Why should restaurants become more sustainable?
How about lower costs and therefore more profit? Supporting local producers? A cleaner environment? Customer goodwill? Your reputation? Or just generally feeling good about yourself? Giving your customers a better product with integrity!
Sustainability is much more than a massive trend currently, it’s here to stay as sustainable initiatives come down in cost and ultimately save the hospitality industry money which is a good thing.
People are finding out that they can really get more value for their money. There are many different ways you can save money through sustainable and ethical practices, start small with electrically and gas-smart equipment, motion-sensitive lights in back-of-house areas, separate your refuse and recycle the plastic, paper, and tin that is reusable, use recycled paper or even go paperless as far as practically possible.
We have been working towards the above and then decided to take a leap, and repurpose a little piece of the garden next to our store in Constantia to grow wild rocket and chillies to use in our products.
Rocket has a long tap root which dislikes being disturbed. It is therefore best to sow the seeds either directly into the soil where it is going to grow or in multi-cell trays to avoid disturbing the roots when transplanting. You can also sow closely in a tray and harvest them as microgreens for a salad.
For sowing in your Harvest, fill the multi-cell tray, tray, or pot with general compost, water it, and then scatter the seeds out. Cover with 0.5-1cm of compost and press down slightly to make sure that the seeds have good contact with the soil. How closely you space the seeds depends on the size of your cell trays and pots but you can always thin them out if too many germinate. Water again and keep the soil evenly moist until the seeds germinate, if they dry out they will most probably not germinate at all. The rocket should germinate within 7 days at the ideal temperature range.
Keep the soil watered throughout the growing season to avoid bolting and ensure good flavour. However, it is important not to overwater as this can dilute the flavour. Rocket grows best in full sun apart from in the summer when it can benefit from some shade.
You can start harvesting the leaves about four weeks after sowing and regular picking keeps the leaves young, tender and tasty. It is best to pick a few leaves from each plant because picking lots of leaves from one plant in one go will weaken its growth.
Flea beetles are the biggest problem leaving the leaves covered in small holes and damaged areas turning brown. They tend to be more of a problem in spring than autumn but should in any case not be a problem in your Harvest.
The botanical name of Rocket is Eruca sativa but is also often called arugula, rucola, or roquette. Rocket (Eruca sativa) is an annual plant whilst Wild Rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) is a perennial plant. Wild Rocket is slower growing than the annual type and has a stronger flavour and richer nutrient content.
There are thousands of chilli varieties to grow, in a huge range of colours, shapes, sizes and levels of heat, from mild to extremely hot. Many have unique flavours, with some offering a hint of lemon and others having a more fruity taste.
Wide chilli varieties are available to buy in supermarkets but you will have a much greater range to choose from if you grow chillies yourself. They’re very easy to grow from seed, and grow best in containers, which means they are perfect for a sunny patio or balcony. You can also buy ready-grown chilli plants at the garden centre in spring.
A chilli’s heat is measured on the Scoville scale, a test created in 1912, in which the more water needed to dilute a chilli solution before a human taster can no longer detect the chilli determines the number of Scovilles. Today, testing is done by machines. A score of around 3,000 Scovilles is deemed hot, with record-breaking chillies such as ‘Carolina Reaper’ topping the two million mark.
All chillies are bred from just five species:
- Capsicum annuum – the most common chilli species, from which sweet and paprika peppers originate.
- Capsicum baccatum – includes the aji family of chillies, popular in Peruvian dishes.
- Capsicum chinense – a hot variety of chilli, from which we have habanero and scotch bonnet chillies.
- Capsicum fruitescens – where tabasco Thai-style chillies come from.
- Capsicum pubescens – these are hot chillies with distinctive black seeds.
Rebel Earth’s EarthPods are the power behind professional chefs, passionate foodies, and people who simply want pure food in a hurry.
Deborah says, “I have always been passionate about gardening and cooking, but growing my own food with insufficient water was unworkable. The poor local soil is challenging enough, but not being able to water made it impossible. I did a lot of research into sustainable agriculture and concluded that the only answer was to design gardens based on wicking beds that use every drop of water that you put into them: water and nutrients must not be able to leach away from the plants. I wanted to find a way to keep the plants strong without using pesticides, and so developed a sealed hoop tunnel that allows in the most useful wavelengths of light for plant growth, but keeps out birds and egg-laying insects. I was able to use my experience of engineering draughting, and also a long list of interests in which I have a lifetime’s experience, cutting and sewing for covers, project management for sourcing joinery, membranes and pipework, and gardening for practical knowledge of the factors that keep plants healthy and productive, such as soil composition and companion planting.
I would like to think that Rebel Earth is an inspiring example of a sustainable, genuinely a useful business that has been created by a woman from a blank sheet of paper, without investors or sponsors; built only on my creativity, personal values and determination.”
If you have any more sustainability suggestions come to tell us and let us walk the line together building a better community more sustainably!