© Kat Morgenstern
Summer went by far too quickly - as always, and before you realize it, autumn winds are blowing down the leaves. Time to get cosy and dream up new plans for the coming year. This autumn I will be pre-occupied with nuts. But not so much those arboreal gifts that have been pelting me again every time I step out of the front door, but the nuts and bolts of the Sacred Earth website. I must admit that I have been feeling a little guilty - not only because the newsletter always seems to come off the cyberpress later than I had intended, but because it seems that it is getting increasingly unwieldy. While I was working on this issue I was haunted by visions of all those dear friends of the Sacred Earth Newsletter with slow internet connections, staring at their blank screens while pulling out their hair and running out of coffee as they are waiting for the newsletter to load. I am sincerely sorry, friends, I really am, but I just could not help it. The size of the thing started to blow out of all proportions, rather like some over-yeasted dough and before I knew it...well, you will see below.
Thus, my friends, I feel I need some help. I am sorry to bore you with technical issues, but let me explain. I have been contemplating the issue of content manageability for some time now. How to make all that information easily accessible with simple methods? Fancy navigation tools are wonderful for those who have the latest browsers that can make them work, but I don't want to leave the rest behind. There are some nifty content management systems out there that make it very easy to keep track of everything in neat and tidy files. But - unfortunately these packages are rather generic looking in design and not very flexible. I rather like the home-baked aspect of this website, yet I have those pangs of conscience described above, and so I find myself in a conundrum - what should I do?
Well, the coming months will give me plenty of time to think about it, but I thought I would put the question out to you, my readers, for whom I create these pages, since you are the ones that are confronted with navigating your way around the site, or are plagued with the excrutiating download times, which may turn you off enough never to return, which would be a shame. So, please, dear reader, would you be so kind and give me your thoughts on this matter and some suggestions as to what you would like to see, what you find easy or difficult about the site, how you feel about generic content management websites and whatever else you would like to tell me with regards to this website - your feedback will be much appreciated. I am looking forward to your e-mails! Meanwhile I wish you plentiful fruity, juicy and nutty autumn delights.
Kat Morgenstern, October 2006
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Its nutty season again! I have been reminded of the fact by the intermittent plopping noises outside my window and the mass of fuzzy hazelnut balls that are burying the front porch. These Turkish hazelnuts are plentiful for sure and easy to collect, but they are small and tedious to crack. But luckily nature provides so plentifully and these are not the only nut trees in the area. We are blessed with some walnut trees as well. Walnut trees, majestic to behold, are among my favourite trees and seeing them laden with nuts is a joy.
Walnut trees (Juglans regia) are acclimatized foreigners in our northern latitudes. They are at home in the warm, fertile regions of south-eastern Europe, northern Greece, northern Italy and France., where today they are widely cultivated. Walnuts arrived in the Low Countries north of the Alps in the pockets of Roman soldiers, yet it took several centuries before they really made themselves at home. They did not arrive in the Britain until the 16th century while teutonic tribes, who gave them their name, apparently regarded them as a foreign oddity as the name reflects: 'walnut' is derived from the Teutonic word 'welsh', meaning foreign. Although they have adapted quite well to the much harsher northern climes, their southern origin becomes evident in spring, when their vulnerability to a late frost can quickly ruin prospects of a good harvest later in the year.
In previous centuries walnut trees were considered so valuable that they were specifically itemized as part of an inheritance. A well producing grove could cover a good part of a family's livelihood. Also, anybody who planted walnut trees must do so with their descendents in mind as they take a long time to mature. Although they start fruiting from about 15 years of age they don't come fully into their power until they have reached the age of thirty. A mature tree can produce about 50kg of nuts per year.
In England the Roman nut became known as 'English Walnut', perhaps to distinguish it from the American walnut (Juglans nigra) or the Pecan nut (Carya illinoinensis). Despite the name, English Walnut does not grow wild in northern Europe, but usually has been planted, sometimes inadvertently, by squirrels. The American (Black) Walnut has the rather unsociable habit of emitting a chemical from its roots that inhibits and eventually kills other plants which are trying to grow nearby. Thus it has never been a very popular garden tree. Black Walnut can be found growing wild throughout the eastern United States.
The nuts are covered by a hard green hull that is exceedingly difficult to remove and besides, will stain your hands, clothes and work surface a quite persistent grubby colour. The trick is to harvest the nuts when they are ripe, which will be evident from the change of colour, but before the squirrels get them all (leave some for them, as it is one of their main sources of food to get them through the winter). The unripe husk is bright green, changing to a yellowish colour once they are ripe. Also, ripe hulls tend to split, making it much easier to remove the nut inside. The European walnut can be picked off the ground once the green shell has either turned into a black sludge that can be wiped away or has dried off and shrivelled enough to make removal of the nut inside an easy matter. Once you have removed the outer hulls wash the nuts well. It is best to place them in a bucket of water, which will naturally sort out the good ones from the rotten. Rotten ones will float, good ones will sink.
After washing the nuts you can either hull them or dry and store them for later use. If stored properly, left in the shell walnuts can keep for a year. Shelling exposes them to oxygen, which will cause them to turn rancid since they are rich in unsaturated (as well as saturated) fats. Keep them in a cool and dark place, where there is no danger of worms or vermin hankering for a free lunch. American Walnuts are much harder to crack than English walnuts. It is said that soaking them in water for 8 hours prior to cracking makes the job much easier. For English Walnuts this is not necessary as they readily split with the gentle persuasive powers of an ordinary nutcracker. Black Walnuts need more forceful treatment. Be prepared for blisters.
Walnuts are very rich in oil - 2kg of nuts will yield about one litre of oil, which unfortunately is not easy to obtain for the forager, except from the store. Native Americans used to boil the nuts to extract the fat, but this also destroys some of their nutrients. Pressed walnut oil has a delicious nutty flavour and is excellent in salad dressing or added to home backing to impart a delicate nutty flavour.
The inner kernel on the half-shell vaguely resembles a brain, surrounded by the protective cover of the cranium, which is why the ancients, applying the principles of the doctrine of signatures, declared walnuts to be beneficial for that part of our anatomy. But when the age of reason dawned such ideas were quickly ridiculed. But recently, scientists are finding that there is indeed a correlation between the omega-3 fatty acids (of which walnuts are a rich source) and the mind. Omega-3 fatty acids among other things, can help deal with stress and counteract depression.
Native Americans have used various parts of the tree, not just for food, but also as medicine. The leaves and root bark is used in anti-parasitic preparations and to treat skin diseases. The root bark is very astringent and makes a good anti-inflammatory wash that can be applied to herpes, eczema and scrofula. Taken internally it stops diarrhoea, stays the flux and dries up the flow of milk in nursing mothers.
The leaves deter insects and can be used as an ad hoc insecticide. The hulls, husks, leaves and bark are all used as vegetable dye stuffs to yield a colour range from yellow to dark brown or black. The oil is drying and has been used for oil paints as an alternative to Linseed oil. Recently, powdered shells are found to give new types of designer paints interesting textures or, used in floor paints, an anti-skidding effects.
Foragers appreciate walnuts most of all for their delicious meat, which can be added to both sweet and savoury dishes. My mouth is watering as my mind is conjuring up the smell and taste of Banana and Walnut bread, or walnut chocolate chip brownies and similar delicacies - but there are dozens more exciting things one can do with walnuts. Here are just a few:
To pickle walnuts don't wait until they are ripe- by that time they will have become woody. You must pick them in June, when they are still green and soft inside. This may be tricky, depending on the size of the tree, since walnuts will not voluntarily come off the tree at this time of the year. You will have to get a ladder to get at the fruit.
Prepare a brine: 6oz salt to 1 quart of water.
Prepare a spiced vinegar with:
Add some dried chillies or coriander seeds if you like. Lightly crush the spices, place in a muslin bag and simmer the bag in malt vinegar for 10 minutes. Let the vinegar cool down before you remove the spices. Pour the vinegar over the walnuts so the liquid covers them and close the jar tight. Macerate for another 6 - 8 weeks before tasting them.
Walnuts make an excellent stuffing for mushroom, marrows or filo pastry parcels.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Heat the olive oil and butter in a small skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, cover and sauté until soft.
Add walnuts and cook for another minute. Add the spinach and stir continuously for another 5 minutes. Take off the heat and cool slightly. Stir in cheeses, dill, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
Arrange the mushrooms, cavity side up, in a baking dish. Plop a wallop of the spinach and walnut mixture in each mushroom cap and place the baking dish in the upper third of the oven. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the filling turns brown and the mushrooms are thoroughly heated.
In Italy and France a liqueur made with walnuts is considered a regional speciality. Nocino is the name Italians gave their traditional brew, though there are many versions of the 'original' recipe. The idea is simple: macerate green unripe walnuts in a blend of clear flavourless alcohol, (e.g. grain alcohol), and syrup.
Pick a bunch of green walnuts in June (traditionally on St. John's Day=Midsummer). Wash and quarter the nuts. Remember to wear gloves when handling them!
Fill a large jar with the nuts and add an assortment of spices, such as a couple of cinnamon sticks and a few cloves and perhaps a vanilla bean. Chop up an organic untreated lemon (or orange if you prefer) and add to the mixture. Pour in about 1 ½ pounds of sugar and cover with 3 litres of grain alcohol. Cover tight and steep for about 6 weeks in a warm dark place.
When you open the jar, taste the liquid. If it is too strong dilute it with spring water as necessary. Strain through filter paper and fill into bottles. Store in a cool place.
To preserve green Walnuts in Syrup - from Mrs. Grieves
'Take as many green Walnuts as you please, about the middle of July, try them all with a pin, if it goes easily through them they are fit for your purpose;
Walnuts are incredibly versatile - even if they are not the star ingredient of a dish, they never fail to give it a refining note. I like to sprinkle some in the salad, or to use them instead of pine nuts in a pesto blend. They are also fabulous in almost any sweet dish.
People who are allergic to nuts should stay away from walnuts and all products derived from them or containing them. Likewise, people who are scared of calories should treat this nut with respect. However, replacing some of your normal dietary fat with walnut oil can be a very wise choice as walnut oil has an excellent nutritional profile and can help to fight free radicals and lower cholesterol levels. Walnuts are a good source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
Always wear gloves when handling walnuts - especially when they are still green.
That all the earth is fragile and that we must not take from her beyond what she can sustain. Overharvesting, particularly due to commercial collection of medicinal plants has brought many once plentiful plant species to the brink of extinction. As 'plant people', we should adopt an attitude of green guardianship for mother earth, who so plentifully provides for us.
Here are the rules that every forager should live and breathe by:
Get to know the plants that grow around you on a personal, first name basis: familiarize yourself with the herbs, bushes and trees in your neighborhood, try to learn as much as possible about the ecosystem of which you are a part and the plant members of your 'extended family'. Learn to identify them correctly and investigate all their uses. Try to understand it as part of a larger ecosystem. Which animals like it or dislike it? With which other plants does it form communities? Is it native or invasive? Does it protect the ground or deplete it of any of its nutrients? How does it 'fit' into its environment? What can you learn from its chemistry? Building this kind of holistic knowledge base will give you a much deeper insight into the nature of a plant and its role within the ecosystem. Its a lengthy process, but vital if you want to truly get to know your plant friends and the habitat you share.
It is especially important that you learn to identify the poisonous plants you are likely to encounter, lest they inadvertantly end up on your dinner plate, which could be most unpleasant or in the worst case scenario, even lethal. The importance of this point is completely obvious, but cannot be stressed enough. Some people hold the false and dangerous belief that what can be found in nature cannot harm them. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING YOU CANNOT POSITIVELY IDENTIFY AND DEEM SAFE. When you think you know a plant, think again and see what other, non-edible look-alikes might be fooling you. This is even more important when it comes to collecting mushrooms, as there are many poisonous mushrooms out there that have evolved to be masters at deceiving unsuspecting mushroom hunters. There are also many more potentially deadly mushrooms with edible look-alikes than there are deadly plants with edible look-alikes.
