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The Voice - December 2023


Comment by Geoff

Geoff Juden

We wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I always say that we all have a garden in our mind, whether it is an old mattress in the front yard or a pristine garden created from the best imagination.

I look at the wider aspect of the garden and this is how The London Highline, together with The Great Eastern Parks Route came about. I along with others knew what could be achieved, but the most important thing was the community involvement.

Many things can be achieved with the environment to improve the lives of us all.

Best wishes for the festive season.

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.


Recycle, Reuse, Reduce

Recyling logo

To become an expert recycler, you need to learn what you can recycle and what you cannot. 

Make sure recyclables are empty, clean and dry, and place all recyclables loose into your recycle bin. Do not put them in plastic bags, unless you have been provided with special recycling bags.

Obvious ways to reduce waste of all kinds is to reduce overall consumption, avoid buying products made from, or packaged, in plastic whenever possible, and opt for reusable products over single-use.

Give clothes and gently used household items to charities. Use online sites like freecycle.org that allow you to give products away. Ask friends and family if anyone might want or need the items that you no longer need.

Soft plastics such as plastic shopping bags and food storage bags cannot be recycled as they clog the sorting machines. The same applies to plastic straws and bottle caps.

Combination items such as Bubble Wrap envelopes require special attention. While both plastic and paper can be recycled individually, when they’re combined into one product, they cannot, unless they’re separated first.

Do you recycle? If you do, the tips in this article will help you do it better, and if you don't, why not start doing so, now you know the essential do's and don'ts.

It's worth remembering that mankind had a zero-waste lifestyle up until about 100 years ago. There were no plastic wraps around food items or items you bought, and virtually every scrap, whether it be fabric, paper, wood or metal, was repeatedly reused and creatively repurposed into new products.

Today, we're 'drowning' in garbage. Plastic has become a tremendous environmental problem that threatens wildlife and human health alike. Discarded clothing has also become a toxic burden.

Extraordinary levels of plastic pollution have been discovered even at the Mariana Trench in the Pacific, the deepest point in the ocean, as well as the Swiss Alps, showing just how pervasive this problem has become.

Reports also reveal just how challenging it is to clean up this kind of garbage once it's in the environment. For example, the $20 million Ocean Cleanup project which is working to clear plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, recently reported that they're failing in their mission.

Boyan Slat, who invented the collection device, says it's unable to hold on to the plastic it collects. His team is now working on a solution to prevent collected trash from escaping.

It's clear that we need to rethink our throwaway culture and become more sustainably creative. There are a number of different ways in which you can make a difference in your day-to-day life, and learn to recycle like a pro.

Last but not least, there's the issue of food waste. It can be composted turned into excellent fertilizer to benefit your garden. But, composting food waste is about more than simply conserving limited landfill space.

When organic materials sit in landfills, bacteria break them down into methane gas, which is the third largest source of emissions. So cutting back on the amount of organics entering landfills also cuts back on these climate-altering emissions.

In the UK, citywide recycling programs will soon be required to collect food waste with the organic material being sent to composting facilities. You don't need to wait for this to happen to begin reaping the benefits of compost in your own backyard.

Our disposable culture has left a trail of destruction, in terms of both environmental and human impact. There is no one single solution to the waste problem. But you can do your part by taking steps to reduce your waste, recycle and repurpose what you can.


The London Highline

On 29 October 2023 thirty of us walked what is to be The London Highline, the forest garden on top of the Braithwaite Arches in Bishopsgate going through to Limehouse.

Green route

The weather looked as though it would be against us, having rained solidly all morning, but we were fortunate that when we left at midday the rain had stopped.

The walk was fully booked, and we decided to take a shorter route along The Great Eastern Parks Route, in case the weather turned against us.

Read More and watch the video.


The History of Rhubarb

Rhubarb

According to Chinese legend, Shen Nong noted that rhubarb could be used to cure diarrhoea as early as 2800 BC.

It became a highly sought after and prohibitively expensive medicine in Europe, up to ten times as expensive as cinnamon and four times as expensive as saffron.

Considered an important medicine in China for thousands of years, rhubarb has had many ups and downs over its long history of human consumption.

Its leaves, packed with toxic oxalic acid, might once have poisoned a US president. In the 1600s, smuggling valuable rhubarb root warranted death in Russia and centuries later, when the heavily sugared stalks were used in desserts, rhubarb was mercilessly lampooned as a horrible British school pudding.

Rhubarb has now come full circle, from important medicinal laxative to dessert delicacy. The vegetable’s pink stalks are served in fine restaurants, perhaps roasted with orange and crystallised puff pastry, poached and served with melon granita, or simmered with orange juice and presented as sweet soup.

But rhubarb has been around much longer as a medicine than it has been enjoyed as a dessert, and it is noted in what is thought to be the first text on traditional Chinese medicine, The Herbal Classic of Shen Nong, said to date from the third century.

