The Sustainable Food Trust

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Article in the this weeks addition: Farmers Weekly – Sunday 10th August The tyranny of supermarkets continues and their demand for flawless vegetables is bordering on the obsessive. Top plant breeders speak out about how the pursuit of an ideal ‘skin finish’ on our much loved potato is actually inhibiting the development of improvements that would make them more disease resistant. It’s all getting a bit like dog breeding where external physical traits are enhanced to the point that they are damaging to the species. Breeders do this because they think that’s what people want. But is that really what people want in potatoes? What’s the first thing most of us do when we cook a potato? That’s right, we peel it. We take the skin off. Given the difficulties faced by the humble potato in terms of disease, it really is mad to care so much about its ‘skin finish’. And we’re really not convinced that consumers do care that much – it’s just that the supermarkets think they do. As potato breeder Finley Dale comments ‘It’s the substance, what’s inside, that counts.’ Hear, hear!

 I don’t agree!

The author and founder of the Soil Association Lady Eve Balfour states in her book The Living Soil that it is indeed the skin of most things that carries the most valuable nutrition. So why are we peeling everything in the name of “It’s what’s inside that counts”.   If you don’t use any chemicals, synthetic or otherwise, in your food production as we do here at Sustainable Agriculture London there is no fear in what might be held in the skin.                      Richard Higgins, author and founder of Sustainable Agriculture London.                               Lady Eve goes on to write: Dr. Wrench, writing on the properties of skin in general, points out  that skin does not only protect in a mechanical way as a mere covering, but in a living way…..The value of bran, the skin of the wheat, is well know to all stock feeders. All carnivorous animals relish the skins of their prey…The Chinese and other peoples also eat the skin of birds and other animals. Everything living has a skin of some sort to protect it. It protects it by its extra toughness, but also if microbes and other enemies do attack, it is there on the frontier that the battle is waged. In and near the skin are marshalled the protective forces. Any creature that eats the skin of vegetable, fruit or animal, also eats these protective materials marshalled on the frontier, and may benefit in its own protection thereby…The skin and the adjacent part of the potato is the best part, as the Irish know. So also is the case with the carrot, and it is said, with the young marrows (courgettes) cucumbers, gherkins, artichokes, radishes and celery… A fondness for skin is an outstanding feature of the Hunza peoples*, they do not peel their vegetables, or wash or soak them to the extent we do. Vegetables play a great part in their diet and are very commonly eaten raw.

*Hunzas were found in the Northern Gilgit Agency in India to be living to 140 years. They were recycling all their waste and drinking glacial water.                 More on how they grew and cooked their food later..

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