Aspall Vinegars – Quality in, quality out

Aspall Cyder Vinegar is a household name. What you may not realise is that they use a completely unique fermenting process for their organic vinegar.

New 'Apple' Balsamic Vinegar from Aspall
New 'Apple' Balsamic Vinegar from Aspall

Greenshield Towers are used to trickle the organic vinegar through its fermentation, and this takes far longer than the normal 24 hours used to create ferment cyder into vinegar. It produces a vinegar of extreme mellowness, subtlety and quality. But these towers are found nowhere else in the world and are used with no other vinegar than Aspall’s.

The blending is expert, there are is preservative or pasteurisation added. Just quality fresh apples, matured as cyder for between 6 weeks and 2 years.

It’s what you’d expect from an award winning but historic company.

Now Aspall have surpassed themselves and added an Apple-Balsamic Vinegar to their range of Cyder, Wine, Malt and Balsamic Vinegars – truly creating the best of both worlds.

Take a look at Aspall on Goodnessdirect.

A cheaper salt therapy for asthma

I have come to accept my asthma as part of my life. It gets better, or worse and in periods, stays dormant waiting to pounce on me like a crafty cat.

I have, over the years, compared notes with other sufferers and have  come to believe that most of us (asthma sufferers) tend to have their hands (erm, I mean their noses) full of a cacophony of colds, sinuses and other breathing issues too. So, we learn to irritatingly negotiate our way through life; wheezing, sniffing, sneezing and semi breathing at turns. Laden with our inhalers, miles of tissues, and staying well away from the pollen, we stumble along with a fatalistic apathy that we came into this planet doomed with a curse from the God of breathing.

Of course we try various cures. It starts with our mum’s desparate remedies and, once diagnosed that our airways basically have a mean attitude of getting inflamed and closing down on us, we learn to live with it.

Fingers crossed and with inhalers at the ready we soldier on.

If I have touched a chord with any of you, let me share my latest efforts  of a therapy for my ongoing burden. Yes, salt inhalation therapy!

It'll cost less than a visit to the seaside
It'll cost less than a visit to the seaside

Salt inhalation has been around since the Greeks, when Hippocrates recommended it for respiratory problems. The only recent evidence, however, comes from the former Soviet Union; a 1999 Lithuanian study of 250 children and 500 adults found that salt therapy for an hour a day for two weeks improved respiratory results in nine out of 10 cases. Hitherto, it still remains fairly unknown in the Western world, though ‘taking in the sea-air’ was always known to be helpful.

Salt inhalation therapy traditionally came through ‘salt caves’, places that can be loosely described as bit like a salty igloos. There are salt drifts everywhere around the world, underfoot and lining the walls. Now, hairnets are donned and shoes covered to keep these caves free of dirt, while the sound of waves and seagulls played inside enhances the weird, seaside effect. But the reality is the salt is purely decorative as the supposed medical benefit comes from breathing in sodium chloride aerosol, which is piped into the therapy rooms by a microclimate generator. This mixes milled salt with a current of air. The theory is that by breathing this in, mucus in the respiratory tract is loosened and coughed up. However The Saltpipe, a handy apparatus manufactured in the UK, has now made it both, more affordable (for the price of a few prescriptions) and accessible whenever one needs it.

Evidence of benefits are pouring in as small, regular usage is creating significant changes in conditions of many, including me!

Learn the art of perfect vegetable cooking – competition

We are now entering into the full bloom of Spring and it’s great to see the GoodnessDirect chilled shelves filling up with new organic vegetables.

The funny thing is that not a lot of people really know which vegetables are best to supply the nutrients we need: ‘5-a-day’, ‘eat your greens’ and ‘plenty of colours’ is about as far as it goes.

Well, a lovely new book is now available to help us get the best out of our veg – and so healthy cooking is suddenly within everyone’s reach.

The book is called ‘How To Cook Fresh Vegetables Simply Nowadays?‘ and it includes 95 recipes. I’m fortunate enough to have a copy to give away free. If you are interested in the chance of winning a book then send me an email with your name and address. (UK addresses only, competition closes Thursday 28th April 2011)

A herbalist in your store cupboard

I’m sure there was a time when tea was kept in a hallowed box in one place in the house. Yet now, I seem to need a whole cupboard for all the different types of tea we drink.