Familiarize yourself with the plants that are listed on the endangered species list for your area. Apart from being unethical, it is also highly illegal to pick endangered plant species. Instead of taking rare plants, consider sowing their seeds in the wild.
Only pick as much as you need and never take ALL the plants of any one kind in a given patch. After harvesting an area give the plants plenty of time to recover before returning to the same patch. Be especially conscienscious when it comes to harvesting roots and barks. Remember that often harvesting roots means the death of the plant, so before you start digging ask yourself if this plant is really plentiful and if it can sustain a harvest of its roots. If in doubt, don't collect. Consider growing some in your garden rather than depleting natural stands. Collecting barks can also be fatal to a tree. If you must collect this part, try to collect it from smaller branches rather than the stem, from branches that have fallen, or from trees that are due to be cut for other purposes.
However tempting it may look, never pick in places that are subject to pollution from roads, industry or heavy spraying of farm chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.). And don't collect from nature reserves either - these are areas set up to protect wild species, so give them their space and let them be!
Cast seeds of native species to the earth and to the winds once in a while - as a way of giving something back. Consider adopting a little patch that you are particularly fond of. When you are out and about, never leave any litter behind, but try to bring some back with you - I always carry two bags, one for foraging and one for litter picking. Give thanks to the plants and to Mother Earth who has provided them.
‘Sustainable development’ and ‘elimination of poverty’ are slogans that seem to be on everybody's lips these days. But behind the noble words lies a hugely complicated conundrum of intricately linked problems.
It is one thing for the super-powerful to meet every once in a blue moon at exclusive hotels or conference centres to agree that a problem exists and that it should be tackled. It's a good photo opportunity to be seen talking about issues that actually matter to the rest of us. It is quite another thing to translate political good will into real life action. A signature on an international treaty is a good start, but throwing money at a problem doesn't make it go away. Usually something has to actually be done about it as well.
But, I am jumping ahead of myself. I asked myself, what do we actually mean by poverty and what does it take to eradicate it? Poverty is a reality for hundreds of millions of people. It means no access to clean water, it means living in squalid conditions on less than a dollar a day, it means having virtually no access to schools or health care - let alone a realistic chance of social betterment, it often means scraping a meagre living from ever diminishing natural resources on which your life depends. It is a choice of feeding your family now or going hungry to preserve some seeds to grow next year's crop - not knowing if draught or floods will wipe the harvest out, or abandoning your home for the elusive promises of the city - and ending up living in slums.
Children are the biggest victims of poverty - robbed of their childhood they are often forced to work as soon as they can walk, to earn their keep and support their family. Children may be sold into slavery because their families suffer from desperate poverty, or they may be kidnapped. Whether they are forced to work as as beggars, child sex workers, child labourers in sweat shops, where they produce cheap consumer goods for the Western market, or as plantation labour force, braking their backs to ensures our continued supply of cheap chocolate, tea or coffee, or dozens of other crops - these are all common, every day practices in the developing world.
More uncomfortable questions raise their ugly heads - are theses poor children the lucky ones? For each child that lives in such deprived conditions there are hundreds more that die before they are old enough to work, either because of lacking sanitation or sheer hunger, or who have lost their mother while she gave birth to a sibling, or who are born with AIDS.
It's a grim picture that nobody wants to see. We tend to feel sorry for these people, but we rarely feel responsible in a way that questions how we and our politicians actually are actually involved in this scenario. Here is where things start getting complicated. For the same governments that tout the horn of sustainable development, also pursue WTO globalization policies that directly undermine sustainable development. The aim of globalization is to 'open markets' across the globe. What that means is the open exploitation of human and environmental resources at the lowest possible cost.
Globalization means we in the West can enjoy cheap goods derived from the developing world - often thanks to the labour of children, who earn next to nothing for the sacrifice of their childhood and who thus forgo any chance of even the most basic education. Whether it is cheap clothes from Walmart or cheap coffee beans or chocolate bars - our luxuries are made affordable by their poverty. On the turn-side, we become dependent on such cheaply produced goods, since production workers in the West are steadily losing their jobs because their payroll is just too uncompetitive in comparison with labour costs in the developing world. So, with little money coming in, it is only natural to look for the cheap stuff at the dollar store.
But very gradually the idea of fair trade is beginning to cause a slight ripple. Increasingly, Fair Trade products are becoming available, not just at the health food stores and special boutiques, but at larger supermarkets as well. At least as far as chocolate, tea and coffee are concerned. Those who allow their ethics some command over their wallets are given an ever expanding consumer choice - but what defies me, is how the same governments can aggressively pursue globalization, while at the same time signing agreements to eradicate poverty and supporting sustainable development?
Globalization could have a positive impact - if the business community that exploits the cheap labour force of the developing world were to build proper housing, schools and health care facilities for the communities which they employ - instead of polluting their lands and neglecting the responsibilities of cleaning up their act, as is so often the case. It is not the principle, but the practice that determines the level of good or evil that comes of it. Some companies, laudably, now do invest a part of their profits into all kinds of social and health schemes. While governments are slow to act, socially responsible businesses are leading the way.
This is just one miniscule facet of the whole entanglement. Let's look at another. Every year at regular intervals we are flooded with heartbreaking images of starving people, usually in some squalid refugee camp, queuing for hours to receive a bowl of 'humanitarian aid'. That bowl of rice hardly meets their needs. It just about keeps them alive - no more. But why are they so destitute? Usually the answer is one of two things which in another loop of the thought trail are related: either an environmental catastrophe such as draughts or floods are to blame (global warming), or, more often than not, they have been displaced by war.
On the face of it, war is fought over land, over resources, over power or over religion. The truth is, it does not really matter what the reason for it may be. War is a business, a very dirty, multi-billion dollar business. And you and I and our tax dollars are paying for it. Billions of dollars are spent on weapons each year - the arms industry is never short of demand. Conflicts may seem very real, but someone somewhere supplies the arms to fight those wars and these companies do very well indeed, thank you very much. The more armed conflicts the greater the profits while the effects on civilian life are always the same:
Trauma, displacement, destruction of homes, fields, cattle and livelihoods. Landmines endangering every-day life. Food and sanitation shortages. Chaos.
Civilians on all sides are always the victims of war. War displaces millions of people all the time. As a result these millions of refugees become dependent on our compassionate handouts instead of being able to farm their own lands and building their own livelihoods. I dare say that if one was to compare the money made by the arms industry in any armed conflict to the money being spent on the rice and wafers sent to 'aid' its civilian casualties - my guess is that the profits still come down heavy on the side of the arms industry and vastly outstrip any 'losses' incurred on the side of the humanitarian aid bill, which in any event is footed by the tax payer.
So, here is that same question again in another guise - how can we tolerate the madness of the arms business and at the same time delude ourselves with the idea that we are being 'Good Samaritans' to be sending all that humanitarian aid to these desperate people, who should be thankful for it, even if it is gene-manipulated rice, which can't be gotten rid of in the West?
Of course the other side of war -as we have seen in Iraq - is that once it is over somebody has to do the cleaning up and the reconstruction. I don't know, but somehow I don't see how bombing a place to smithereens and then rebuilding it is a particularly sustainable practice. Sure, it 'stimulates the economy', if one might say so, but at what price - not just to the civilian populations, but also to the earth's resources as a whole, and, of course at what cost to the local ecosystems, which invariably suffers the most. Can we afford to carry on destroying entire ecosystems through the effects of war?
Or, let's take another example - oil. We all know by know that fossil fuels have a direct impact on global warming. The effects of climate change have already produced some horrendous 'un-natural' disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina last year. Wildfires and floods have become regular items on the news. The costs related to these disasters are staggering, yet instead of putting all the money and intelligence we can gather up between us to research and develop alternative sources of power, the US government spends all the money it has got, plus some that it hasn't to send its youngsters to fight a war for oil to ensure that we can continue to melt the ice caps with our emissions, and do so 'cheaply'.
California has just taken the unprecedented step of suing some of the biggest car manufacturers for their contribution to global warming. While it is undeniable that cars contribute to global warming, it is up to us as individuals to decide to take the bicycle to run our errands instead of the car. Thus, would it not be more appropriate to sue the government for not signing the Kyoto treaty? Or to lobby for a change in legislation that would require car manufacturers to not only produce cars that run on clean fuel, but that are also built from recyclable materials which the car manufacturer is obliged to take back when the car gets scrapped. Moves in that direction are already underway in Germany, and it is not a new idea - Henry Ford built the first recyclable motorcar entirely from resin fortified hemp fibre, which even ran on hemp ethanol. (http://www.chaozation.com/politics/hemp/FordHemp.htm) That was in 1941, when the automobile industry thought that the future of car fuel would be plant derived ethanol. Perhaps we are ready for it now. Richard Branson has just announced a huge investment in alternative fuel research - at long last!!!
What does climate change have to do with poverty, you might ask yourself now. Actually, a lot. Climate change will affect all of us sooner or later, but many of the poorest nations will be hit worst. Not only may their very lands disappear under the rising water levels (e.g. the island nations of Polynesia inhabit islands that barely rise above sea level now), but even if they manage to keep their feet dry, the changing climate is going to cause havoc to all kinds of crops and plant resources on which people of all nations have come to rely.
Plants are adaptable to a point, but a rise of temperature, even by as little as one or two degrees can wipe out entire species and subsequently degrade a habitat beyond recognition. We may be able to sustain the loss of one or two species, but it does not stop there. The ecological web of life is more than just a metaphor. Losing one species deprives another of its staple diet, and losing that next species along the food chain in turn deprives others of their dinner and so on. No human being is 'exempt' - we all live at the top of the food chain - and are dependent on the integrity of the whole ecological system that provides our sustenance. Without food even the richest people in the world will become poor - though it may take until then before it is generally realised that money itself is not edible.
But, I hate to be so glum. I believe in the power of Gaia, I believe in the power of vision, and I believe, ultimately, in the power of individuals to make a difference. The wind of change is already blowing. Fair trade schemes and consumer choices can make a big difference, but it is also important to let politicians and companies know how you feel.
Fighting poverty is not about humanitarian aid, it is about giving people a chance to climb out of the poverty trap - helping people to help themselves. Economic justice. Wiping out debts. Fairtrade schemes and microcredits support people's efforts to support themselves are among the most successful sustainable development initiatives. Last year was the international year of microcredit - a sign that this avenue for change is moving into mainstream consciousness, thus bringing opportunities for financial security to increasing numbers of the world's poorest people:
Eco-tourism also has a huge impact on creating sustainable livelihoods and preserving ecosystems and their biodiversity. The range of eco-tourism offers is very broad - ranging from low impact tours that focus on activities such as hiking or kayaking, to eco-lodges that are co-owned with local communities, thus creating a sustainable income base and a real monetary incentive to preserve natural resources and cultural traditions. Eco-tourism can also mean going to a language school while staying with a family, or doing a volunteer trip to help build a school or other community project. The possibilities are truly broad.
For some special travel suggestions that can make a difference, please our travel feature below.
These are all very big issues and by no means discussed comprehensively here. It is often difficult to know how we can make a difference as individuals in our own lives. But however insignificant and small they may seem, there are many things we can do. Apart from the obvious - reduce, reuse, recycle - how about leaving the car at home once a week or sharing rides with a co-worker? Or changing your light bulbs to low energy ones - these don't seem like big steps, but they save huge amounts of energy and taking steps to reduce your personal energy bill will not only be beneficial for your wallet, but also makes a contribution to reduce greenhouse gases.
