The Voice ‐ December 2019
Comment by Geoff
Christmas is a time for reflection, personal enhancement and perhaps future planning.
During 2019 we have been bombarded by both Brexit as well as climate change. However, it is our individual responsibility to try and advance a positive message on gardening.
Gardening is a good measure of where we are with the environment, but to make our voice heard is difficult when it is necessary to retain and provide land for gardening, which appears to be against progress within an urban area such as East London.
If you value having someone campaign on your behalf to protect the environment and having access to useful articles about gardening and local environmental matters, please make a donation to help us with the cost of maintaining The East London Garden Society.
This is the story of a dedicated Garden Organic member who through her drive and determination is fighting the battle to keep glyphosate away from her grandchildren's school and play area.
Patricia Dance, who lives in Lancashire, was concerned that the local council was spraying her grandchild’s primary school with glyphosate despite research which has labelled the toxic weed killer as probably carcinogenic.
“They were even using it to mark the lines on the sports pitch, as well as around the play area. It can’t be right to expose the children to such toxic chemicals” she says.
Patricia met with two schools, Northern County Primary in Weir and Bacup Nursery School, who to their credit, not only listened but decided to act. This led to discussions with the local council, Rossendale Borough, who were keen to listen but didn’t have the expertise on how to ditch the glyphosate.
So, Patricia contacted Garden Organic and PAN UK. The latter organisation, who spearhead the Pesticide Free Towns campaign, have helpful advice on their website on how to approach your local council, as well as advice for the councillors themselves on alternatives to weed killers. As a small charity they sadly don’t have the resources to support every individual action in person, but their online materials are a mine of helpful information.
With the support of Northern County Primary’s Head Mistress and Governors, Patricia singlehandedly organised a different sort of weed control for the school. One that doesn’t involve toxic chemicals. The children watched as new contractors used a foam application to treat the playground. This treatment, which is glyphosate and toxic free, was generously funded by the weed management company, Weedingtech. The play area was then immediately safe for play.
At this stage Garden Organic were able to step in and sent the Primary School a resources pack to get the children started on growing their own salads and vegetables organically. They have ambitions to find a sponsor to provide a greenhouse, a willow structure and growing boxes.
As Patricia writes “We now have a very happy safe school with no nettles, no weeds and clean artificial play matting. Keeping quiet is not an option”.
As a result of her tireless campaigning, Rossendale Council says “We are now endeavouring to totally remove the use of glyphosate. Not using it on any public land and seeking an alternative for the public highway application is being undertaken on behalf of Lancashire County Council this year.”
LCC in turn have been trialling the foam‐stream system and have declared that all local schools will be given the option of alternative weed controls. This is a huge achievement for one tireless campaigning grandmother.
It would be nice to say that Patricia’s story was straight forward and an easy win, but nothing could be further from the truth. It took her years to campaign, writing and persuading, to bring individuals, councils and contractors together; somehow maintaining a total 100% commitment to the cause which ran alongside her busy daily domestic life.
Other Garden Organic members have also written to MPs, MEPs, councils and contractors expressing their concern about the dangers of glyphosate in public areas. They too want to see a toxic free environment where children can play, and park visitors can walk and picnic.
We feel the tide is turning, thanks to the heroic efforts of our supporters. Supermarkets such as Morrisons have announced a ban of glyphosate products from next year. B&Q may follow. Germany, France and Denmark have also announced bans. Back to top
The mangelwurzel has a history in England of being used for sport (mangold hurling), for celebration, for animal fodder and for the brewing of a potent alcoholic beverage. The 1830 Scottish cookbook The Practice of Cookery includes a recipe for a beer made with mangelwurzel. In 19th‐century American usage, mangel beets were sometimes referred to as ‘mango’.
During the Irish Famine (1845‐1852), Poor Law Guardians in Galway City leased, on a 999‐year-lease, a twenty‐acre former nunnery to house one‐thousand orphaned or deserted boys ages from five to fifteen. Here, the boys were taught tailoring, shoe making and agricultural skills. On a five‐acre plot, they grew potatoes, cabbage, parsnips, carrots, onions, Swedish turnips and mangelwurzel, both for workhouse consumption and for a cash crop.
