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Jan 2011

We are just getting the first real batch of fruit in the new orchard I planted - there is over 120 varieties of fruit now - and picking them ripe of the tree is the way to go -

A while back I heard a researcher talking on the ABC radio who had found that when fruit is damaged on a tree - say hail damage, some insects, rubbing  etc  - the tree will heal this damage causing a skin blemish but the fruit does not rot  -  We might see this on apricots, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, nashi, plums. I had a destructive attack by slugs on some apricots just after set but the tree healed the skin damage. Although cosmetically the fruit looked unattractive  it was fine to eat - in fact it tasted delicious, it was full of juice and had great texture. I had some apricots from a supermarket - by comparison they were dry, tasteless, and flowery.

However by contrast  - once the fruit is picked, because the tree cannot produce the antibodies  - when the skin is damaged the fruit begins to rot. 

He discovered that fruit still on the tree with blemishes are very rich in beneficial antibodies - and that over the past 50 or so years due to commercial food production, sorting, storage transportation etc.  we have taken this natural antibiotic completely out of our diet  -

He also found that to gain the most from this natural protection effect the fruit had to be eaten as soon as possible after it was picked.  Ironically, it maybe that the fruit we have been discarding for years is actually the most beneficial.

We have a large home orchard with more than 130 varieties of fruit  -  and following his broadcast I have been eating as much of the blemished fruit ( that I would normal have discarded ) and it appears to have had a positive effect on my health

- so enjoy




Food - what we dont know might KILL US!

One of the key elements that sustains us is food. While we are informed to eat fresh fruit and vegetables so often we do not question the source of the fruit and vegetables we purchase. Inadequate labeling gives no indication of the true nature of the food. An apple, grown organically, with no chemical applications, allowed to ripen on the tree, picked a few hours before compassions is quite differently than an apple which has been forced fed with chemical applications, regularly sprayed with chemical pesticides an herbicides, picked unripe, processed, stored in a cool room, then gassed to ripen it then transported often thousands of miles to market. We also have some responsibility to purchase with environment in mind. This means considering biodiversity, pollution of soil, waterways and atmosphere.

For growers using earth care methods it is in their interest to provide as much information about their produce as possible, while for commerical corporations where profit is the motive the less information provided the better.

This begs the question; what would a label that gave true information about "fresh food" look like. The label below has been developed to give relevant information.

This image is mapped - click on a section to expand an explanation.

The True food label

true food label


Heirloom - An heirloom plantheirloom variety, or heirloom vegetable is a cultivar that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which is not used in commercial agriculture. Many heirloom vegetables have kept their traits through open pollination, while fruit varieties such as apples have been propagated over the centuries through grafts and cuttings. The trend of growing heirloom plants in gardens has been a growing world wide trend over the last decade.These are most often treasured for flavour and taste and have recently become sort after by many chefs aware of what they can offer.

Demand and purchase of these varieties encourages a greater genetic diversity within our food source, and adds to our culinary experience. The plants may produce a crop that ripens intermitantly over a long period of time. Because we have not been exposed to these fruits and vegetables they may look a bit "queer" - like red black tomatoes, red carrots etc. But in many cases like red carrots they actually contain a vastly higher source of nutrients and goodness than the commercial varieties we might be familar with.

  Commercial hybrid - Most often commercial hybrids have been developed to produce large crops that ripen simultaneously which allows the whole plant to be ripped from the ground. In the case of tomatoes, the fruit is often picked unripe and the hardness of the fruit at this stage allows rough mechanical harvest handling, long transportation and lengthy storage attributes. Genetic diversity is nonexistent.  
Seed source Organic - the seed has come from plants grown organically, there is no chance of genetic mutation in the plant from chemical exposure. The seed is viable and can be harvested for future crops.  
  Self collection - the mother plant might have come from a variety of sources but the seed has been harvested by the grower. Often the seed has been collected for many generations and has adapted to the local climatic and soil conditons.  
  Commercial - the seed has come from a commercially grown source external to the grower and may have been exposed to chemical applications, there is some risk to plant mutation. In some cases the seed is impoted from overseas. The seed is viable and can be harvested for future crops.  

Genetically Modified - The seed has come from a large corporation where the plants have been modified by the insertion of foreign genetic material for a range of reasons. This might be a toad gene to allow strawberries to ripen in cooler conditions, genes to allow certain herbicides to be applied without killing the plant etc. They are often promoted through the logic that less herbicide like round up is used because the plant can tolerate a heavier dosage and a singlebut more concentrated applicaction is applied.