So, while this article can only barely skim the surface of all those complexities involved in 'sustainable development' and 'eradicating poverty', I hope it provides some food for thought with regard to the intricacies involved and the ways in which each one of us can make positive decisions for change in our every day lives.
Here are some further resources and food for thought:
Eco-tourism can be one of the most effective ways to create a viable basis for sustainable development. Sustainable development is important in all aspects of the economy and should be pursued in all countries, but it is especially important in developing countries. The reason is that these are the countries most vulnerable to exploitation of their natural resources, especially by foreign investors and corporations. But exploitation is never sustainable - sooner or later the resources are gone and the investors will move on, leaving behind them a trail of devastation.
The alternative model seeks to form allegiances between local people and investor money in an attempt to raise the economic subsistence base of the community, directly and indirectly, thus improving the standards of living for all. Some eco-tourism projects are models of sustainable development, where lodges built with investor money are co-operatively run for the first 10 years or so, during which time training is provided to the communities which otherwise are not acquainted with any form of tourism related activities. After this period the lodges are turned over to the communities to be fully operated by them, thus providing and autonomous income base which preserves the integrity of their land and culture, preserves the wild-life and raises environmental consciousness in the whole region.
Some such projects have already been extremely successful and rate among the best eco-lodges in their respective countries. Sacred Earth works with some of these types of lodge in Peru and Ecuador:
Posada Amazonas - Peru
The Posada Amazonas is a comfortable, yet unobtrusive 30 bedroom lodge, jointly owned by Rainforest Expeditions and the Ese'eja Native Community of Tambopata. Thanks to its accessibility, excellent wildlife observation opportunities and first class accommodations, Posada Amazonas is the ideal short, economic introductory nature tours to Amazonia's richest rain forests, because Travel time required to get to Posada Amazonas from Puerto Maldonado is less than 2 hours. Thus you have time to explore the forest the same afternoon you arrive. It offers enough quality natural and cultural resources to keep your agenda busy for your 2 night stay: giant river otters at an oxbow lake, parrots at a clay lick, a canopy tower and an ethnobotanical trail.View more details and itinerary
Heath River - Peru
Only four hours by river from Puerto Maldonado airport, Heath River Wildlife Center is the gateway to the largest uninhabited and un-hunted rainforest in the Amazon. An immensely photogenic macaw clay lick, capybaras, oxbow lakes with Giant Otters, hundreds of birds and mammal species and a lodge 100%-owned by the Ese'eja Indians of Sonene make the Heath the best combination of nature and culture in the this part of the Amazon. This special program combines a trip to Sandoval Lake Lodge (SL.) plus a visit to Puerto Maldonado's closest large Macaw Clay Lick (from a comfortable floating blind) at the new Heath River Wildlife Center (HRWC) and a visit to the extraordinary bio-diverse Pampas del Heath (savanah).View more details and itinerary
Yine Lodge - Peru
The Yine Project heralds an exciting new stage of community-based ecotourism in Manu. Established as a joint project between one of the most respected and longest established eco-tourism companies in Manu and the Yine Indians of the Peruvian Manu Biosphere Reserve rainforest, the ten-year project, began early in 2001. In 2011, the eco-lodge will be handed over to the Yine. Over this period the lodge will be built and the Yine will acquire the knowledge necessary to run an effective community tourism project. At present short 3 day introductory programs are available that introduce visitors to various aspects of Yine culture.View more details and itinerary
Kapawi Lodge - Ecuador
Kapawi is a beautiful eco-lodge situated in Achuar territory by a lake near the Pastaza river, in one of the most remote areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Accessible only by air, Kapawi has great wildlife: pink dolphins, macaws and a plethora of other species of birds and mammals.
The Lodge offers 20 comfortable double rooms, each with private bathroom and heated showers. Built according to special architectural concept based on Achur design (no metal nails), the lodge is very conscious of ecological principles: solar energy, biodegradable soaps and garbage recycling systems, make this eco-lodge one of the best in South America. Visitors have numerous choices with regards to the activities offered at the lodge, which they can customize and arrange according to their own interests. Guides are at hand to help the group or visitors to design the most suitable program to meet individual interests and physical conditions.View more details and itinerary
The words 'fat' or 'oil' often draws a horrified expression on people's faces. Years of campaigning for fat free this, that and everything has conditioned our thinking that fat is bad, and that's that. Fortunately, this is a complete misconception. We must learn to differentiate, for one fat is not like another. For a start - animal fats ARE not particularly healthy and should be consumed in great moderation. But since this newsletter is about plants we won't even discuss them here. This article is about common and uncommon vegetable oils that are mostly derived from seeds and nuts.
The human body needs fat. But how much it needs depends on one's level of physical activity. Fats provide energy. That is why plants tend to pack it into seeds - it provides them with the energy to fuel germination - just like mother's milk is rich in fat to boost her baby's growth. But energy means calories - hence the widespread fear of 'getting fat'.
Everything in moderation: an athlete or construction worker needs a lot more easily accessible energy than an office worker. However, both need certain fats to maintain optimum health, and vegetable oils are an excellent source of these 'essential fatty acids'. These fatty acids are called 'essential' because the body is no more able to manufacture them than it can make vitamins or minerals, which is why it is essential to include them in our diet. Essential fatty acids are highly unsaturated fats that have recently made the headlines as the latest 'super nutrients': omega-3, omega-6,omega-9, alpha and gamma linolenic acids. These substances are vital for proper cell nutrition and to fight cancer causing free radicals. They help to lower cholesterol levels and thus improve heart health, keep arteries supple, boost the immune system, fight chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, are vital in the development of the brain and nerve cells, improve chronic inflammatory skin conditions such as acne or psoriasis and provide a host of other benefits.
Some time ago the Russian medical practitioner, Dr. Fedor Karach, discovered an unlikely method of detoxification. His therapy, which he claims to have learnt from Siberian shamans, is very simple:
Each morning for at least 4 weeks in a row, one spoonful of sunflower oil should be thoroughly 'chewed' and swished and sucked through the teeth and around the mouth for at least 10 minutes. Spit the liquid out (being careful not to swallow any) and brush the teeth as usual. This practice is said to draw and remove all kinds of harmful toxins from the body, including heavy metals.
A similar method is employed in Ayurvedic medicine, though the oil used there is Sesame instead of Sunflower and it is only kept in the mouth for 2 min. Conventional medicine is highly sceptical towards this method, but scores of users swear by it.
But vegetable oils are not only beneficial on the inside - they also provide some of the best nutrients for external skin care. In ancient times it was common to oil or 'anoint' the body - which was done for spiritual as well as cosmetic purposes. Oil keeps the skin supple and smooth, radiating glowing health. Today, most cosmetic lotions and crèmes are predominantly made with mineral oil (petroleum jelly and similar). These offer no therapeutic benefit to the skin at all, but have the advantage of being very stable, thus boasting a very long shelf-life, which in turn increases profit margins. Even most commercially available 'natural cosmetics' contain harmful substances. Thus, if you want the best quality cosmetic products that really nourish the skin, make your own - using natural seed and nut oils. Each oil has specific therapeutic properties suitable for different skin types or conditions that can have remarkable beneficial effects on dryness, itchiness, sunburn or the unkind signs of time drawn around the eyes and such.
Vegetable oils also play an increasingly important role in industry. Remember, oil equals energy. One of the latest innovations is the use of plant oils as bio fuel known as Biodiesel, which can be used to fuel cars. Biodiesel is much cleaner than conventional diesel and cheaper too. Although in theory it would be possible to put vegetable oil straight into your diesel tank and go, there is a small problem, which is particularly bothersome in winter. Vegetable oils tend to be a lot more thick and sticky (viscous) than conventional diesel oil, which means it is harder to draw into the engine and combust properly. It needs to be thinned in some way, either by mixing it with regular gasoline or which somehow defies the point, or by preheating the oils so it becomes more liquid and runny. To make the most effective use of biodiesel it is best if the car is converted professionally, which will replace all the nozzles and punps so it can run safely and smoothly on biodiesel without anything getting congested. (http://journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_svo.html ).
Of course, as with anything, there are also environmental concerns about biodiesel. In this case it is not so much the pollution that makes the practice questionable, but the fact that good farmland is sacrificed to grow fuel for cars instead of food for people and that in some instances land actually is cleared of old forest to grow this cash crop. This is particularly worrisome in the tropics where it is rainforest that is cut down in favour of oil palm plantations. Rainforest soil, even when replanted with oil palms, is not very productive in the long run, unless the areas that are being cut down are very small and the patch is allowed to regenerate after a year or two of continuous use. Of course oil palm plantations will last much longer than a year or two and the areas that are cleared are much bigger than 'a patch'. This is a real concern. However, it seems to make little difference in the long run, whether that area is cleared for an oil palm plantation, soy farming or cattle raising. Monoculture plantations of any kind destroy habitats and diminish biodiversity. The only thing that will protect that forest is to prohibit all clearing for agricultural use - which is unlikely to happen. What really needs addressing are the policies concerning land use - but that is another story and shall be told another time.
A further consideration, which affects us much closer to home, is the fact that many oil crops grown for fuel production are gene manipulated. Contamination from gene manipulated fields and the loss of biodiversity associated with it are a real worry. The inconvenient truth is simply that we are consuming too much energy, no matter whether it is renewable vegetable oil or fossil fuel and the environment (and ultimately we ourselves) suffers the effects of our insatiable appetite for 'power' in either case.
Vegetable oils also have a number of other industrial uses, some of which are becoming increasingly interesting in view of rising fossil fuel prices. Like mineral oil, some vegetable oils lend themselves well to polymerisation - a process used to create plastics - but in the case of vegetable oils, the plastics thus produced are biodegradable. Considering the vast amounts of plastics we use and their general resistance to decomposing, bio-plastics offer one of the greatest hopes for civilization which may prevent us from suffocating in our own, ever growing plastics junk heaps. (http://www.biobasics.gc.ca/english/View.asp?x=790)
While most vegetable oils are derived from seeds and nuts; some are also derived from very oily vegetables or fruit. Some are predominantly used for cooking, while others are more suitable as nutritional supplements or as additives for cosmetic preparations. Others are mostly employed for industrial uses. The quality of vegetable oils varies widely. Some oils, including most hat are intended for culinary use, are solvent extracted and highly refined. Best quality cooking oils should be 'cold pressed', such as a good olive oil - which incidentally also has the best nutritional profile. Refined oils and 'butters' usually have a better shelf-life, as most of their unsaturated components are removed in the process of refinement, which renders much less nutritious.
Pressing oil from seeds and refining it for human consumption is a lengthy process. The raw material (usually seeds or nuts) first have to be cleaned and shelled. Following that they are heated, which makes the extraction process easier. Next, they are pressed through a contraption that resembles a meat mincing machine. The more pressure is applied the hotter the oil gets in the process. Facilitated by the heat all sorts of undesired compounds are also expressed, which make the oil unpalatable. Thus it has to undergo a refining process, to remove those undesirable compounds again.
Some raw materials that are naturally not that rich in oil content must be extracted by a special process involving a solvent, usually hexane, which extracts the oil from the pulp. Hexane is a substance produced during the process of crude oil refining, the solvent that glue sniffers get high on. The hexane needs to be removed again from the oil, which is done by heating the mixture to about 60°C.
After the extraction process the actual refining takes place. 'Refining' simply means purifying the oil by getting rid of unwanted substances and residues- and in the process, extending shelf-life. This is where the real chemistry starts. The oil is subjected to being 'washed' with a watery sodium base liquor (industrial soap), which causes certain compounds to separate or clump together so that they can be filtered out. To cut a long story short, the oil is literally put through the chemical mill in order to cleanse it of all impurities and make it fit for human consumption. The advantage of this process is the yield: despite the enormously complicated chemical procedure the yield is much greater than with cold pressed oils, and the shelf-life is often extended well beyond a year.
