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Highbank apple juice, cider vinegar and cider

They call it the Forbidden fruit; the golden one was blamed for the start of the Trojan War. The Norse gods assign their immortality to it and The Arabian Nights speak of a magic power of the fruit that cures all diseases.

Many poets dedicated their verses to the fruit and the painters paid their respect by immortalizing it on the canvas. Many languages are peppered with proverbs using the fruit’s name by stating that  one keeps the doctor away,  that it falls not far from the tree, that a rotten one spoils the whole barrel and  that the beautiful ones are sometimes sour,….. Yes, we are talking about the apple…the fruit that is a symbol for sin and knowledge, for immortality, temptation and seduction. Unsurprisingly so since its Latin name Malus means both APPLE and EVIL.
Where does apple come from?

The DNA analyses show that apple originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan.  UK alone has developed around 2500 varieties; the same number is grown on 50 acres orchard of USDA’s Plant Genetics Resources Unit in Geneva, NEW YORK.  Nowadays, worldwide, we have around 7000 varieties of apples.

The fruit has travelled around the world for centuries and is now grown worldwide.

A sort of travelling streak has not bypassed the family history of the current High bank farm owners, Julie and Rod Calder-Potts from the Co Kilkenny in Ireland.  It is a true adventure that started in 19th century by Rod’s great grandfather who came from the Orkney Islands to the Co Kilkenny around 1880. Rod’s mother met her husband, Rod’s father, towards the end of WW2 and moved to Sout Africa but returned to Ireland in1961 due to political changes  that turned the country, as they described it, into “no place to raise a family of four young boys”. They bought a farm from his mother’s Uncle Billy and renamed it High bank .The hops growing was started in 1963 and the first apples, to compliment the hops gardens, were planted in 1969. The fertile Kilkenny soils are well suited for apple growing and the varieties carefully chosen are known for their juicing properties as well as vitamin and mineral content.  This is how the full circle, from the North of Scotland to South Africa and back was closed. The family set out to transform the farm; in 1994 the farm production was converted to the Organic system of farming. They were simultaneously returning the entire farm to more environmentally inclusive husbandry so that they have now constructed two small lakes, developed woodland and wild life habitats.  The renovation of this once famous historic estate is ongoing.

The farm production has also seen and undergone  some changes, especially in the recent years.

Back in 2016, after the encounter with Shumei, the decision was made to start a trial with the Natural Agriculture approach the following year. Even after this first, trial year, the difference between the organic and Natural Agriculture was clearly noticeable. The Natural Agriculture area with no input whatsoever, was awash with clover, a nitrogen fixing plant.  The organic input was very minimal, only a bit of cheese sludge. Seeing the difference and the transformation, whereby the nature itself was responding by making adjustments and prompting a change in the soil condition, Rod and Julie decided to convert the entire orchard to Natural Agriculture.

The farm is open to visitors, local schools and students and the owners are happy to share how they practice their farming. The apples from the High bank are turned into juices, vinegars, and treacle and apple syrup. They also produce ciders, apple wine, gin, vodka and brandy.  All their products are made on site. A selection of the farm’s products is available on this site. 

Each and every product has its own distinct flavour, texture, colour, nutritional value….yet they are all made from the same fruit that, thanks to its versatility just keeps giving. 

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Logothetis Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 Buy Logothetis Olive oil

We often talk about nutrition, healthy eating and different types of cuisines; when doing so, we often talk about Mediterranean diet as one of the healthiest around. It includes fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs and nuts, lots of sea food and of course olive oil.

Olives have been cultivated in some Mediterranean parts for over 5000 years; there is a carbon –dating evidence of olive tree being present in Spain some 6000-8000 years ago. This fruit represents one of the largest fruits crops- we produce more olives then apples, oranges or grapes.

Spain, Italy and Greece are the world leading olive producers and 90% of all Mediterranean olives are used for olive oil production.

There are several hundreds of different varieties and they belong to the OLEA EUROPEA category; OLEA is Latin for oil. They mostly live for several hundreds of years, normally produce more crops in low lands but comfortably thrive in mountainous, hilly and rocky parts. Given the divine climate that supports the growth of olive trees and the nutritional value that comes from  sodium , potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and iodine and let’s not forget vitamins, amino acids and of course the oleic acid that protects our heart and lowers blood pressure …. It is not hard to understand why so little is needed to be done in order to get so much.  Have we mentioned the antioxidants? The vitamin E? And that is not all you find in olives!

Our olive story today takes us to Greece and the island of Zakynthos; once you arrive to the town of Zakynthos, a short drive of about 15 km down south towards Vasilikos peninsula, will take you to one of the organic gems of the island, the Logothetis Farm. Around 80 ha of open nature, the olive groves, the authentic farm houses nestled amongst the branches of the ancient trees, daily serenaded by tireless cicadas and close proximity of sandy beaches are powerfully evocative images of Gerald Durrell’s The Corfu Trilogy.

