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Thoughts from category: fruit

a visit to our mango farms

Our Sustainability Advisor Charlotte went to India recently to visit some of our mango farmers and see for herself the results of a project we're running which is helping our farmers to protect their yields from the effects of climate change. Here's the story of her trip:

Hubli Charvran is a calm, meditative farmer who has been farming his 25-acre mango orchard on the western coast of India for over 15 years. Hubli is one of our mango suppliers; we use his mangoes in our smoothies and juices. I went out to visit and to see first-hand what Hubli is doing to make sure his farm is as sustainable and productive as possible, and to make a little film about it.

Hubli, one of our mango farmers

A few years ago, we’d visited our mango farmers and found that they were struggling with lower mango yields due to the combined effects of climate change and poor farming practices. Climate change is causing higher temperatures and more erratic monsoons. When we saw how it was directly affecting our farmers, we started a project in partnership with the University of Konkan to improve things. We wanted to find sustainable ways to make the trees as strong and resilient as possible, so that they can still produce high mango yields despite the changing climate. The project was called the 5 Point Agriculture Project, because there are 5 stages involved in strengthening the trees, and Hubli joined the project a few years ago.

As well as making the film, I also went to India to meet up with some organisations who may be able to help us with the next phase of the project, and to conduct routine assessments of some of our mango farms against our innocent sustainable agriculture standards.

After a 15-hour journey I arrived at Goa airport at 6am local time, where it was already a sweltering 35 degrees. The roads were already packed with chaotic traffic, the hoots of car horns echoing around everywhere. At the airport I met Budhwant, my guide. Budhwant was hilarious. Mad about mangoes (he eats mangoes all the time, from morning until night, and even has mango-flavoured car sweets), he was an avid font of knowledge about all different types of trees, pointing out all the different species we passed during our 5-hour car journey, and stopping regularly to pick up fruits from the side of the road so I could taste them. Unfortunately Budhwant’s driving wasn’t as impressive as his tree knowledge. Let’s just say it was an interesting 5 hours… That afternoon I had a good meeting with one of our mango suppliers, followed by two of the most delicious curries I’ve ever tasted. 

On my second morning in India I headed straight out to the farms. The farmers and their families were incredibly warm and welcoming, and were happy to show me everything and answer all of my questions. They plied me with fresh coconut juice and freshly picked mangoes still warm from the sun. It was an unforgettable day. The farmers were all really excited about the results of the project: the trees that had been cared for using the 5 point plan regime had started to produce 25% more mangoes and higher quality fruit, compared to trees that had been managed in the traditional way. Since the mangoes had only just ripened, I was lucky enough to see the difference for myself – I was surprised how obvious it was which trees had been involved in our project: they looked much healthier, and had many more mangoes.

At the end of Day 2 I was joined by Jim and Kev, who’d be helping me to make the film. There was a bit of panic when they turned up without their camera equipment, which had gone AWOL in transit, but miraculously it all turned up 6 hours later.

We spent two days making the film, which may seem a bit excessive seeing as it’s only one minute long, but there was simply so much to say and so much beauty and interest to try and capture that we hardly stopped at all. We spent both days at the farms involved in the 5 point project, starting at dawn and finishing after sunset in order to make the most of the best light. I’m not a film-maker and I’d never heard of the ‘golden hour’, or appreciated the benefits of filming in this soft evening light, when the golden sunshine dapples through the trees and the shadows disperse. But Jim and Kev were fanatical about it, insisting that Budhwant drove us around to find the best spot. They even clambered up a half-constructed five storey building via bamboo ladders to get a good view of the sunset from the top (don’t try this at home). The madness paid off, though, because the sunsets on the west coast of India are truly breathtaking, and we got some incredible footage.

an Indian sunset

Hubli is now an ambassador for the 5 point agriculture project. He was so impressed with the results on his own farm that he’s now an advocate for the importance of farming in harmony with nature, working with natural forces rather than against them. His knowledge about how to create the best organic compost, natural pest control measures and clay pot irrigation kept me captivated all day long. And his words of wisdom about the importance of slowing down the pace of life, following your hopes and dreams, and adopting Buddhist philosophies affected Jim, Kev and I very profoundly. (As did the copious amounts of fresh coconut water.)

Our guide Budhwant wasn’t particularly interested in these conversations, though. Instead he was busy thinking about where he could buy his next box of fresh mangoes. By the end of our trip, Budhwant had bought 72 mangoes, and there was barely any room left in the car for our filming equipment.

You can watch the film we made here, I hope you like it:

Bananimals

The humble banana. That yellow semi-circle of squishy goodness. Good for eating, good for putting into smoothies and good for...fashioning into a variety of different animals (we spend a lot of time around bananas here in fruit towers so, naturally, one thing leads to another). 