Cold pressed oils are the highest quality oils available. Nothing is added or removed from them. They are extracted by a simple mechanical pressing operation. This should be done very slowly since pressure and speed produce heat - which destroys the beneficial compounds of the oil. The oil should not be heated above 40°C in the process. Cold pressed oils are expensive because the yield is much lower compared to industrial oil production methods. The shelf life is not as long either, but the nutrient content is usually much higher and the range of flavours much richer - quite incomparable to the highly processed oils, which always taste the same. Good cold pressed oils have a bouquet of flavours in the same way as good coffee or wine does. No two oils are ever the same.
Sweet Almond (Prunus dulcis)
A light, gentle oil derived from almond seeds. This oil is nutritionally very beneficial and may be used for culinary purposes (best to use organic). According to research it has an impressive ability to reduce cholesterol levels. However, most Almond oil is bought by the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry and is used for salves, ointments, massage oils, crèmes and lotions. Due to its gentle nature it makes a good baby oil. It soaks into the skin easily, has a perfect viscosity and does not leave a greasy feeling. It is rich in essential fatty acids and keeps well. Its' shelf life is about 12 months.
Apricot Kernel (Prunus armeniaca)
A light oil, even gentler than Almond oil, derived from the seed of the Apricot. This oil may be expeller pressed or solvent extracted. In either case this oil should not be used internally. It has excellent properties as a cosmetic base oil that may be useful in crèmes and lotions or for facial oils. Apricot oil is chemically similar to Almond oil and also has a similar shelf life. It is not quite as drying as Almond oil.
Argan oil (Argana spinosa)
This edible oil comes from a small desert tree found in Morocco. According to Morrocan traditio, the nuts have to pass through the guts of goats, who forage on the trees, before they can be processed. After this preliminary step the nuts are roasted and crushed. The pulp is then submerged in water and the oil, which floats at the top, is siphoned off - a labour intensive process. The oil has a nutty smell and flavour and is rich in vitamin E, carotenes and phytosterols. Due to its rarity and price it may be more beneficial as a cooking oil than as a cosmetic base oil, although it is certainly beneficial for the skin as well - particularly for aged and damaged skin.
Avocado (Persea Americana)
That well-known delicious vegetable is the downfall of dieters: the pulp is so rich in fat that it readily gives it up by simple expeller extraction. The oil is dark green and thick, almost solid when unrefined, turning brown in sunlight. This oil is highly nutritious and very beneficial for the skin, but due to its unstable nature it should be used quickly. It can be used for therapeutic cosmetic preparations to soothe irritated and inflamed skin or to add to a healing oil for burns and scars. The oil has very good moisturizing properties and helps to regenerate the elasticity of the skin. However, be aware that most commercially available Avocado oil is refined, which means that many of the nutrients have been removed. The fatty acid profile varies greatly depending on the quality of the oil.
Babassu (Orbignya oleifera)
This oil derives from stately palm tree, whose nuts resemble small coconuts and originates in the costal regions of Brazil. It is the third most important oil palm species in the world. It is widely used in the Americas for food and medicine. However, the oil is very rich in saturated fats, which does not make it a very good choice for culinary purposes. For cosmetic use it has good moisturizing, emollient and cleansing properties. It lends itself well to sun tan lotions, cleansing crèmes and lip balms. It is siad to be especially good for dry and brittle hair and thus lends itself well for hair care products. Industry utilizes it in the production of soaps and detergents.
Black Cumin Seed (Nigella sativa)
Better known as the cottage garden flower 'Love in the Mist', Black Cumin seeds yield a bitter, spicy oil rich in unsaturated fatty acids. It is promoted as a nutritional supplement not only for its high Linoleic acid content, butter also for its bitter components, which are beneficial for the digestive functions and stimulate the metabolism. Black Cumin Seed oil also has a reputation for its ability to combat conditions of the upper repiratory tract, such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema and will stimulate the immune system. Those who like the taste may want to try it (in small quantities) as an addition to salad dressings, but most will prefer it in capsule form. Due to its strong smell it is not the best oil to use as an ingredient of massage oil blends, though with a little skill, blending it with essential oils and base oils, it may contribute to a detoxifying and invigorating blend. It may also enhance blends intended for inflammatory skin conditions such as acne and eczema. (should not be used internally during pregnancy)
Blackcurrent Seed (Ribes nigrum)
This healthy fruit is not only jam packed with vitamin C. It also harbours nutritionally loaded seeds rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. As a nutritional supplement Blackcurrent Seed oil can boost the immune system and supports the healthy function of the heart. It fights chronic inflammatory processes and has anti-coagulant properties that can help to prevent thrombosis. Many women find that adding oils rich in alpha and gamma Linolenic acids help them regulate symptoms associated with their menstrual cycle. Used as a nutritive addition in cosmetic preparations Blackcurrent seed is praised for its effect on mature skin, helping to revitalize and moisturize dry and wrinkled skin and providing nutrients that can help to restructure the natural elasticity of the skin.
Borage (Borago officinalis)
A common herb of the Boraginaceae family, the delicate blue starry flowers of the Borage plant produce a highly nutritious seed with many valuable properties. Borage Seed oil is rich in GLA (gamma Linoleic acid) and can be bought in capsule form as a nutritional supplement. It is particularly useful for regulating the menstrual cycle or to ease menopausal symptoms. Borage seed oil is used therapeutically to counteract chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, skin conditions and menopausal symptoms, to name but a few. As a nutritional component of cosmetic preparations it has restorative properties especially helpful for sensitive skin and can be incorporated into moisturizing night-time crèmes.
Castor oil (Ricinus communis)
Castor oil is a well familiar oil that has long been in cultivation for medicinal purposes, but never for food. The seeds are toxic and the oil is powerfully purgative and emetic. The thick, viscous oil has found many industrial uses including softening or waterproofing materials, treating leather, as an ingredient of soaps, ointments, crèmes and salves. It is also used in the manufacture of cosmetics such as lipsticks, hair care products and lotions. Sulphonated or hydrogenated Castor oil is known as Turkey Red oil. It acts as a dispersing agent and can be utilized for bath oils.
Coconut (Cocos nucifera)
Unrefined Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, but melts as soon as it comes in contact with the warmth of the skin. It consists mostly of saturated oils, which means that it is a very stable oil with a long shelf-life. Although in the tropics it is used for cooking, it is more ideal for cosmetics use. It can be used as a moisturizing body butter or massage 'butter', for hair care treatment, lip balms and for soothing emollient ointments or lotions. Fractionated or light coconut oil are terms which describe highly refined oils that lack many of the nutrients present in solid coconut oil.
Corn oil (Zea Mays)
Although one of the most common and inexpensive cooking oils, unfortunately corn oil is also one of the most 'risky' oils. Corn is one of the most frequently gene-manipulated staple crops. Furthermore, there has been genepool contamination within the germplasm bank for corn in Mexico. Thus one can never be sure whether whatever one buys is gene-mnaipulated or not - though one might as well assume so. Even regular corn oil tends to be highly refined and processed. However, a good quality, unrefined corn oil has a good nutritional profile with a large amount of unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E.
Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)
The seeds of the almost otherworldly Evening Primrose, which opens its flowers only at night, yields one of the most precious plant oils. Although edible, it is not really used for culinary purposes, but is most commonly available in the form of capsules as a nutritional supplement. Evening Primrose seeds contains a large amount of GLA, an essential fatty acid that is vitally important for maintaining many physiological processes, such as boosting the immune system, reducing inflammatory symptoms including those of rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus, regulating menstrual and menopausal symptoms and reducing high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. It also acts beneficially on a number of skin diseases such as acne, rosacea or eczema as speeding the healing of ulcers and the nerve damage associated with diabetes. The oil can be used internally as a nutritional supplement or externally as a special addition to cosmetic products, especially those intended for irritated or inflamed skin or as a an anti-wrinkle component of night crèmes and soothing facial oils intended for mature skin.
Grapeseed (Vitis vinifera)
Grapeseed oil is a relatively new contender in the arena of vegetable oils, as until fairly recently industry was more interested in the juicy fruit than its seed. When the seeds were pressed for oil it was found that they produce a good yield of fine textured, light oil with a good nutritional profile. It is rich in Linoleic acid, but not outstanding when compared to other oils. It chief merit is its low cost, which has made it popular in the production of inexpensive 'natural' cosmetics, and it is sometimes used as a replacement for mineral oil. Industry uses it for production of soap and as a fine machine oil. Good quality Grapeseed oil is edible and can be used as 'seasoning' oil.
Hazelnut oil (Corylus avellana)
A nutritious and delicious oil with a fine nutty flavour, derived from the fruit of the hazel bush. But beware that not all commercially available hazelnut oils are of edible quality and some may be highly refined. Hazelnut oil has a light texture and a good nutritional profile, being rich in vitamin A,B and E. This oil tends to be rather 'dry' or astringent oil, which means that it is excellent for use in skin care preparations for greasy skin types. It also has emollient properties which leave the skin feelin soft and smooth. In cosmetics it is used for a wide range of products from hand crèmes to lipsticks, cleansing lotions and sun oils.
Hemp (Cannabis sativa)
Derived from the seeds of that universally useful plant known as hemp, this seed oil does not contain any psychoactive properties. Instead it has one of the best overall nutritional profiles and is extremely rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are so important to our health and well being. Hemp oil is edible and recommended as a nutritional supplement for a wide range of conditions from menstrual problems, to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems, to MS, rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer. It is also beneficial for the metabolism, lowers cholesterol and benefits inflammatory skin conditions. The oil is quite heavy and thick, though it has a wonderfully soft texture and readily absorbs into the skin. It is best used as a nutritional additive to other oil blends for massage oils, lotions or crèmes. In cosmetics it is valued for its regenerative properties and can be used to tone and balance the skin.
Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis)
Jojoba oil is derived from a small desert shrub that commonly grows in the south-western Untied States. The rich and thick substance pressed from the seeds is actually more of a liquid wax than an oil. It solidifies at just below normal room temperature. It is very nutritious and rich in Vitamin E and proteins. But what makes it special is the fact that it also contains a compound that resembles collagen. Jojoba oil has excellent restructuring qualities and is used in face masks for dry and aging skin which has lost its elasticity. It also benefits chapped and dry skin and can be used on chilblains. The properties of Jojoba oil are similar and even superior to those of sperm whale oil, which it is fast replacing in natural beauty products. Native Americans have used it for its healing properties, in cancer care and in hair care preparations.
Kukui Nut (Aleurites moluccana)
The Kukui tree is a native of the pacific region with a claim to fame: it is the official 'state tree' of Hawaii - though it is not well known beyond its range. Nevertheless, its properties are remarkable and should be much more widely promoted. The light, yellow oil is highly moisturizing, yet non-greasy, making it an ideal oil for skin care preparations. It can be used for all skin types but is particularly beneficial for mature and aging skin, chapped and dry skin and skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. The oil is highly valued for its healing and soothing properties on irritated, inflamed or burnt skin. Kukui oil has a way of preventing moisture loss, keeping the skin smooth, supple and elastic.
Flax/ Linseed (Linum usitatissimum)
Derived from the seeds of Flax, one of the most useful fibre plants, from which linen is produced. The seeds have a remarkable essential fatty acid composition and are rich in omega-3 alpha linolenic fatty acid. The body can, to some degree, convert this substance into EPA and DHA, the long chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, but it appears that this conversion is limited. Besides, some people simply lack the necessary enzyme to do so. Still, Flax seed oil is a very valuable nutritional oil, which can be used in salad dressings or as a supplement in capsule form. It is not very popular in skin care products due to its unstable nature and strong smell. It is also rather thick and sticky. However, industry has long used a refined version of this oil as a paint thinner and sealant for wood, while artists use it for their oil paints.