As with most foods, subsisting on solely one crop can produce dietary deficiency. The food shortages in Europe after World War I caused great hardships, including cases of mangelwurzel disease, as relief workers called it. It was a consequence of eating only beets.
The root originally hails from Germany and mangold translates to 'beet' whereas 'wurzel' means 'root'. The mangelwurzel typically thrives in soil that has been well composted and is regularly watered. When these conditions are met, the roots of the vegetable become soft and full of flavour. They are nutritious and packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Mangelwurzel sometimes require supplementary potash, or potassium, to maximize their crop numbers.Back to top
Food Waste Re‐cycling
A major part of all our lives is eating, after which we have to dispose of the waste from such an exercise, by this we mean the food waste not essential to the requirement of the meal, either before or after.
Previously food waste was disposed of with the ‘pig swill lorry’, but since the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2007, there has been several ideas on how to dispose of food waste.
One idea is to make the disposal of food waste as local as possible, encouraging the local community to manage their own food waste in an acceptable way. The East London Garden Society is willing to work with others in the community to establish food waste re‐cycling units, thus creating compost for general use by the local population or as a community enterprise.
One of the quickest ways to have compostable material turned to compost is to use Black Soldier Flies.
Other methods involve using worms or the already known method of composting. This way will make people more aware of what is discarded, as well as how the food cycle is completed. Back to top
The Great Eastern Parks Route
The Great Eastern Parks Route stretches from Hackney via a redundant railway line to Newham.
Commencing at Bishopsgate, where there has been progress to create the largest forest garden in Europe, it runs past Weavers Fields and Bethnal Green Gardens, where it crosses the redundant railway viaduct before reaching Meath Gardens. From there it traverses south through Mile End Park along The Regents Canal passing The Limehouse Basin on the way, which was The Limehouse Triangle, before reaching the River Thames.
An alternative route can be taken from Meath Gardens, travelling slightly north to Victoria Park and crossing into The Queen Elizabeth Park, taking the journey south along The River Lea and passing Three Mills, the oldest working mill in the country, and then Bow Lock, The Limehouse Cut to The Limehouse Basin.
Alternatively, it will be possible to continue to travel south along The River Lea, stopping at Cody Dock, and culminating at The East India Dock Nature Reserve and Bird Sanctuary where it will be possible to go further into Newham and ending the journey at The Royal Docks.
In all, there is an ability to travel through nature, a length of some five miles which utilises what is already in place within East London including parks and gardens along the way in a peaceful manner.
The fact that the green infrastructure is already in place concentrates the mind to understand the success of the project. What has to be achieved is to join the dots, the most important being the redundant railway viaduct in Tower Hamlets. The East London Garden Society has spoken with all the authorities in whose remit this project lays, and the good news is that they wish to be involved as much as possible. Back to top
Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Mangelwurzel Curry
- 1 Mangelwurzel
- 1 tin of coconut milk
- 200g of pre‐cooked chickpeas (or use tinned, ready cooked chickpeas)
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves of garlic (or use 50g of garlic chives or society garlic leaves)
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 2 tablespoonfuls of tomato paste
- Curry powder
- Fresh coriander (optional)
- Society garlic flowers (optional)
- Soak the chickpeas in water overnight and then cook in simmering salted water until tender. (Start cooking these first as they take the longest to prepare.)
- Next cook the brown rice in simmering salted water until tender.
- While the chickpeas and rice are cooking, peel and dice the Mangelwurzel root and chop up the leaves and the stalks. Keep the diced root separate from the leaves and stalks.
- Cook the diced Mangelwurzel in simmering water. (Mangelwurzel usually takes 15 to 25 minutes to become tender.)
- Next prepare the garlic and onion by frying them in a large saucepan using olive oil with a little added sesame oil for extra flavour.
- Strain the diced mangelwurzel.
- When the garlic and onions are ready, add the coconut milk, diced mangelwurzel, chickpeas, tomato paste, stock cube, and curry powder. Gradually bring to the boil whilst stirring. When boiling, add the chopped Mangelwurzel, stir them in, then simmer gently and stir occasionally for about four minutes.
If you have some fresh coriander, chop it finely and sprinkle it over the curry before serving. (This find brings the whole dish to life.)
If you have society garlic in flower, decorate the dish by adding a few of their edible flowers. Mangelwurzel makes a sweet curry, so mango chutney adds a complimentary addition. Back to top