Apple Juice & Leeds Urban Harvest

Today’s action is to ‘grow it’. Did you know that being immersed in a natural setting or even viewing greenery from your window can reduce stress levels and improve relaxation? Today we’re asking you to give yourself and nature a helping hand by growing something.

And it is a great way to get plastic free and very tasty food. However when you live in a van that can be a bit tricky. So why not let nature take its course and go foraging instead. Theres loads of food out there to be had for free.

And if you are in Leeds and like apples you can join in the urban harvest. This weekend Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st September 2014 Leeds Urban Harvest will be picking a tree near you.

What is Leeds Urban Harvest? The following was taken from the website…

Leeds Urban Harvest is a voluntary run project that collects and distributes soft fruits that grow unharvested around our city on trees and bushes in both public and private spaces.
Fruits are distributed to groups, volunteers and the local community.  Damaged fruits are turned into juice, preserves, jams and chutneys.  Any money raised is put back into the project to help with running costs.
As part of the project we aim to raise awareness of the great abundance of local tasty and healthy food that is available for everyone and for free!
To be affordable to anyone, we decided to sell our juice at £1 minimum donation and if you bring back your bottle, we give you back 50p. We also collect the tops of the bottles as the Scrap Creative Reuse Art Project in Kirstall can re-use them in their projects.
Leeds Urban Harvest have teamed up with All Hallows Church in Burley and we now have a great kitchen for juicing, space for sharing and lots of friendly faces too.


Tomato ketchup

Today’s action is to ‘borrow it’. How many things do you own which you hardly ever use? We’re asking people to be resourceful by borrowing rather than buying. Whether it’s joining your local library, signing up to a neighbourhood borrowing scheme or even borrowing a dog (yes, that’s right, there are websites that allow you to do this), borrowing is a great way to access what you need and meet others in the process.

So here goes…. borrow it ketchup using yesterdays puree
Got the ketchup recipes from the internet. I used them more as a guide because I was using what I had in and what I could borrow!
So it said apple vinegar but I only have balsamic vinegar and white vinegar. White seemed a bit harsh so I went with WLLM FOOD8balsamic.
I used white instead of brown sugar as I cannot source plastic free brown sugar.
I borrowed the spices and they did have plastic lids BUT I can get them plastic free. I didn’t because  I am on holiday living in a van. To buy a load of spices to make some experimental sauce seemed daft. So…I used those listed below because they were the ones I could borrow.

Here is my ketchup recipe

Splash of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup tomato purée – hand made yesterday!
1/5 cup sugar
25 ml balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon all spice
Salt and pepper

Fried the onions added the spices cooked it up and blended it.
WLLM FOOD12I would be the first to admit that this not quite tomato ketchup. Its the wrong colour for a start! Thats the balsamic vinegar for you.
The texture isnt quite silky enough either.
But it is sauce and it tastes really good! I can’t quite believe it! It is tomatoey and vinegary and sweet.
It will last a month in the fridge apparently but if I was doing it at home I would freeze it in small batches.

So impressed with my homemaking skills.

Find more recipes in the plastic free cookbook


Tomatos – an alternative to tinned

I learnt to cook out of tins. I don’t mean as a student; I mean when I was growing up we ate out of tins, a lot. One of the staples in the cupboard was tinned tomatoes. They were used for everything. Even when we had a cooked breakfast it would come with tinned tommies.
I don’t know if tomatoes were scarce in Manchester in the 70s, just a seasonal treat or wether we preferred it that way. All I know is that the fresh tomato was rarely seen in our house.
What’s taught is whats known and as an adult I thought tinned tomatoes were an essential ingredient in bolognese, sauces and stews. Consequently the thought of giving up tinned tomatoes as part of our plastic boycott, (Tin cans of food – they are nearly all plastic lined), was scary. But I needn’t have worried…..

Make Passata

When I decided to cut tinned tomatoes I went into compensatory overdrive.. I bought in boxes of tomatoes and cooked up huge batches of passatta to be frozen in case of need.
Heres how
First go buy a big box of tomatoes. Or grow some.
Wash them and pack them in a pot.

You can do them whole or half and cut the hearts out first.


