antonella bottles thousands of bottles of olive oil almost single handedly.  

Antonella said;

“I abandoned old agricultural customs and a ways of thinking that were bound only by economic reasons; instead, I turned my attention to a philosophy that is more deeply connected to nature itself.   As a result, I came to understand deeply that “Nature can teach us everything” is true and that nature can provide us with everything we need. Human beings do not have to intervene in the workings of nature.  We do not have to input additives to the soil, such as synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, and animal manure. These are not necessary at all. “

Podere Midolla’s olive oil has won many awards at various olive oil contests, gaining recognition as one of the foremost olive oil in Tuscany. 

Available in 500ml bottle and 3 litre tin.