Macademia (Macademia integrifolia)
The Macadamia tree is native to the Queensland region of Australia, where it is also known as 'Bushnut'. When it was brought to Hawaii, it quickly gained popularity and Hawaii soon became the worlds leading producer. Macadamia nut oil has one of the best overall fatty acid composition profiles. Due to the prevalence of monosaturated fats it is a very stable oil, yet it is also rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and makes a great choice as a culinary oil, as a salad oil or nutritional supplement. For cosmetic use, Macadamia oil contains palmitoleic acid, a compound found also in human sebum. However, as the skin matures the Palmitoleic acid is reduced. Thus Macademia nut oil is an excellent choice for skin care products designed for mature skin. It nourishes, tones and helps to restore elasticity to the skin.It may also be used as massage oil and for aromatherapy skin care products. Macadamia nut oil is easily absorbed by the skin and may be used for all areas including very sensitive parts e.g. around the eyes.
NEEM (Azadirachta indica)
In Asia this tree is fabled as 'the wonder tree,' and its oil and other parts are used for a wide range of health conditions. It has a very pungent, garlicky smell, which does not make it very popular as a massage or bath oil. However, it has potent anti-microbial properties and offers an excellent healing oil that can be incorporated in salves and lotions for parasitic afflictions (lice), fungal conditions such as athletes foot, or bacterial infections that affect the skin, such as measles. In Ayurvedic medicine this oil is used for all types of 'problem' skin. In India it is highly respected for its anti-parasitic, insect repellent, anti-fungal, anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Olive (Olea europaea)
Everybody is familiar with olive oil. It is one of the best cooking oils available. Unlike most of the other oils discussed here it is not derived from the seed but from the pulp of the fruit, which is carefully pressed to yield the rich, thick, greenish-yellow oil. Olive oil has long been rumoured as one of the key secrets of the Mediterranean diet which protects people from coronary heart disease despite their rich and plentiful diet. For skin care, most find olive oil a little too thick and heavy, although it provides excellent slippage as a massage oil and when blended with essential oils or used to extract e.g. St. John's Wort, it soon loses its characteristic, strong odour. In Mediterranean countries it is widely used in soap making and other cosmetic products, such as body butters and lotions. It is a very soothing oil for inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema as well as for burnt, dry or chapped skin.
Palm Fruit Fatty Acid Profile:
Palm Kernel Fatty Acid Profile:
Palm (Elaeis guineensis)
The oil palm yields two distinctly different types of oil, one derived from the pulp of its fruit, which is mostly used in cooking, and another from the actual kernels, which is solid at room temperature and more frequently used for industrial purposes, e.g. in soap and detergent production. Palm oil does not provide a very healthy fat for cooking as it contains mostly saturated fats. It has become the most important source of biodiesel, but unfortunately its production demands a huge price from the environment. Vast tracts of virigin forest are cut down, ecosystems are destroyed and biodiversity is lost in the fragile habitats of the tropics, all to make way for enormous oil palm plantations. Palm oil can be used for cosmetic preparations, but their nutritional profile does not greatly commend them.
Peach (Prunus persica)
Related to almond and apricot, peach kernel oil shares similar qualities as its cousins. It is slightly heavier to the touch, but equally gentle. Due to the limited availibility of this oil in comparison to almond or even apricot oil, it tends to be a pricy choice. It may be used for cosmetic preparations such as facial lotions and rejuvenating crèmes for aged and tired skin, lip balms, bath or massage oils. It is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. This oil is not for internal use.
Peanut (Arachis hypogaea)
One of the most commonly employed vegetable oils, peanut oil is cheap, easily available - and often gene manipulated. In terms of world production, peanuts are second only to soy and constitute an important cash crop in developing countries. As a cooking oil it is mostly appreciated for its high smoke point, making it suitably for frying. It is mostly composedof monosaturated fatty acids, which gives it high stability and a long shelf-life. It is rarely used for cosmetics, except as a 'filler' to stretch other, more precious oils. Allergies to peanuts are common and more likely to occur with crude, unrefined oil than with refined varieties.
Rapeseed/Canola (Brassica napus)
Rapeseed oil is derived from a member of the mustard family and ranks among the most widely grown oil crops. Canola oil is a 'product name' to describe a variety of rapeseed whose oil is low in erucic acid. Canola oil is cheap and easily available as a light cooking oil. Nutritionally, Rapeseed oil has a better ratio of saturated and non-saturated fatty acids than other standard cooking oils, but most Canadian Rapeseed oil (biggest grower) are derived from GM sources. Canola oil is often used for making margarine and soap and also plays an important part as an industrial oil. It is not only used as a machine oil, but is one of the big contenders for use as biodiesel oil. It is also occasionally used in cosmetic preparations and soap making.
Pumpkin Seed (Curcubita pepo var. styriaca /syn. var. oleifera)
Although pumpkins are originally a new world vegetable, which was completely new to Europe when Columbus brought it back from his travels, the seed oil derives from a cultivated variety that was developed in Styria, Austria:. Curcubita pepo var. styriaca (syn. var. oleifera). This variety contains seeds that are particularly rich in oil. They are briefly roasted before being pressed. The resulting oil is dark green with a distinctive nutty flavour. Pumpkin seed oil is very wholesome, being rich in omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, as well as in vitamin E, A, C and Zinc. Traditionally it has been used as a nutritional booster for conditions of the urinary tract, such as weak bladder and prostate problems. Punpkinseed oil is rich and thick and due to its distinctive 'culinary' scent it is not often used in cosmetics, though it would be beneficial as a nutritive addition to other blends. Exposure to direct light deteriorates its quality.
Rosehip Seed (Rosa rubiginosa)
This oil is obtained from a variety of roses native to the Chilean Andes. Due to their high essential fatty acid content (80%), the seeds yield a light, gently astringent oil with excellent nourishing, moisturizing and toning qualities. Rosehip oil is not used for culinary purposes, but is an excellent nutritive oil for cosmetics, particularly for facial blends and lotions intended to nourish the tender tissue around the eyes and to maintain skin tone. Excellent for use in 'after sun care' lotions, and on burnt tissue and scars. Not used internally.
Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)
In previous centuries this plant was more valued for the pigment of its flowers, which was used as a natural dye, but today it is mostly grown for the oil content of its seeds. The orange-yellow thistle-like flower heads are also the source of what is known as 'false saffron', a cheap saffron substitute, which unfortunately lacks the flavour or the potent colouring ability of the real thing. Safflower oil is a nutritious cooking oil, though relatively neutral in flavour. Two varieties are grown, which differ in their fatty acid composition, one being higher in monounsaturated fat (oleic acid) the other in polyunsaturated fat (linoleic acid). The variety that is higher in monounsaturated fats is more stable and thus has a longer shelf-life.
Sesame (Sesamum indicum)
Originating in Asia and the Middle East, Sesame has a long history as valuable oil plant, popular as a culinary oil, lamp oil and for the preparation of salves and skin care products. Sesame oil is rich in calcium, oleic and linoleic acid and has a long shelf-life. It is very suitable as a cooking oil, lending foods a fine nutty flavour. The light texture and good moisturizing qualities also lend themselves well to skin care preparations, cosmetics, soaps and detergents. Commercially, two types of sesame oil are available: light and dark. The dark variety derives its colour and stronger flavour from the fact that the seeds have been toasted prior to pressing. This type is generally only used for culinary purposes.
Soy oil (Soja hispida)
The humble soy bean, originally a staple crop of Asia, has had an amazing rise to stardom on western supermarket shelves. From being virtually unknown only about 50 years ago it is now difficult to find any processed food that does not contain some derivative of the soy bean and soy bean oil now ranks as the number one vegetable oil. Unfortunately it is also the most ubiquitous GM crop. Despite its widespread popularity there is also a growing lobby that claims soy oil and products to cause significant health concerns. Soybean oil is not only an important food stuff, it also finds use in numerous industrial applications from linoleum, to plastics and vegetable inks. Commercially, it is widely used for soaps and detergents and also finds widespread use in the natural cosmetics industry as it is easily available, cheap and boasts a long shelf-life.
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
The sunny sunflower is another newcomer to the old world. Originally a sacred plant of Native Americans it is now grown all over the world. The seeds yield a fine and nutritionally balanced cooking oil, which is second only to olive oil. Different varieties produce slightly different composition oils. Thus, the commercially available cooking oils are not necessarily the same as oils sold by vendors of cosmetic ingredients. Sunflower oil is relatively light with medium viscosity and has an affinity with human sebum, which is why it makes a good, affordable base oil for skin care preparations, massage and bath oils. It is also a good menstruum for macerating herbs (e.g. to produce calendula or St.Johns wort oil). The fatty acid profile varies considerably depending on the variety in question.
Walnut (Juglans regia)
Walnuts not only provide delicious nutty snacks, but are also very rich in oil content, which is highly valued as a culinary oil for its delicious nutty flavour. And, being rich in unsaturated fats, it is very wholesome too. Walnut oil is often used in fine baking to enhance the aromas, or, plain and simple, as a salad oil. For skin care preparations it should be included only in potions and lotions that will be used rapidly as it will deteriorate soon. But it does make an excellent massage oil and its soothing, softening and rejuvenating emollient properties are a treat for dry and tired skin.
Wheatgerm (Triticum sativum)
Wheat germ oil, obtained from the germ part of the wheat grain, is a very nutritious oil, particularly rich in vitamin E. The oil is sometimes used as a nutritional supplement and can be obtained in soft gels. It is praised for its healthful, antioxidant properties. The oil can also be used as a salad oil to enhance the nutritional benefit, though its flavour is not exactly delicate. It is often included in cosmetic skin care preparations, not only for its healing properties - it is highly recommended for preventing stretch marks and scar tissue formation, but also to help stabilize blends. However, wheatgerm oil itself is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, thus straight tocopherol or vitamin E oil would be preferable as a natural preservative.
|Saturated Fats||Isomer||Monounsaturated Fats||Isomer||Polyunsaturated Fats||Isomer|
|Butyric acid||4:0||Myristoleic acid||14:1||Linoleic acid||18:2|
|Caproic acid||6:0||Palmitoleic acid||16:1||Linolenic acid||18:3|
|Caprylic acid||8:0||Oleic acid||18:1||Alpha-Linolenic acid||18:3 n-3 c,c,c|
|Capric acid||10:0||Gadoleic acid||20:1||Gamma-Linolenic acid||18:3 n-6 c,c,c|
|Lauric acid||12:0||Erucic acid||20:1||Parinaric acid||18:4 undifferentiated|
|Myristic acid||14:0||Nervonic acid||24:1||Arachidonic acid||20:4 undifferentiated|
|Palmitic acid||16:0||Timnodonic acid||20:5 n-3|
|Margaric acid||17:0||Brassic acid||22:2|
|Stearic acid||18:0||Clupanodonic acid||22:5 n-3|
Plant Profile: Apple Tree
A mature apple tree looks like a grandmother of a tree: small in stature,writhing limbs and with grey, crinkly bark. this tree does not impress with its habitus, yet we learn to love it from an early age, not just for its wonderful fruits, but because it is perhaps the most ideal climbing tree found in the temperate climate zone and just about every child will sooner or later become intimately acquainted it. Despite its humble posture, we can't help but notice the apple tree when spring arrives. Before the leaves are showing it is covered all over in a glorious beautiful dress of pinkish white flowers, abuzz with delirious bees. Once the flowers have dropped off we again pass it by without paying it much attention, but come September it is laden with shining, golden red apples that are impossible to resist. Even crab apples, whose fruit are much smaller (and tarter), look tempting.