The full effects of these GM plants are yet to be determined. Pollen can contaminate other"pure" crops many Km away with no responsibility to the GM grower or seed company. Often the seed has a terminator gene added which means the seed is not viable, the grower can not harvest seed for the following year and is locked into purchase from a large multinational food corporation.

Growing method

Biodynamic - Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming that treats farms as unified and individual organisms, emphasizing balancing the holistic development and interrelationship of the soil, plants, animals as a self-nourishing system without external inputs insofar as this is possible given the loss of nutrients due to the export of food. The planting, growing and harvesting of these plants has been followed in accordance to cosmic forces like the pull of the moon.

Regarded by some as the first modern ecological farming system[4] and one of the most sustainable, biodynamic farming has much in common with other organic approaches, such as emphasizing the use of manures and composts and excluding of the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants. Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include the use of fermented herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays and the use of an astronomical sowing and planting calendar.Biodynamics originated out of the work of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the spiritual philosophyanthroposophy.

  Permaculture - The plants have been grown in an environment of biodiversity. This might include small plantings of a wide range of vegetables and fruit, free range chickens, companion plants. Much of the organic material that is combined to produce compost is produced on site.  

Monocropping - These are single large plantings of a single crop - They might be produced organically or chemically. They are responsible for the reduction of genetic diversity.

Various factors including market forces have conspired, forcing farmers to grow high-performance mono-cultures. Jeremy Rufkin states "The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) reports that of seventy-five kinds of vegetable grown in the United States, 97 percent of all the varieties have become extinct in less than eighty years. According to the RAFI study, of the 7,098 apple varieties grown in the United States between 1804 and 1905, 6,121 or 86.2 percent have since become extinct. Of the 2,683 pear varieties in use in the last century, 2,354 or 87.77 percent are now extinct. The grim statistics are repeated for every food crop". "Garrison Wilkes, professor of botany at the University of Massachusetts, says that the spread of modern agricultural practices is quickly destroying the genetic resources upon which it is built and likens the situation to "taking stones from the foundation to repair the roof". In the present environment, even this technology can not create useful new genes in the laboratory, biotechnological science needs as large a genetic pool as it can find and preserving diversity guarantees a rich resource to draw from.

  Organic - Organic crops are produced with no artificial fertilizers or chemical applications. To gain certification as an organic producer requires careful and continual management with stringent testing. The principle is based on the application of organic matter that increases microbial and insect diversity and activity in the soil. Over time it builds up the humus into a thick layer which also gives greater water retention and protects the soil from erosion.  
  Chemical fertilizer - Many of these fertilizers have a petrochemical component and require complex industrial facilities that produce harmful by-products. Chemical fertilizers like super phosphate reduce microbial and insect life and work by forcing the plant into taking up the few remaining nutrients in the soil. Most often they open the soil up to erosion and offer no organic matter to increase the depth of soil humus. Ultimately chemicals enter sensitive waterways which can cause choking algal blooms that kill fish etc.  
  Hydroponic - These crops are grown in an artificial medium where artificial liquid nutrients are pumped continuously through the root system.The plants develop shallow root systems, grow quickly but are subject to stress if the circulation ceases. Insect and microbial activity is discouraged, and ultimately chemicals can enter sensitive waterways. Because the process requires a comparatively high energy demand it has a high carbon output. Disease is also a major factor in hydroponic gardens because the plants share the same solution, this means that water-borne diseases can spread through hydroponic gardens at a much faster rate than soil based gardens.  
  Auquaponic - This system grows plants in water enriched from fish excrement. While it appears the system is working with nature often the fish are fed on cat food produced from dead animals.  
  Outdoors - Plants have been grown outdoors with natural energy methods like the uv rays of the sun and natural heat.  
  Contained natural - Plants have been grown indoors with no additional light or heat. There is some argument that because the plants have not been exposed to the full spectrum of radiation that are lacking in nutrients. Insects, birds and other wildlife can interact with the plants, and while this can be frustrating and seen as destructive it can be managed in a manner that also supports diversity.  
  Contained artificial - Plants have been grown indoors with additional artificial uv light or heat - most often this requires a heavy energy demand and produces additional carbon in the atmosphere. However some fully contained units do not allow insects and other wildlife in and do not need to be sprayed.  
Management applications Organic - Organic applications like companion planting, garlic, plant oil sprays or microorganism might have been applied to reduce pest attack.  
  Chemical - Artificial chemical sprays were used to reduce weeds, insect and fungi attacks. These are mostly derived from petrochemicals and are a synthesis of many chemicals combined into a single mixture. Many of these are harmful to other species and significantly reduce microorganisms in the soil, on the leaves and fruit. They can also have an accumulative effect building up in the soil, water and food chain. Some pestasides are now seen as responsible for dwinding bee numbers and lack of pollination of some crops.  
Growing location

This relates to the district the food was grown in.

