15 Feb 2008

Bumblebees - an increasingly rare find

Bumblebees are known as a keystone species, crucial to biodiversity ensuring the continued reproduction and survival of plants and those organisms that depend on them. In hazardous decline the impact of this pivotal species in our natural world summed up perfectly by Albert Einstein:

'If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.'

No, you have not come to the wrong place….its something that rather worries me, as does the lack of a similarly rare and crucial species; a good whole foods shop.

Since my relatively recent diagnosis with coeliac disease, and taking it upon myself to eat naturally gluten free I am spending increasing amounts of our food budget on nuts, seeds, pulses, different grains and dried fruits. I normally order my bulk and household goods online, which always includes the nuts and seeds. But now, armed with my new kitchen, food processor and a regular flow of hungry guests I am in the kitchen more and more experimenting with new gluten free recipes.

Cooking these gluten free recipes, using all natural and no ready made ingredients, means that I am steadily working my way through growing mounds of almonds, sunflower seeds and dried fruits, particularly since I have mastered my orange and almond cake. Unfortunately, as a result I am also creating a mountain of waste from all the little packets I have to buy, which I am unable to recycle and makes me wince every time I open the bin.

So, I have been on a mission these past few weeks:

To find a whole foods shop where I can buy the ingredients I need, in bulk, preferably organic to save on waste and a little bit of cash.

I have found my usual Holland and Barratt shops to be increasingly disappointing with a reducing selection of nuts and fruits, all in small packets, but I have found the most wonderful alternatives.

Unpackaged, is a new concept from brainchild Catherine ?? in response to the huge waste of materials and energy used to make and dispose of packaging. Having recently moved what was a stall at Broadway market into a corner shop in a residential area of Islington, complete with original vintage pharmacy fa├žade, Catherine is attempting to change customer behaviour.

The aim of Unpackaged is to encourage consumers to bring and refill their containers from home, therefore negating the need for packaging. It comes with the financial incentive of 50p off each product when you refill, and for those impromptu moments, there are re-usable bags to by – but this rather frowned upon.

Selling an ever growing range of organic and fair-trade ingredients, alongside Ecover refills and local handmade products to support the community, I only hope she opens another branch soon – a little closer to my home.

Bumblebee on the other hand is a London institution that has been trading in this corner of Camden for over 20years. A sprawl of 5 shops selling organic whole foods, fresh fruit and veg and an amazing range of “free from” products, makes it a great one stop shop for this gluten free cook.

Although on my initial visit the service wasn’t too friendly, I was thrilled to find I could buy whole blanched almonds, lentils, tea, prunes, broken brazil nuts and more in bulk, plus gluten free pasta (for those rare indulgent moments of spaghetti carbonara) polenta, quinoa and soy sauce.

Buoyant from my successful mission, I just had to leave before I made it impossible to carry anything home on the tube, but certain that I would return again for as much as I could carry.

Wholefoods on Kensington high street is another destination for bulk ingredients and an incredible array of gluten free products – including an egg, dairy, nut and gluten free cake mix – safe my for “sister in law” and me! But being so far west, it is not the easiest place to travel home from when laden with too many impulse purchases. However I do intend to go back to review the bulk options, and particularly their prices – since I am not willing to pay west London prices when I live south east!

So, I am happy in the knowledge that I have found some places to stock up, however if you know of a well kept whole foods secret, I would love to hear about them and check them out!

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