It is estimated that there may be as many as 20000 cultivated varieties, each with their own distinct flavour, shape, smell, crunchiness or succulence, though nobody knows the exact number. Sadly, most of them are endangered as they tend to be heirloom species, confined to just a few gardens. The average supermarket only carries about 5 varieties.
The apple tree is an important source of nectar for bees. Later, its fruit provide much nurishment to all sorts of small wildlife.
The apple tree is so widespread that it is almost impossible to pin down its origin. Charred remains of prehistoric crab apples found at archaeological sites throughout Europe bear witness to the fact that wild apples, or crab apple, as it is also known, has been at home throughout central Europe since Neolithic times. The first cultivated varieties probably reached northern parts of Europe with the Romans. Today apples are grown in all temperate regions of the globe.
The apple tree is perhaps the most mythical of all trees - is it not supposed to have been the demise of all mankind, way back at the beginning of time? Actually, it is highly unlikely that the forbidden fruit that gave us knowledge of good and evil was in fact an apple, since this fruit was unknown in Egypt and Palestine at that time and early Bibles merely mention 'a fruit'. However, long before the Christianity was born the apple tree was already widely adored as a symbol of immortality and the apple was regarded as the sacred heart of the Goddess of eternal life. In Cletic tradition the western paradise, where the souls of the Blessed go, was known as Avalon, the isle of Apples, guarded by Morgan, the Queen of the Dead.
Although the Neolithic lake villagers of central Switzerland already feasted on Crab apples, it appears that the Romans popularised the cultivated varieties in central and northern Europe. The Romans too, associated eternity with the apple - alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the two symbols that encapsulate existence, were represented by an egg, symbolic of the origin of life (alpha), and an apple, the symbol of eternal life and resurrection (omega). And thus, each of their feasts would start with an egg and be finished with an apple. Wild boars (pigs and boars are sacred animals of the Great Goddess,) were roasted with an apple in their snout to represent eternal life and resurrection.
The apple is a fruit of Venus/Aphrodite and it bears her signature, the five pointed star. Among gypsies it is an ancient tradition to cut the apple horizontally to reveal this mystical sign of the Goddess. In Greek mythology we are told the fateful story of Paris, who was given the impossible task to settle a dispute between three Goddesses by choosing one above the others whom to present with a golden apple, inscribed 'to the most deserving'. In the end it was Aphrodite who won him over, if only with a bribe, as she promised him the hand of Helen, the most beautiful mortal woman alive on earth at that time. Unfortunately that beautiful young woman was already married to another and when Paris ran away with her he inadvertently started a chain of events that lead to the Trojan War.
In China, by contrast, the pictogram for apple has the synonymous meaning of peace. Thus presenting someone with an apple is to say: 'peace be with you'.
In time, apples became associated with erotic love and for many centuries artists used them metaphorically in their works. However, when Christian tempers started to run rampant, the apple became a symbol of the devil, of temptation and evil, a symbol of sinful love of the flesh. Thus, apple became 'malus', which means bad, and the apple tree became a tree of witches. Apple trees are also the most common host trees of Mistletoe, the sacred plant of the Druids, although the Druids favoured Mistletoe that grew on Oak.
Once upon a time Halloween was more than a spooky fun day for kids. It was celebrated as the pagan New Year, to mark the time when the life force retreats into the womb of the earth, to regenerate and restore its powers, only to be reborn again the following spring. How fitting then that this festival should be associated most of all with apples, the sacred fruit of eternal life and resurrection. Apple bopping games and other customs are remnants of ancient pagan traditions that allude to gaining eternal life of the soul.
During the time of the apple harvest apple farmers traditionally engaged in the custom of 'wassailing', a kind of tree blessing that invoked the fruitfulness of their trees, chased off any evil spirits or demons that might have liked to steal their fruit, and gave thanks for the harvest. This was celebrated with good quantities of cider and apple cookies as well as with fireworks or gunfire.
Apples have also sometimes been used as a form of divination, to tell the probable fortunes of young hopefuls in their pursuit of love and happiness. The procedure requires the person to cut the apple horizontally. The fortunes are told by interpreting the numbers of seeds that are visible and whether or how many of them were cut in the process.
Cider, hot spiced apple wine and baked apples or apple crumble all featured strongly among our seasonal favourites at this time of year.
But apple traditions are not all as old as 'ye old heathen times'. The greatest 'apple hero' of all times was born in the American legendary figure of Johnny Appleseed. Johnny Appleseed is said to have spent his life planting apple trees across the land, to pursue his vision of a country filled with these glorious trees. He is also said to have talked to animals and never carried arms, even when walking alone in unknown territory. He was accepted by the Indians and respected by settlers and managed to mediate various conflicts between the two sides. He certainly lived an eccentric life, but in the end his dream was fulfilled.
Apples are very healthy fruits and the English adage 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away' still carries a lot of merit. But more about that below.
Flowers, Fruit, Peel
Flowers in spring, when they are fully open and free of dew,
Apples are a wonderful, healing food, easy for the body to digest and able to correct over-acidity of the stomach. They are particularly rich in pectin, a soluble fibre that forms a jelly-like substance, as any jam-maker will know. Pectin, available in its purified form, is used to help set marmalades and jams. In the body it helps to regulate digestion, forms a protective coating in the intestines and soothes inflamed tissues. Thus, apples can be used to treat both diarrhoea and constipation. They are also highly recommended for balancing blood sugar levels, as they prevent those dangerous spikes and lows. Apples are cooling and anti-inflammatory. They are wonderfully refreshing and thirst quenching during convalescence, especially when suffering from feverish conditions, coughs and colds. Apple tea, usually prepared by infusing minced fruit or peels (organic, please!) in hot water, is not only a delicious drink, but also increases uric acid elimination and is helpful as a supportive remedy in the treatment of arthritic and rheumatic conditions as well as rheumatoid kidney and liver disease. An apple diet is recommended for gout, constipation, haemorrhoids, bladder and kidney disease. An apple at bed time improves the quality of sleep and helps to control night sweat.
Bees love the nectar rich apple blossoms in spring. The petals can be infused as a tea to treat feverish conditions, especially those that affect the upper respiratory tract. Apple blossom tea also soothes and calms the nerves.
Apples cider vinegar is also excellent, not just for salads, but for a whole host of health conditions. It is very rich in calcium and can help to improve calcium deficiency related problems such as loss of concentration and memory, weak muscle tone, poor circulation, badly healing wounds, general itchiness, aching joints and lack of appetite. Apple cider vinegar detoxifies by supporting the eliminative function of the kidneys. Thus, it is a helpful supportive aid for arthritis, gout, rheumatism and skin conditions. It is also beneficial for sinusitis, high blood pressure, migraine, chronic exhaustion and night sweats. To make use of this healthful elixir, dilute one tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 6-8 oz of water. This may be sweetened with honey.
There are endless numbers of delicious recipes that turn apples into any number of sweat or savoury dishes or drinks. But even plain they are simply delicious.
A simple way to enjoy a quick apple treat is to bake them whole. Cut out the centre that contains the seeds and fill it with musli. Sprinkle a little Cinnamon on top and dribble some honey into the hole. Place on a baking sheet and bake until soft enough to spoon. Serve with plain yoghurt.
A wonderful side salad: grate an apple and a couple of carrots. Squeeze a lemon over it and add some currents to the mix. Simply divine.
Wash the crab apples well. Place the vinegar and sugar into a saucepan Heat while stirring, taking care not to burn the sugar. Add the fruit. Place spices into a muslin bag and tie well- add to the fruit. Cover the saucepan and cook on low heat until just tender. Remove fruit with a siphoning spoon and pack into sterilized jars, leaving a little space at the top. Remove the muslin bag from the vinegar and strain the liquid. Return to the heat and continue to simmer, uncovered, until it has the consistency of syrup. Pour hot over the fruit in the jars so it covers them by ½ inch. Seal tightly and store in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks before use.
Peel, core and slice the apples and slice the chilli. Put all ingredients together into a saucepan and simmer on a low heat for 11/2- 2 hours until well cooked to a pulp. Allow to set overnight.
For more great apple recipes see: http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/apple044.html#reccra
Other uses: Apple wood is valued for its strength and fine grain. It is a dense and heavy wood and makes superior smoke wood.
The U.S. contributes almost one quarter of the global total of carbon dioxide emissions, which are the main cause of global warming. This makes us the world's worst offender. To ensure everyone's future on this planet, our country must lead the way on clean energy. The League of Conservation Voters has launched a campaign -- The Heat is On: Demand Global Warming Leadership Now! -- calling on Congress, the President, and both political parties to begin tackling global warming and implementing solutions to our world's energy needs THIS election season. Join them in their call to action by signing the petition now.
Scientists warned that extreme weather would be a sign of climate change. And sure enough, one year after Katrina, the most disastrous hurricane in U.S. history, we experienced record high temperatures across the country. This past summer's triple digit heat wave killed 19 people in Texas, 31 in New York, and 20 in Oklahoma. It's clear that global warming has arrived and brought with it a glaring responsibility for leaders to act. Sign the petition to demand global warming leadership now!http://go.care2.com/e/Mz6/rG/Aswo
Source: Seattle PI.com, USA, 7 September 2006
The nuts of the wild shea tree of West Africa produce a rich butter prized for cooking, cosmetics and healing. As a boy in Togo, Olowo-n'djo Tchala spent hours gathering them to pay for clothing and school supplies. Now when Tchala scoops shea nuts into his hand, he sees an opportunity to help free Togo -- perhaps all of Africa -- from entrenched poverty.
At Steamboat Island, a rural community near Olympia, Tchala and his wife, Rose Hyde, oversee the production of fair-trade shea-butter lotions, creams and soaps, bound for retailers such as Whole Foods in Seattle. Their bottling and distribution plant, about the size of a triple garage, belies the phenomenal growth of what quickly has become an international operation. In its first three years, Alaffia Sustainable Skin Care -- named for a greeting in central Togo -- has pumped an estimated $400,000 into Togo's economy.
Tchala and Hyde earmark 10 percent of sales to development projects in the tiny West African nation: furnishing schools, planting trees in deforested areas and trying to reduce a maternal death rate that claims one in 16 women -- including one of Tchala's sisters. Degrees in hand, they set about producing handmade, all-natural shea butter -- both in bulk and as finished lotions and creams -- for the growing world market. Alaffia products are sold throughout the U.S. and in Hong Kong, South Africa, Taiwan, Japan, Trinidad and elsewhere.
Shea butter was an apt choice for their venture. For centuries Togo's women have overseen the demanding, 12-step process that turns the rough, brown nuts into a silky butter used there for everything from skin salve to umbilical-cord cleanser. "A woman in the central part of Togo sometimes can't get married unless she knows how to make shea butter," Tchala said.
Alaffia's shea-butter cooperative in Sokode, central Togo, provides good-paying jobs and monthly medical checkups to 80 workers. Hand-crafting shea butter is not for the faint of heart. Co-op workers shell, dry and crush the nuts into a thick paste, then add clean water and hand whip the concoction for up to three hours to separate the oils. Another round of stirring causes the oils to crystalize into shea butter, which cools into waxy, pale-gold chunks that are shipped to Steamboat Island. There, Tchala and Hyde oversee six workers. The small crew liquefies the butter in heated barrels, stirs in other natural ingredients such as baobab and lemon grass, then hand-bottles the products, which retail for about $10 to $14. The co-op's shea butter keeps flowing, softening the world's complexion and smoothing the way for the people of Togo.