Imported food is most often teated with Mytholbromide gas. Methyl bromide is a known carcinogen which has been banned in the EU. Recent research indicates that it may also cause motor neurone disease. It has been phased out of use in Australia since 2004, but can still be used for fumigation of imported material. It is a colourless and odourless gas. Treatments applied for quarantine purposes are part of managing the risk of introducing exotic pests and diseases. Food irradiation is a food preservation process and a quarantine measure. Food processors use it to destroy bacteria that cause food decomposition and food poisoning. Those bacteria include the parasites, moulds and yeasts that spoil food, and salmonella and campylobacter that cause illness.

Food can only be irradiated if there is no other safe method available.  Any irradiated food must go through a strict safety assessment by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and, if approved, must be labelled as having been treated by radiation.

To date, in Australia and New Zealand, only herbs and spices, herbal teas and some tropical fruits have been approved to be irradiated.


Carbon miles

This logs the carbon miles in the production, processing and transportation of the food item. For instance in an unsustainable practice, some foods like apples are grown in the UK flown to South Africa to be waxed then flown back to the UK again - the less carbon miles the less damage to the atmosphere. Some food is marked as 100K which means its is grown within a 100km radius of where it is produced.  
Harvest date

This records the actual date the item is harvested. Many so called fresh food is actually weeks or even months old and requires energy intensive means to keep it acceptably "fresh". Philosophically some argue the sooner food is eaten the more Parana or life energy it has - the longer the time between harvest and consumption the more this energy diminishes. The longer fruit is left to ripen on he tree the more intense the flavor.

My own experience with fruit shows that the tastiest fruit is actually the very ripe friut that is often attacked by insects - I simply cut that bit off and eat the rest. These are the real taste bombs.

Post-harvest processing

Many so called fresh foods are processed after processing. This might involve sorting and discarding fruit with blemishes, size and colour. The commercial foods industry demands uniformity, nature often produces the opposite. Many fruits are washed to reduce the amount of surface chemicals, and bio-matter both harmful and benificial, however some are not washed at all and retain chemical rseidues.

After harvesting carrots are mainly washed in chlorinated water a synthetic biocide for the decontamination of fresh produce and the carrots can be further subjected to hyperhydration which forces this water into the vegetable at low tempertures and allows longer stroage. Chlorine is routinely used as a sanitizer in wash, spray, and flume waters used in the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. Anti-microbial activity depends on the amount of free available chlorine (as hypochlorous acid) in water that comes in contact with microbial cells. Carrots are also tumbled to remove the skin, this removes many key nutrients, the skin also hold any toxins that plant migh have taken up, so depending on how the carrots are grown, the skin removal might be benificial.

Commercial organic growers use a citrus based non toxic solution called Citrox -

The best carrots come fresh from organic soil - the crunch and taste is quite different.

% at Market This relates to the % of the crop that makes market. Unfortunatly, much food is discarded for cosmetic reasons, yet the very skin blemishes that these fruit have can provide an additional boost of natural antibodies in our diet. Current research shows if fruit is on the tree and the skin is damaged by rubbing, insect attack, hail damage, the tree heals it by producing antibodies to prevent rot, if however the skin is damaged when the fruit is off the tree itimmediatly begins to rot because the tree can't heal it. After the fruit is picked these antibodies reduce with time. These antibodies are a very good source of natural antibiotics - With the commercial stuff largely, we have eliminated them from our diet.  

Some fruits are picked early and stored in chilled and gas filled stores to halt the ripening process. When the produce is required it is gassed with ehtelyne to hasten the ripening process again. Some fruits are stored for many months. Besides the diminishing "life force" there is an increased energy and carbon cost.

Pick an apple off the tree and it’ll last a few weeks before it starts to turn soft and rot. Store an entire harvest under controlled-atmosphere conditions and it’ll last up to 10 months, depending on variety. But the clock starts ticking again once the apples are removed from storage.

To slow the proverbial sands of time, some fruit distributors treat their apple bins with a gaseous compound, 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP). It extends the fruits’ poststorage quality by blocking ethylene, a colorless gas that naturally regulates ripening and aging.

Apples not intended for fresh market are stored at low temperatures, with low levels of oxygen and high levels of carbon dioxide. While this slows the apples’ natural production of ethylene and its effects, fungicides must often be applied to prevent fungal rots from taking hold.