Known as Divine Farmer, the mystical and mythical Shen Nong is believed to have lived around 2800 BC. According to Chinese legend, Shen Nong tested many types of potentially medicinal plants on himself. He classified rhubarb as a herb and noted that the roots and rhizomes of rhubarb could be used to cure diarrhoea.

These days, rhubarb root is still used in traditional Chinese medicine and by Chinese people around the world to treat stomach ailments, especially constipation.

Yibin Feng, acting director of the University of Hong Kong’s School of Chinese Medicine, says gastrointestinal upsets are regularly treated with rhubarb root. “It’s a very popular herbal,” he says.

Ancient Greeks valued medicinal rhubarb. Romans called it Rheum rhabarbarum from the barbarians who lived beyond the Rha, or the present-day Volga river in Russia. Arab doctors from the ninth century used rhubarb root purges.

Much later the Italian explorer Marco Polo found a thriving trade in the leafy vegetable in Mongolia and China in the 13th century. The explorer found the plant, known in China as the great yellow perhaps because of its thick yellowish roots, in the land of the Tangut people in Mongolia and in the far north of China, west of the present-day city of Beijing.

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In the 1600s, Russia saw the value in establishing a valuable monopoly over the rhubarb trade in Europe, and breaking the monopoly was punishable by death.

Emma Kay, a British food historian who founded the Museum of Kitchenalia in England’s Cotswolds area, says rhubarb was smuggled into Britain from Russia by a Scottish doctor called James Mounsey, who set up a practice in Moscow in the 1700s. The doctor treated both Russian Tsar Peter the Great and Catherine, Peter’s second wife and successor.

Following the Tsar’s death, perhaps contrived by Catherine and her lover, Mounsey was put in an awkward position, facing exile or death by association and managed to persuade Catherine to retire him on the grounds of ill health.

Mounsey then carried several pounds of rhubarb seed from Russia to Scotland, and was awarded a gold medal for his pains, but Kay says he spent the rest of his life in fear of being caught and punished by the Russians.

Rhubarb was a wonder plant in those days, regarded as a useful medicine in Europe, and later, a tasty tart and pie filling as well. Just as we once used leeches and cupping to purge bodies of substances thought to poison the body, rhubarb provided a hugely popular alternative form of purging, a trend which lasted into the 20th century.

By the 1700s, rhubarb came into its own as a food, a popular and delicious alternative to gooseberries.

Rhubarb was also gaining ground as a food in the US including the leaves, which are full of bitter and potentially dangerous oxalic acid. US President Thomas Jefferson enjoyed eating rhubarb leaves. During the food shortages of World War I, British authorities encouraged people to eat rhubarb leaves, resulting in several poisonings and deaths.

Even so, the attractive pink stalks which contain far less acid, continued to be a popular dessert ingredient, both in Britain and the US. Regularly called the pie plant in parts of America, rhubarb is often paired with sweeter strawberries. Strawberry and rhubarb pie, often seen with a fancy lattice work top, is a favourite across the US.

Balancing the plant’s astringent bitterness, adored by some people, is simply a matter of adding sweetener in greater or lesser amounts.


Moringa

Moringa

Moringa (moringa oleifera), also known as horseradish tree or drumstick tree, has many benefits similar to broccoli and is likely just as potent as sulforaphane. Virtually all parts of the Moringa tree can be consumed. The leaves are thought to have a desirable nutritional balance of amino acids, fatty acids, minerals and vitamins.

It is an excellent source of protein, fatty acids, beta-carotene, phenolics, zeatin, quercetin, beta-sitosterol, kaempferol, flavonoids and isothiocyanates

The leaves, roots, seed, bark, fruit and flowers have antitumor, antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, antispasmodic, diuretic, antihypertensive, cholesterol lowering, antioxidant, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antibacterial and antiviral activities

Like broccoli, Moringa has potent antibiotic activity against a wide variety of pathogens.

Whilst broccoli and Moringa share many similarities and offer many of the same health benefits, Moringa comes out on top in terms of economics. It’s far easier to grow, making it an excellent option in areas plagued by drought.

Although Moringa looks nothing like broccoli, it is part of the brassica family and is considered a vegetable, despite growing like a tree.


Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Rhubarb Muffins

This recipe makes about eighteen medium to large size delectable muffins.

If you are using frozen rhubarb, thaw it first in a sieve over a bowl and discard the excess liquid.

Ingredients

For the Muffins

For the Topping

Rhubarb
Method

For the Topping

In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts, and set aside.

For the Muffins

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, oil, beaten egg, and vanilla with an electric hand mixer on low speed.

Add the flour, baking soda and salt alternately with the buttermilk, mixing on low speed, until combined.

Using a wooden spatula fold in the chopped apples and rhubarb. Spoon the batter into greased or paper lined muffin baking trays.

Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the topping mixture. If desired, add a piece of rhubarb on the top of each muffin before placing them in the oven.

Bake muffins at 325° F (160° C) for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden.


Finally ...

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