For full story, please see: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/lifestyle/284046_sheabutter07.html?source=mypi
Source: ANBA, Brazil, 30 August 2006
Artisans from the North of Brazil are transforming products like seeds, shells and fruit pits in bio-jewels. The pieces, which receive fine finishing, but are made from products of the forest, are sold in the internal and external markets. With talent and creativity, artisan Jander Cabral transforms seeds, shells and pits, rustic raw materials of the Amazon forest, into jewels with fine finishing. They are the so-called bio-jewels, which have a high added value as they join in necklaces, bracelets, rings or earrings, the indigenous handicraft art and the precision of jewellery art.
From the city of Autazes, in the Northern Brazilian state of Amazonas, Jander Cabral reveals that the bio-jewels have reached the foreign market. The artisan does monthly business with buyers in Switzerland, the United States and England. In Brazil, according to Cabral, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, in the southeast of the country, and Brasilia, in the midwest, are the cities most interested in this kind of product. "Since I started dedicating myself to the production of bio-jewels, I have never managed to stock up since the demand is too big," says the artisan.
The main products used by Jander Cabral in the production of bio-jewels are seeds of jarina, the ivory-nut palm, known as vegetable ivory. He also uses coconut shells, Brazil nuts, tucumã (Astrocaryum aculeatum) and calabash, but the ivory-nut palm is preferred because as well as its use in necklaces and bracelets, it is possible to transform it into miniatures of manatees, toads, the pink river dolphin, amongst other animals.According to Jander Cabral, the jarina seed is removed from a common palm in the western region of Amazonas state, in northern Brazil, far, however, from state capital Manaus.
But the bio-jewels are pretty close to the customers in Manaus. This is because the artisan, in partnership with the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae) in the state of Amazonas, is going to release a new collection of bio-jewels during the III Amazon International Fair (Fiam 2006), from the 30th of August to 2nd September, in Manaus.
For full story, please see:: http://www.anba.com.br/ingles/noticia.php?id=12188
Source: National Geographic News, 14 September 2006
In Australia, urban restaurants today are more likely to offer dishes like low-fat kangaroo, perhaps served on a bed of warrigal greens with a berry jus of lilly pillies. These so-called bush foods were once found only in outback towns like Alice Springs, where tourists might try a bit of native tucker. But more recently, indigenous foods have left the bush for more visible spots in city restaurants and supermarkets.
For full story, please see: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/060914-australia-food.html
Source: Jamaica Information Service, 20 September 2006
The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands has taken another initiative to protect and manage the island's forest reserves and national parks, by launching a US$16.5 million Forest Conservation Fund (FCF). Speaking at the launching ceremony today (September 19), Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke, said the move was particularly urgent in light of the intense pressure that Jamaica's forests were under, despite the consistent effort of the local Forestry Department. "The Government of the United States has demonstrated its interest in protecting tropical forests in developing countries by creating the Tropical Forest Conservation Fund", and in like manner, "the Government of Jamaica is demonstrating its commitment to preserving the island's forest resources by launching the Jamaica Forest Conservation Fund".
He pointed out that although the Government was the guarantor of the fund, no direct monetary gain would accrue to the administration, as it would be absorbed in various conservation projects across the island. The Fund, which would be administered under the Jamaica Forest Conservation Act, would target the Cockpit Country Forest Reserve, the Blue and John Crow Mountains Forest Reserve and National Park, the inland portions of the Negril Protected Area, the forested areas of the Dolphin Head Mountains as well as the Rio Minho, Rio Cobre and Black River Watersheds.
The FCF is the result of a 2004 debt-for-nature swap agreement between the Nature Conservancy and the Jamaican and United States of America governments, and will result in the cancelling of some US$16.5 million in Jamaican debt to the United States. Under the agreement, the US Government will cancel some US$6.5 million of Jamaica's debt to them. This amount, along with its requisite payment from the Government of Jamaica, will be kept in Jamaica in the Fund and will reach an accumulated total of US$16.5 over the next 20 years.
Deputy Chief of Missions of the US, James Heg, in his remarks, said the Fund satisfied two important factors, which are debt servicing and the protection of tropical forest cover. "Jamaica contains unique species of birds and plants. The island enjoys a rich biological and cultural heritage that needs to be preserved for future generations to enjoy," he emphasized.
For full story, please see: http://www.jis.gov.jm/justice/html/20060919T090000-0500_10069_JIS_US_16_5_MILLION_FOREST_CONSERVATION_FUND_LAUNCHED.asp
Source: Reuters (in ENN News), 29 August 2006
LAJA, Bolivia - Bolivian President Evo Morales stepped up his nationalization campaign Saturday by announcing the withdrawal of energy and forestry concessions inside some 20 national parks. "Here and now, this is the beginning of the nationalization of our natural resources," he told about 100 Indian peasants in Laja, a community 680 miles north of La Paz located within Madidi National Park. "We have to defend our wood and other natural resources," Morales said. "You all must be the forest rangers."
"About 20 national parks will once again be run (entirely) by the state," said Erland Flores of the National Service of Protected Areas.
For full story, please see: http://www.enn.com/today.html?id=11150
By Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Rio Branco
Seedlings of mahogany abound at the Rio Branco nursery
A Brazilian state intends to make cattle ranchers reforest land which they have cleared for grazing.
The government of Acre in the Amazon has established a nursery growing seedlings of species such as mahogany which they will issue to ranchers.
Ranchers may be made to reforest up to 30% of their land.
The government sees this as a vital component of its longterm aim to develop sustainable forestry as a key income generator for the state.
Source: The East African (Nairobi), 5 September 2006
Residents of Majani village in Laikipia District of Kenya's Rift Valley Province recently noticed that sandalwood, a tree that is known locally as Muthirioni, was being uprooted and taken away at night. Even those in private farms were not being spared. The residents later learnt it was because of a huge demand for its products - the bark, stem and seeds - in India. Smugglers working with some residents were buying the wood at Ksh3/kg.
"We had to act quickly to save it from disappearing from the neighbouring Lariak forest," said Norman Gichuhi, the secretary of Lariak Conservancy. In collaboration with other stakeholders, members of Laikipia Conservancy have been trying to stop the illegal harvesting of the tree. Sandalwood, which was originally found in India and Australia, is a small evergreen tree that grows up to 4 metres high in Kenya and up to 20 metres in India. It sometimes attains 2.4 metres in diameter. Its bark is dark brown, reddish, dark gray or nearly black in younger trees.
"The bark when boiled produces a dark coloured solution which was used to flavour tea. It was also used together with other herbs for cleaning blood. For others, the boiled product was given to women after giving birth to boost their appetite," remembers Joseph Thuita, a resident of Majani village. Another elder, Charles Ndun'gu, says; "The wood of sandal tree was sold in many markets in Central Kenya just before independence. It was boiled and used as tea and some people said it lifted their mood." After Kenya gained independence, sandalwood products were abandoned as better branded and packed products hit the market.
In India, however, the tree's products have attained sacred status. When harvested, the stem, which is known as heartwood, is ground and its steam distilled into oils for use in manufacturing cosmetics, soaps, candles, medicines and perfumes. The wood yields between four and 10 percent oil when distilled. The heartwood scent is used in sacred ceremonies and to purify holy places. Incense sticks from the wood are burned in temples and houses. The oils and paste is used to treat skin diseases such as infectious sores, ulcers, acne and rashes. The tree also acts as a disinfectant and a sedative. It is reputed to be useful in improving blood circulation, digestive, respiratory and nervous systems.
Due to the rising demands of sandalwood products, the tree is considered endangered in India, which is why smugglers have found East Africa an easy source of its products. The Kenyan government has banned harvesting of the tree, but the lure of quick money has forced people to target isolated forests and bushes where it is found. "We informed the government when local self-help groups reported the disappearance of the tree," said Martin Mwangi, a programme officer at Tree is Life Project, a Nyahururu based NGO working with self-help groups in the district. Members of the group resolved to work closely with the government and other organisations to stem the smuggling. Lariak Conservancy, which was created by residents, aims at conserving Lariak forest, one of the few remaining in the area. The conservancy is made up of user groups from the five locations in Ol Ng'arua division that surround the forest.
For full story, please see: http://allafrica.com/stories/200609051034.html
Source: Thanh Nien Daily, Vietnam, 6 September 2006
The uncontrolled purchase of some of the most expensive fragrant wood in the world - agarwood (Aquilaria crassna) in central Vietnam demonstrates the need to conserve the valuable commodity. Ba To moutain town in central Quang Ngai province has seen hundreds of people arrive in recent days to buy agarwood, called ky nam in Vietnamese, discovered by local lumberjacks. However, as ky nam is banned for sale in Vietnam, most deals take place secretly and local residents sell the precious wood at low prices because they did not know about its real value. At Tot village, 1kg of ky nam sold for only VND2 million (US$124.8) in the first days but its price later rose to VND10 million, then VND100 million and VND200 million ($12,488).
After transporting ky nam from the village, traders offered VND700 million ($43,709) per kg. Stored by many as an asset, the wood is revered for its medicinal properties and aromatic essence. Some traders said in sales abroad, mostly to Taiwan, Vietnamese agarwood would be 1.5 or two times higher than the domestic sales. Those who find the precious wood in the forest must remain hidden to avoid the detection of forest rangers as they transport the wood for sale.
The current situation suggests the government should regulate the trade to improve the value of the precious wood on the world market, and control what commodities are left in the forest to make it a sustainable industry. Since the country has already organized many auctions on recovered antiques, diamonds and bird's nests (an Asian delicacy), perhaps agar could also be controlled through the auction process.
For full story, please see: http://www.thanhniennews.com/commentaries/?catid=11&newsid=19739
4th Draft EPA/8th RNF/24-8-2006/
Comment from GRAIN
The European Union is negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with six regional blocs of African, Caribbean and Pacific Island states pursuant to the Cotonou Agreement of 2000. Negotiations on these EPAs are supposed to conclude before 31 December 2007, for entry into force on 1 January 2008.
The EPAs are free trade agreements (FTAs) aiming to liberalise the economies of former European colonies through a package of direct commitments to, and assistance from, Brussels.
A recent draft of the EPA between the EU and 16 Eastern and Southern Africa countries* gives a taste of what these treaties might spell out in terms of rights to local biodiversity and traditional knowledge. The chapter on intellectual property rights (IPR) endorses the patenting of genetic material (including human genes) and indigenous knowledge from Africa by European companies through a consent-and-compensation procedure. This is meant to "protect" Africa from "biopiracy". If the 16 African governments sign onto this, patenting life would now be okay for them, after years of political struggle against this principle and despite their own African Union model law prohibiting it.
Worse, the draft EPA frames rights to African biodiversity and traditional knowledge as "intellectual property". In a briefing published by GRAIN earlier this year, we showed that all North-South FTAs dealing with traditional knowledge do this. The proposal even extends this interpretation, for the governments that sign it, to the concept of Farmers' Rights under the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
Farmers' rights a trade issue? Traditional knowledge to be bought and sold as IPR? Patents on life ok, as long as you pay? And all of this hammered out behind closed doors, far away from the rural communities who are the stewards of Africa's biodiversity and stand nothing to gain from it being sold off to European corporations as intellectual property!
ESA trade ministers meeting in Mombasa this week with EU negotiators say that they want an EPA that is "comprehensively pro-development and in our interest". If that is the case, these proposals on intellectual property rights would take them profoundly in the wrong direction.
URL: The full text of the entire draft EPA (it is just a draft) is online at http://www.bilaterals.org/article.php3?id_article=6014.