Cover them with a lid


Bake them in the oven or on the the top of the stove till they go squishy.
Sqeeze in innards out, pull the peel off.
freeze till needed
Nice additions – herbs when baking and or a dollop of tomato puree when freezing.
NB I reuse my PLA plastic compostable pots as freezer pots. So far only the lids have failed me.

Buy Passata

Passata in a glass bottle (they will have plastic lined metal lids)

Use Fresh As Is

Now while this is a good and useful thing to do, handy to have in and a great way to store a glut, it is not always necessary. Yes, since then I have found that you can add fresh tomatoes to whatever it is your cooking!

I know! This is how I do it
Cut them in half then remove the white bit out
Steam them on top of the frying veg
When the are steamy cooked it is easy to peel the skins off.
Then you can mash them down to make sauce.
Just as good as tinned – honest.

Find more recipes in the plastic free cookbook



Any one living plastic-free knows that naked cucumbers are hard to find. The plastic coating makes them last longer, giving shops more time to sell them. Useful when you are importing from abroad, rubbish if you hate plastic.

You are more likely to find them unwrapped in Summer making them a seasonal treat. I have seen them in the veg shop on the causeway head Penzance AND in the supermarket in St Agnes.


Mini Cukes

If you don’t want a huge beast of a cucumber then your best bet is to try foreign food shops. asian shops almost always sell them unwrapped.

Back in Huddersfield, Khadims sells on Blacker Road sells them.

Also The Hut, the Polish deli on wood street.


Whole Food Market U.K. Chain

Rushing through the Cheltenham suburbs, had to buy wine so lurched into the huge carpark of an out of town shopping experience. By which I mean a cluster of huge supermarkets snarling at each other across an enormous expanse of tarmac dotted with a huddle of tiny trees at least one of which was sporting a plastic bag. Village Boy leapt out of the van and bounded off shouting, white hare like, about time. I was following rather more sedately when Whole Foods Market caught my eye. I had never seen one before and I admit I snorted at the messages plastered on the windows…. but I went to have a look anyway.

I have numerous issues with supermarkets which I won’t go into here. Suffice to say I use them when I have to but they deeply irritate, even anger me. The packaging, the waste, the plastic are just a few of the niggles.

And yet, I was about to have a supermarket epiphany. Yes Whole Foods Market are my idea of supermarket heaven. If there have to be supermarkets,  then let them be like this.

They have 

  • Unwrapped lettuce and unpackaged olives… beans featured shop Whole Food
  • Loose grains, rice beans and pulses
  • Loose tea & coffee beans.
  • Loose spices, herbs, dried fruits and nuts
  • A peanut butter making machine
  • oil on tap so you can refill your bottle

All of the above you can buy by weight in your own containers. This is  common in the U.S. and Australia. They have  bulk stores or  bulk foods aisle in a grocery store. In this case it doesn’t necessarily mean buying huge amounts but buying loose and unpackaged.

BYO Bags

While the carrier bags at the check-out are paper, the rest of the packaging, the produce bags and bottles they provide, are all plastic so you would have to take your own compostable pots and reusable bags. Easily done – find out how here.


The weight of the bag will make a difference at checkout in the price per weight.  The tare weight is the weight of the empty container. Whole Food Markets have weighing machines that allow you to do this yourself. It is very easy.


Whole Foods Market as it name suggests also has a organic eco criteria. This isn’t some giant Weigh & Save shop but a plush, lush shopping experience


Since then I have taken the opportunity to visits as many Whole Food Markets as I can.

Find A Store

They have stores in London, Cheltenham and Glasgow

I have taken photo journals which I have posted up on Facebook. Follow the links for

Please check that stock is available before you visit – the photos are quite old now and NOT ALL STORES ARE THE SAME. For instance Glasgow does Ecover refills Cheltenham doesn’t.


This American company have recently opened some flagship stores in the UK It is funky, good looking and challenging. It boasts impressive eco credentials. I wanted to know more so I emailed ahead asking if it would be OK for me to take photos next time I visited. Not only did they say yes, but Renata Rees, Marketing Team Leader, offered to meet me. An offer I eagerly accepted. You can read about it here


Find more loose food shops here






Peapod Grocery – Fruit, veggies, fish & jam!

