Archive for the ‘biodynamic’ Category

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Biodynamic wine!

March 20, 2007

I am no lover of wine and about the only difference I know about them is between red and white.

But I was just doing a Google search on biodynamics – to see whether my recent article on the subject shows up – when I came across an article in STOMP! about biodynamic wine.

The article was written by Koh Boon Pin whom, I believe (despite my ignorance about wines), is quite a wine expert? It’s about Cullen wines from a vineyard in Margaret River in South-western Australia.

Koh writes that Vanya Cullen, youngest child of the wine producing family, in 2003 steered the family estate into new territory after attending a seminar by the Biodynamic Association of Australia.

Biodynamics was developed by German visionary Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s in response to farmers who were not able to improve the declining health of their farms with new fertilisers.

‘Everyone says it differently, but biodynamics is about working with Nature, not trying to control it,’ says Vanya.

‘It’s about keeping living systems,’ she adds. ‘If you put chemicals on soil, you’re killing it, so what we do is to find alternative solutions by keeping everything alive.’

Despite having an ‘unbelievable’ number of weevils, she adds, the Cullen vines are dark green and very healthy, unlike some other vineyards in Margaret River, which she declines to name.

Another aspect of biodynamics is linking plant growth with the rhythms of the cosmos. So at the Cullen estate, the grapes are hand harvested on a full moon when there is a lot of water in the atmosphere because of the bigger tides.

Though it is early days where its biodynamic approach is concerned, Vanya points to the vineyard’s brighter fruit flavours, better tannins and cleaner wild yeast fermentations.

Having tasted the wines, I believe she’s on to a good thing.

While I don’t know about wines, I can vouch that biodynamic foods in general are great stuffs. So if you are into wine drinking, do check it out.

Cullen biodynamic wines are available from Hai Choo Wines & Spirits, tel: 6273-8933.

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Hydroponic vegetables “like watching TV”

March 15, 2007

While the Assistant Director of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority tells us that vegetables grown in water and suspended in air are natural, let me share with you a somewhat different comment that I will always remember.

About 10 years ago, my partners and I at Brown Rice Paradise once organised a public forum by a biodynamic farmer. If I remember correctly, the event was held at the NUS Guild House at Kent Ridge Campus.

This is quite a long story, pardon the lengthy preamble but you might learn something new from it…

Biodynamics is a system of natural farming that goes beyond organic. It might be even called “cosmic farming” as, among other things, it makes use of cosmic forces. Crops are planted, fertilised and harvested according to the cycles of the moon and stars to produce food of the best possible quality.

For example, one unique feature of biodynamics is a special fertiliser called Preparation 500. It is made by staffing cow dung into cow’s horns, burying them in the snow during winter and then taking them out in spring. The dung, now totally transformed, has to be mixed with water, stirring in one direction until a vortex forms, then changing direction and stirring until another vortex forms. This is repeated for hours. Finally, it is sprayed between dusk and midnight on a full moon night.

Now this might sound like hocus pocus to some people, but it works. One handful of Preparation 500 can fertilise one acre of land! It’s like homeopathic fertiliser. Very tiny amounts would create a big impact.

I remember watching a documentary on biodynamics once. An Australian farmer bought a piece of barren land for very little money. In nine months, using Preparation 500, he transformed the land into a lush, fertile farm. He also kept a small corner in its original state to show the vast contrast.

I remember the first time I ate biodynamic brown rice, it tasted so much better than regular organic brown rice. And, our customers who bought whole wheat berries for sprouting into wheat grass would buy biodynamic wheat berries, because they produced the highest yeild and the strongest sprouts.

There is something special here. Look for biodynamic food, sometimes with a logo that says “Demeter” in health food stores and the organic section of supermarkets.

Biodynamics was introduced by the late Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian who might be called a scientist, philosopher, spiritualist and more. His ideas has influence in areas that include:

  • agriculture (biodynamics)
  • education (Waldorf schools)
  • dance (eurythmy)
  • medicine (Androposophy)
  • architecture
  • and so on.

Rudolf Steiner also had interesting views about the evolution of religion and about Jesus Christ being at the centre, the vital turning point, of this evolution.

And so these varied topics were mostly covered in the talk by the biodynamic “farmer”. Some of the concepts discussed were quite cheem – deeply profound, philosophical, esoteric.

Finally, the farmer ended his talk and it was time for questions and answers. And after various equally cheem questions were asked and answered, one elderly gentleman stood up and asked: “Excuse me… what about hydroponics?”

The answer given by the farmer stunned us all. He said: “It’s like watching TV?”

Huh? What is this guy saying?

Then he explained… When you watch a nature documentary on TV, it looks very nice and even quite real, but it is not the real thing.

A plant is a transformation of the environment. When you eat a plant, you are “eating” or taking in the entire environment — the soil, water, air, sunlight and other elements — that created it. So if the plant is grown in an artificial environment — without soil, with synthetic nutrients, in a temperature controlled environment, and so on — it is artificial, not the real thing.

Like TV!

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Click here to read more articles about hydroponics.

Click here and here to read more about biodynamic farming.