Source: Latin America Press, 15 August 2006
Indigenous communities and environmentalists call it biopiracy; international pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers call it bioprospecting. Whatever one chooses to call it, the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Central America and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA) has opened the door to foreign ownership of the right to exploit the region's abundant and diverse tropical flora. Under the intellectual-property provisions of CAFTA, the US has forced legislation in member countries that potentially legalizes patenting the biological resources of the region to the benefit of pharmaceutical and agroindustrial companies.
These institutions can now seek plants with properties previously unknown to them, and then legally claim ownership of the processes to which they are put. These rights completely ignore the prior use and even dependence of these plants by local and indigenous communities, which may have been using them for centuries and consider them part of their heritage. These researchers and companies arrogate the biodiversity of underdeveloped countries to themselves, as well as the knowledge of its use, a trend that has come to be called biopiracy. It goes on under a virtual blackout by the media and is publicized almost exclusively only by some scientists and environmental organizations.
This arrangement puts those vulnerable to dispossession of their ancestral knowledge at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to protecting their rights.
The director of the Technical Biodiversity Office of the National Council of Protected Areas in Guatemala, Fernando García Barrios, explained, "The governments of Central America do not create the administrative and legal mechanisms for their genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge." What is needed, he says, is a "common, coordinated regional regimen that supports regional and national initiatives" on questions of intellectual property and access to these resources and knowledge bases.
For full story, please see: http://tinyurl.com/n66dn
Source: Kenya Times, 29 August 2006
It now emerges that Rift Valley residents have, in the last two years, lost more than Sh70 million to western piracy targeting indigenous plants. This follows revelations that the detergent behind the faded jeans' fashion industry is derived from an indigenous plant that was pirated from the Rift Valley's caustic lakes. International press now have bared how British scientists from Leicester University worked with US firm Genencor to patent-utilise without consent, a microbe that lives in the caustic lakes of Kenya's Rift Valley. It was discovered that when jeans are washed with the "stolen" microbe it results in the production of an enzyme that fades the indigo dye thus giving them a natural faded look.
According to market monitoring research in the fashion industry, it is estimated that for the last one year, the company has made more than $1m (Sh73 million) in sales to detergent makers and textile firms. The revelation now depicts that it is not just in the world of medicine and horticulture where the Western multinationals have raked in obscene profits through pirating Africa's rich flora, but the exploitative vice has now permeated the fashion industry. This form of new thievery of Africa's resources falls under the category of biopiracy. The US-based Edmonds Institute recently published a report listing more than 30 example of western medical, horticultural and cosmetic products it alleged had been 'pirated' from Africa.
Beth Burrows, president of the Edmonds Institute, a non-profit body specialising in education about intellectual property rights, in an interview said: 'Times have changed. It is no longer acceptable for the great white explorer to trawl across Africa or South America taking what they want for their own commercial benefit. It is no more than a new form of colonial pillaging. As there are internationally recognised rights for oil, so there should be for indigenous plants and knowledge.' For full story, please see: http://www.timesnews.co.ke/29aug06/business/buns1.html
News Release: ETC Group, 16 August 2006www.etcgroup.org www.banterminator.org
In a quest to expand its corporate seed empire - Monsanto, the world's largest seed enterprise - announced yesterday that it will buy the world's leading cotton seed company, Mississippi-based (USA) Delta & Pine Land, for US$1.5 billion. Monsanto and Delta & Pine Land (D&PL) together account for over 57% of the US cotton seed market. With D&PL subsidiaries in 13 countries - including major markets such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and Pakistan - the takeover means that Monsanto will command a dominant position in one of the world's most important agricultural trade commodities and that millions of cotton farmers will be under increased pressure to accept genetically modified (GM) cottonseed.
"This merger," says Ibrahim Coulibaly, President of the National Coordination of Peasants' Organizations of Mali, "guarantees an intensification of the already immense political pressure on West African governments to accept genetically modified seeds. Delta & Pine Land couldn't exercise the kind of clout Monsanto can. This deal is a major threat to our farmers and food sovereignty. African farmers' groups and civil society organizations need international support to resist the pressure of multinational corporations and USAID on African governments to adopt GMOs."
Sterile Cotton Bolls: Delta & Pine Land is notorious for its early development, with the US Department of Agriculture, of Terminator technology - plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest. Despite massive opposition from farmers, civil society and many governments, Delta & Pine Land has repeatedly vowed to commercialize the technology and declared that their primary market would be in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The company claims that it is already growing genetically modified cotton and tobacco containing Terminator genes in greenhouses.
Over 500 organizations worldwide have called for a global ban on Terminator Technology, asserting that sterile seeds will destroy the livelihoods and cultures of the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm- saved seed. In March 2006, governments at the biennial meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity unanimously re-affirmed and strengthened the international moratorium on field testing and commercialization of Terminator seeds. http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=556
"With the takeover of Delta & Pine Land, Monsanto acquires a research program devoted to commercializing Terminator seeds, as well as US, European and Canadian patents on genetic seed sterilization technology," said Hope Shand of ETC Group. "We demand that Monsanto make a public commitment to shut down the Terminator research program it will acquire from D&PL and abandon its Terminator patents once and for all," said Shand.
Monsanto's Boll Weasel: Monsanto's 1998 bid to buy Delta & Pine Land for $1.8 billion collapsed in 1999 amid global controversy over Terminator technology. In response to massive opposition, Monsanto's former CEO, Robert Shapiro, publicly pledged in 1999 that his company would not commercialize sterile-seed technology. But the company's revised 2005 pledge states that the company will not "commercialise sterile-seed technologies in food crops" - suggesting that it would use Terminator seeds in non-food crops (e.g. cotton?) and does not rule out other uses of Terminator in the future.
In an email communication to ETC Group today, Monsanto spokesperson, Lori Fisher wrote that Monsanto does not intend to use technologies that render seeds sterile, and stands by its 2005 pledge "not to commercialize sterile-seed technologies in food crops." [available here: http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto/content/media/pubs/2005/focus_impacts.pdf] The pledge also states that "Monsanto people constantly reevaluate this stance as technology develops."
ETC Group notes that the company's pledge leaves the door open and does not rule out future development of the technology. (1) Monsanto's pledge allows the company to change its position on any aspect of its pledge at any time. Cotton is one of the world's most lucrative non-food commercial crops. Will it become Monsanto's first target crop for Terminator genes?
Feeding Frenzy: Monsanto's acquisition of D&PL is just the latest in a decade-long series of seed company takeovers. Monsanto became the world's largest vegetable seed company with its January 2005 takeover of Seminis. In April 2005 Monsanto acquired Emergent Genetics (including Stoneville) - the 3rd largest US cotton seed company. Over the past year Monsanto took control of more than a dozen US-based corn and soybean seed companies. Just three months ago, D&PL acquired Syngenta's global cotton seed business - including operations in India, Brazil, Europe and some cotton germplasm in the US.
Global Cotton King: With the takeover of Delta & Pine Land, Monsanto aims to insert biotech traits into cotton germplasm worldwide. Despite growing resistance in West Africa, D&PL initiated tests on GM cotton in Burkina Faso, Mali and Egypt in 2004. (2) Monsanto and D&PL already control an estimated one-third of the Indian hybrid cotton seed market. According to Monsanto, D&PL now controls one-third of the Brazilian cotton seed market, and almost one-fourth of the Australian market.
Monsanto's bid for D&PL comes on the heels of the collapse of the Doha Round in Geneva on July 24. West African cotton exporting states, in particular, were banking on the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations to rollback cotton subsidies in the USA and on increased market access in the EU for finished cotton goods. With the WTO failure, the $4 billion US cotton subsidy remains in place and prospects for African and Asian cotton growers look dim. This is bad news for D&PL which lacks Monsanto's deep pockets and long-term market opportunities. Monsanto is buying its major cotton competitor for $1.5 billion - one third less than it offered in 1998(3) before the WTO trade talks began. From Monsanto's perspective, it's inevitable that the US will have to drop its subsidy to large US cotton operations and, when it does, the cotton seed business in the US will all but disappear with the market shifting to Africa and Asia. Monsanto can afford to wait - as long as it is the cotton seed provider and all the seed available uses the company's genetically modified traits.
Monopoly challenge: With control of almost 60% of the US cotton seed market after the buyout, Monsanto anticipates anti-trust scrutiny in the US, and the company's president says it will divest its US cotton seed company Stoneville, which controls about 14% of the US market. "If the EU is serious about helping Africa's cotton farmers and improving Africa's cotton export earnings, it can begin by rejecting the Monsanto/D&PL merger in Brussels as an attack on anti-competition policy," said Pat Mooney of ETC Group. "The merger of these two US companies will make the removal of cotton subsidies much more difficult and will keep cotton and cotton clothing prices unnaturally high for European consumers. A barrier thrown up in Brussels will even be seen inside the Beltway in Washington, DC. The boll is in the EU's court!" said Mooney.
For more information, please contact:
Hope Shand, ETC Group (USA) email: firstname.lastname@example.org tel: +1 919960-5767
Pat Mooney, ETC Group (Canada) email: email@example.com tel: +1 613 241-2267
Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group (USA) email: firstname.lastname@example.org tel: +1 919 960-5223
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group (Mexico) email: email@example.com tel: +52 5555 6326 64
Jim Thomas, ETC Group (Canada) email: firstname.lastname@example.org
President de la coordination nationale des organisations paysannes du MALI CNOP /MALI
Source: Forestry Funding News Alert # 12 (August 2006)
Tourism Cares for Tomorrow is the tourism industry's non-profit organization, exists to preserve, conserve, and promote the responsible use of our world's natural, cultural, and historic treasures and to support education and research to help secure the positive future of travel and tourism worldwide.
As part of its mission, Tourism Cares for Tomorrow distributes charitable grants to worthy tourism-related non-profit organizations worldwide.
Tourism Cares for Tomorrow considers projects or programs with either or both of the following goals:
Preference will be given to applicants that are able to leverage Tourism Cares for Tomorrow's grant funding to provide increased philanthropic support through vehicles such as matching grants or challenge grants; are endorsed by the local, regional, or national tourism office; and demonstrate strong support from the local community.
Tourism Cares for Tomorrow's grant-making goals for 2006 call for a balanced distribution to U.S. and non-U.S. recipients. Grant recipients must be classified as non-profit and tax-exempt under section 501(c) (3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code or, in the case of non-U.S. organizations, must function as the equivalent. Historically, grant amounts have ranged between $10,000 and $20,000. However, based on merit and availability of funds, some grants of up to $100,000 will also be considered.
The next round of 2006 grant application has a deadline of November 1, 2006.
For more information, please visit: http://www.tourismcaresfortomorrow.org/TourismCares/What+We+Do/Grants/Worldwide+Grant+Program/
Source: Forestry Funding News Alert # 12 (August 2006)
World Wildlife Fund is announcing the opening of its 2007-2008 Kathryn Fuller Fellowship competition. Two post-doctoral fellowships will be awarded for a two year period to individuals with outstanding research proposals that are of fundamental and immediate importance to global biodiversity conservation. Fuller Fellows can be based at any institution, including at World Wildlife Fund, and will co-advised by one academic and one WWF mentor. Fellows are provided a stipend of $50,000 per year, as well as a $15,000 annual research allowance.
Applicants should have received a doctorate degree between January 2002 and January 2007. The deadline for applications is November 15, 2006. Offers will be made in the spring of 2007, with fellowships to begin in the fall of 2007.
For more information, application guidelines and application forms please contact:
17th ANNUAL BIONEERS CONFERENCE
Lcation: MARIN CENTER, SAN RAFAEL, CA
Date: OCTOBER 20 - 22,2006
International Conference on Humid Tropical Ecosystems
Location: Kandy, Sri Lanka
Date: 4 - 9 December 2006
Sustainable development conference
Location: Islamabad, Pakistan
Date: 13 - 15 December 2006