Dionyssis Logothetis, the current owner, continues the long family history of producing extra virgin olive oil. Since 2005 the farm’s production has been solely organic; he has always believed that the nature knows best when it comes to growing olive trees and all he does, apart from harvesting is a gentle and minimal pruning.  Seeing himself as a nature’s observer and a diligent custodian, always striving for the new ways of expressing the due respect to it, he started practicing Natural Agriculture in 2016. He finds the olive trees to be very generous and as such should be treated in the same way. Once the fruit has been removed and the trees stand bare of its weight, the grooming for the next growing season needs to take place.  He tells us that the majority of growers practice harvesting and pruning of the trees simultaneously in order to reduce the labor cost.  It is not unusual to see a chainsaw being used for the same reason. This practice does not give enough strength and time to the trees to produce new branches.

At the Logothesis farm harvesting and pruning do not take place at the same time; Dionyssis goes back to the olive grove at a later date and just as a painter goes back to his unfinished canvas on the easel, he carefully observes each and every tree, ascertains their condition and, armed with only a hand saw he does a minimal pruning without unnecessary severity and harm inflicted upon them.  

This consideration and tenacity in applying such practice has proven to be a very wise one: he has managed to harvest a significant amount every year unlike many others who are experiencing alternate bearing, which means olive trees bear fruits in two-yearly cycles.

In 2017, he built his own mill so that his oil can avoid mixing with other oils, including other organic ones. The traditional method requires hard work, training, experience and much more time. Production takes place at low temperatures and without any use of water. Olive oil produced with millstones and presses retains its utmost nutritional value and is distinguished by its mild, almost sweet taste.

The variety he uses is called “Koroneiki” which is grown solely for oil productions and as such is known worldwide.  In Greece it is known as the queen of olives amongst oil producing varieties; these relatively small fruits, around 12-15 mm in length, have one of the highest levels of polyphenols, known not only for its health benefits but it also prolongs the shelf life of the oil.

Koroneiki  olives  have been known for around 3000 years; the oil produced from it is not  only suitable for the culinary uses , in salads, cooking and baking, meat marinating You can also use it on your skin and hair or simply drink a spoonful with a pinch of salt ; after all the ancient Greeks have used it as medicine . Given that Dionyssis is the name known in Greek mythology to represent the god of the grape harvest, wine making and wine, of fertility,  orchards, fruit and vegetation it is somehow very fitting that the producer and the current owner of Logothesis farm has the same name; he also produces wine but that is a story for another time.

Buy Logothetis Olive oil

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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.

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Organic pasta from ancient variety durum wheat

Manuela Vestri  

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. We are trying to make flour and pasta from this wheat as naturally as possible.

My family has always cultivated in an organic way even though they never looked for an organic certification, they simply believed in the practice of respecting the Earth. I am a third generation farmer, and after meeting Shumei in 2014 I decided to convert to Natural Agriculture completely. My relationship with the Earth has become deeper and more intense. 

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. This allows us to always provide a high-quality product, and especially fresh. 

With whole wheat flour we make tagliatelle and other pasta, produced in two artisanal pasta factories. Both of them work with ancient grains and dry the pasta slowly at least for 37 hours

View our pasta range

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Grape vinegar “Oro Supremo“ from Acetomodena

Modena, Italy
www.acetomodena.it 

The vinegar farmhouse Acetomodena is immersed in the green Modenese countryside and surrounded by its own vineyards, in the northern province of Modena.

The Società Agricola Acetomodena (Acetomodena Agricultural Society) is a project which the Vecchi family passionately wanted to be directed towards the future of the planet, thanks in part to the extensive use of renewable energy, while at the same time maintaining its roots firmly embedded within the traditions of Modena.

Mr. Paolo Vecchi’s passion, the owner of the company, has always been to produce balsamic vinegars of only authentic quality. It was in this process that he met Shumei Natural Agriculture in October 2012, through his friend Mr. Macello Dragoni, general manager of Montalbano Agricola Alimentare Toscana CO., LTD, a Shumei’s partner in Tuscany for natural olive oil production. Mr. Vecchi decided to experiment viticulture with the Natural Agriculture method at part of his vineyard from 2013, it was then that the grape vinegar “Oro Supemo”, a simple annual product of high natural quality was born.

Characteristic

Variety of grape: Lumbrusco 100%
It derives from the fermentation of cooked grape must, by particular strains of acetic bacteria, often organised in bacterial colonies called “mothers” and the subsequent maturation for about three months in a cherry barrel.

Go to Product page

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Olive oil from Greece

The Logothetis family has a long history of producing extra virgin olive oil in Zakynthos island, Greece. The current owner, Dionyssis, is always pursuing creating excellent quality of olive oil and has been growing olives organically since 2005. From his experience, he found nature knows how to grow olive trees. What he needs to do is observing nature and giving just a little help such as minimum pruning.

In 2017, he has built his own mill so that his oil can avoid contamination with other oils. The olives are stone milled and pressed hydraulically  so that it will keep maximum quality of nutrients, rather than done by centrifugation.

The variety is called “Koroneiki” which is relatively small fruits than other olives for eating but suitable for olive oil.

This will be a great addition to our extra virgin olive oil range. Available from 4 May 2018.