Today, we thought we’d share with you our favourite banana based animal creations so that next time you've got a banana handy (and a bit of extra time) you can transform it into one of the following:

5. Loch Ness Banana Monster

Stick a few bananas in a puddle and you can just about call it Nessie.

(we found this banana monster here http://imgur.com/4gPOe).

4. Swan banana.

May also require a biro and some artistic talent.

  (we found Jurgen Steenwelle's graceful banana here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/22/dad-banana-art-_n_4646988.html)

3. Banana dog.

Not for beginners. Tricky. Not even a real banana.

(we found this photo here http://www.technocrazed.com/adorable-animal-sculptures-made-from-fruits-and-vegetables-photo-galery)

2. The banana dolphin. 

This image was sent in to us by Fiona Macintyre on Facebook. The banana dolphins are happily frolicking in a sea of grapes (their natural habitat).

 

1. The banana penguin.

This idea was sent in to us by @LivvyEpps on twitter, and is probably the simplest design of the lot . Just peel down the sides of the banana to make the wings and, hey presto, you’ve got a waddly banana penguin on your hands.

 

If you manage to recreate any of the above, or have already earned your banana animal expert credentials and created your own, be sure to let us marvel at them on twitter - you can find us @innocentdrinks. Pretty appeeling, we think you'll agree (sorry).

alphonso mangoes: tropical, and also topical

Our juice is really very tasty. We've made some new TV adverts that show the lengths we go to to make sure every single carafe of innocent juice tastes as delicious as possible. And great lengths they are too, involving bows and arrows and hand-turning mangoes and all sorts. It's all about finding the very best fruit we can find.

You can watch the ads, and learn a bit more about how we get our juice so tasty, right here.

  innocent juice

On a topical note, you may also have noticed some stuff in the papers about an EU shortage of Alphonso mangoes. We do use Alphonso mangoes – they’re the tastiest – but the ban doesn’t affect us, because it only refers to whole mangoes. The mangoes we use in our drinks are crushed in India when they’re nicely ripe, and shipped over to us as puree (like all of our fruit, our mangoes are never, ever air-freighted).

We work with our mango farmers to help improve their livelihoods. In fact, we've just finished the first phase of a project with a group of farmers to improve their yields, income and environmental impact. So far the results are amazing. We’ll be working with them even harder now, as many are small family-run farms that sell both whole fruit to the international market, and crushed fruit to us. We want to make sure our mango growers can continue growing as many mangoes as they can for as long as they can, and we want the mango market to remain as healthy as - well, as mangoes. 

If you have any questions about any of the fruit we use, our adverts, or anything else to do with our juice, drop a line to hello@innocentdrinks.co.uk or tweet us

strawberry romantic

It's Valentines Day, and while we're all getting loved up in Fruit Towers, it seems that some fruits have love stories of their own. 

Everyone knows that chocolate dipped strawberries are pretty romantic, but our love affair with these heart (or bottom) shaped fruits goes back to Medieval England and rural France, where strawberries have historically been served at wedding breakfasts alongside borage. Borage is a beautiful plant with young leaves and pretty, blue, edible star-shaped flowers that taste like sweet cucumber and honey. The reason borage is served with strawberries at weddings is because of the way both plants help each other grow when they're planted in the soil together. And they taste delicious together with some soured cream and a dusting of icing sugar. True love indeed. 

 

love, love me do

 

Feeling the love? Why not send a special compliment to a loved one using our handy compliment generating machine. Hope you have as much fun picking the perfect compliment as we did thinking of them. 

We love you. 

apple season is underway

The apple season is underway, so last week we headed out to the orchard to have a look at the apples that will end up in our drinks. 

Here's a picture of our Rowena, Fliss and Catherine in the orchard. (We seem to have caught Fliss in the middle of tasting an apple, sorry.)

We were there to taste the apples and find out how this year's harvest is looking. Highlights of our trip included riding on tractors around the orchard, and of course tasting the apples straight from the trees. Lowlights included the compulsory dungarees.

We saw how after every seven apple trees there's a gap, where a berry bush has been planted - that's for the birds, so they don't go hungry in the winter. 

We saw for ourselves how the trees are fed, watered, drained, pruned and harvested, and chatted about various philosophies on growing apples. We especially liked learning about the school of thought that says that apple trees should be planted among wildflowers, which helps draw the nitrogen into the soil, and is great for bees, who pollenate the apple trees. It's part of a holistic approach, looking at the orchard as a whole ecosystem, which increasing numbers of growers are adopting. Makes a lot of sense. 

There will be further trips out to see and taste the apples and learn more later in the season, but in the meantime we’re very happy with the way the apples are tasting this year.