Herbal expertise in a cup
Herbal expertise in a cup

But I must be wrong. Heath & Heather have been blending herbs and infusions since the 1920s. Of course it is true that medicinal herbs, particularly in teas, goes back pretty much as far as the history of man.

What Heath & Heather do is make all these beneficial herbs ready to pick off your cupboard shelf.

Whether it’s wellbeing, relaxation, invigoration or antioxidants that you need, Heath & Heather have got it covered. They’re proud of their association with The National Institute of Medical Herbalists and so they should be, it means they’re able to get quality beneficial teas onto my shelf.

Update from Clearspring on Japanese Foods

An update from Clearspring…

Dear Clearspring customer,

Japanese Update

Since the earthquake on March 11th Japan is still experiencing significant aftershocks. We have been very fortunate that none of our suppliers suffered any lasting damage. As the country is in the process of rebuilding itself our suppliers are keen to get back to business as usual and ready to commence shipping products to us.

There are measures in place both in Japan and in the EU to ensure that all products exported from Japan meet stringent safety regulations. All products originating from defined regions around the Fukushima nuclear plant have to be tested prior to departure to ensure they are safe for human consumption. On arrival at a European port they will be subject to additional checks including random testing.

Clearspring will do everything possible to ensure a continuation of supply from our long standing Japanese producers. However, where this is not possible due to infrastructure challenges and delays due to additional administration and safety checks, we will temporarily switch to alternative producers. As always our priority will be to maintain our high quality and food safety standards.

After asking our suppliers how best we can support them, the overwhelming response has been by continuing to stock and sell their products. Only in this way can they recover from the damage of the tsunami devastation. We thank you for your continued support in making this possible.

We will be updating our website regularly to keep our customers informed of the latest situation but if you have any question then please get in touch with us.

With kind regards,

The Clearspring Team

Herbal remedies are here to stay (some of them)

Did you know that one 1/4 of people in the UK use herbal medicines? That’s over 15 million people!

It might explain why there’s been something of a flurry concerning new laws at the end of April 2011 regularising herbal medicine.

Positives and negatives
The benefit is that herbal remedies must come under safety guidelines. The negative is that not every herb currently used will make the grade, which may put some people at a disadvantage. And, as with other medicines, it also doesn’t prove that the herb will work for you.

What this means
Basically, licensed herbals must now carry a ‘THR’ mark (Traditional Herbal Registration). You’ll see a lot of repackaged herbal solutions on the market.

For example, Higher Nature, a well reputed provider of supplements, has just brought out its Licensed Herbals range. These include:

■ Black Cohosh Menopause Relief
Devil’s Claw Muscle & Joint Pain Relief
■ Echinacea Cold & Flu Relief
■ Feverfew Migraine Relief
■ Milk Thistle (for relief from over-indulgence of drink and food)
■ Passionflower Relax Aid
■ Pelargonium Cold Relief
Rhodiola Stress Relief
■ St John’s Wort Mood Uplift
■ Valerian Sleep Aid

There might still be other ways of consuming herbs which aren’t registered, for example the herbs may well be able to be consumed as food or in teas, as long as they’re not trying to be medicinal – and this too might mean that we see some ‘interesting’ new foods on the market…

New Lancet report on effect of a restricted diet on ADHD

I remember when I was introduced to goat’s milk. I didn’t like it at the time – but then I was 10 years old. Like many parents my mum had decided to change my diet in order to deal with my allergy condition – in this case, asthma.

Recently, more in the news is the question of how ADHD may be effected by diet. Last month, medical journal, The Lancet, published a report stating that:

A strictly supervised restricted elimination diet is a valuable instrument to assess whether ADHD is induced by food.

In this case children who were put on a diet of non-allergy producing foods were found to have a 40% reduction in ADHD symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of evidence to be gathered to learn conclusively how diet effects children’s medical conditions. But it’s not going to stop mothers trying to find ways to help their children. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence of highly beneficial results when a diet is restricted, particularly when gluten is removed from a diet.

At this point I want to highlight Orgran Kids which is just one of many food brands aimed at helping mums look after their kids. Just on my desk right now are Itsy Bitsy Bears (fruit and chocolate biscuits) and Outback Animals Vegetable Pasta Shapes – made with rice, corn and vegetables.

All of Orgran’s products are gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, egg free, yeast free and vegan.

Today I can’t get enough of goat’s cheese or yoghurt, but I’m still a little wary of goat’s milk. Perhaps not all the side effects of changing a diet are going to have a positive effect.