In between the blustery walk to the post office and putting the stew on, I need a break; a cup of tea and some bread & jam  would see me through  as supplied by the fantastic Peapod Grocers, Marsh Huddersfield

Peeped do

  • lovely fresh and mostly unwrapped fruit and veg (they supply paper bags),
  • Vegeboxes delivered to your door
  • artisan bread of all kinds. Very tasty!
  • home made jam
  • Fish(take your own biobag)


The jam is homemade and  comes in glass jars with metal, plastic-lined lids. So some plastic. But get this…. you can return the jars. They get reused! Plastic reused is not rubbish plastic.

Plastic Notes

After years of dealing with me they are quite used to plastic free requests!




You can buy loose fruit easily at a  shop or supermarket. BUT when you commit to buy unpackaged fruit, your choice may (will!)  be  reduced. Often  soft fruits like strawberries are almost impossible to find unpackaged and you have to wait till Summer and pick your own. Organic fruit is very often packed in plastic to make sure no one tries to pass it off as cheaper non-organic. Sometimes you may have to choose between packaged, fair-trade or unpackaged, not. You have to decide which criteria are more important to you.
Bearing in mind all the above, It is possible to have a varied fruit diet – but you may not be able to have what you want whenever you want. If you choose to buy local fruit in season you will find it tastes better, is more likely to come unpackaged and is less likely to be waxed. In short be flexible, buy local(ish), see what is on offer and think what you can with that.

Waxed Fruit

Wax is added to fruit to make it last longer and /or look better. Coatings manufacturers guard their trade secrets and are tight-lipped about their ingredients. There is a big science in wax coatings. Fruit wax can be either natural, like carnuba wax, or they can be petroleum based. Some are also coated in shellac resin which is secreted by the female lac beetle. A lot of vegans are very vocal about this, as it is an animal based product being sprayed on produce. Read more here….

Get Fresh Fruit

You can buy fruit loose at a shop or supermarket. Don’t forget to  take your own plastic free bags. to carry your fruit home in.
Try a Fruit Box – similar to a veggie box where seasonal produce is delivered often from local farms.
Grow some.

Pick Your Own 

co fo produce bagsSoft Fruits  Summer, a time for soft fruit strawberries raspberries and blackcurrants. Hurrah….but of course they all pre-packed in plastic tubs.

If you want them plastic free, in England at least, you have to grow your own. We are lucky – we do have an allotment and do grow our own. But what with the slugs and the greedy guests we never quite have enough to see us through so we on a hot, sunny weekend we drive off to our local pick you own farm Bently Grange
Find one near you with this great farm finder website.
Notes of interest and wonderment In Berlin you can buy your soft fruit in biodegradable cardboard boxes …..grrr.They are even more hard-core in Poland and Helsinki. Here they pile the fruit up in heaps and shovel what you want into bags. Fair enough we had to take our own bags but what wouldn’t I give to have that option in England.

In the city 
Urban Harvest, Leeds: This group harvests unwanted apples and juices them. You can join in or just buy the juice. More details here
Abundance, York is a similar urban harvesting project but it gives the fruit to community groups.
It “identifies fruit growing that would otherwise go to waste, and redistributes it to charities or community groups that will make good use of it.

Foraged Fruit

Check out mother natures bounty – elderberries and blackberries are free, wild and so almost certainly organic.

Frozen Fruit

you can buy  frozen fruit loose from these suppliers 

Fantastic Things To Do With Fruit

Got a glut? Over picked at the farm? Storing seasonal fruit for the hard times ahead? Here are some things you can do:

Dried Fruit

Sometimes whats on offer is so boring you might want to turn to dried fruit. There are a few places you can buy  dried fruit loose and unpackaged.

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Whole Food Market U.K. Chain

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Huddersfield, Khadims

Here in lovely Huddersfield, we buy much of our stuff from Khadims, the Asian Supermarket on Blacker Road, including;

Loose unwrapped foods

  • Pistacheos  and walnuts
  • Ginger, garlic and chiles
  • Basmati rice  loose
  • They do a wide range of unwrapped fruit and veg including
  • Small UNWRAPPED cucumbers,
  • They also do halal meat unwrapped. Take a bio bag.
  • Metal pan scrubs.
  • The ever useful coconut oil and some weird vaseline  rip off in tins.


You have to take your own cotton produce bags, scoop up as much as you need and they weigh it at the counter at the counter. Smashing.