I love to support local business. There's something special about people who decide to go it alone, devoting their time and energy into following their dreams and passions. Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting an accidental apple farmer, whose story inspired me to write this post....
Just a mile down the road from my clinic, in the tiny village of West Stourmouth, is Little Stour Orchard, a ten acre apple orchard run by Sarah and Michael Bowers. I'd already sampled their mouth-wateringly delicious apple juice from my local farm shop and was keen to learn more about their award winning raw apple cider vinegar.
I took a trip down to the orchard where I (eventually!) found Michael busy pruning the apple trees. Whilst my nine month old had a perfectly timed nap in the car, we chatted about the family business....
When Michael and Sarah took over the orchard in 2011, thousands of pounds were being spent on chemicals used to keep the apples blemish free. Michael was sure that there was a better way... He took a gamble and decided to return the orchard to the way mother nature intended - 100% chemical free. He was told by experts that this was a big risk, however that decision has obviously paid off, as demonstrated by their trophy cabinet! Little Stour Orchard apple juice won 'Best Kent Juice Producer' two years running at the Taste of Kent awards, and their apple cider vinegar (ACV) won two gold stars at the prestigious Great Taste awards in 2014.
Not only are they creating these superb products, the cessation of chemical sprays has resulted in a hugely positive side effect. Michael described how the wildlife slowly returned to the orchard, including bees, insects and rare birds. He told me:
I believe in the Japanese philosophy that there are two ways of living life - we can either work with nature, or against nature. Sometimes, nature will over power you, but most of the time, nature is giving.
This simple philosophy is evident in all that goes on at Little Stour Orchard. Three types of apple are grown - Discovery, Cox and Bramley, then harvested to make apple juice. The juice is then left to ferment naturally, resulting in cider. A second fermentation then converts alcohol into acid compounds, resulting in ACV, which is left to mature in oak barrels for two years or more. These live enzymes and healthy bacteria are known as 'mother of vinegar', and gives raw, unpasteurised ACV its distinctive murky appearance - and quite likely, it's health enhancing properties.
You may already be an ACV fan; it's popularity is certainly on the rise, however, it's not a new craze. Vinegar as a supplement to health can be dated to as far back as Babylonian times, and Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was extolling the virtues of ACV way back in 400 BC.
Read on to find out a few popular uses of ACV for health, wellbeing and beauty...
Acid reflux - ACV has been touted as a natural remedy for reflux. Although this is a popular remedy, its effectiveness hasn't been researched.
Arthritis - Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes credits a mixture of ACV and honey for curing arthritis in his hip and hands, enabling him to continue with his active lifestyle.
Diabetes - ACV may benefit people with type 2 diabetes. Two separate studies have found positive effects on blood sugar levels after people with diabetes took ACV before meals.
Immunity - Raw, unfiltered, unpasteurised ACV such as Little Stour Orchard's contains probiotics which may boost the immune system.
Sinusitis - ACV's antibacterial, mucolytic properties make it at effective aid to relieve sinus pain.
Sore throat - A simple, fast acting gargle can be made from antibacterial ACV combined with soothing raw honey.
Weight loss - Research suggests that acetic acid, found in ACV, slows down the accumulation of fat.
Deodorant - ACV helps eradicate odour causing bacteria, so if you're looking for a natural deodorant, simply apply ACV to your underarms or feet.
Glossy hair - Model Miranda Kerr has spoken of her use of ACV as a hair rinse after shampoo.
Clear skin - ACV is rich in alpha hydroxy acids, making it a natural exfoliator - actress Scarlett Johansen has confessed to using it as a toner and spot treatment.
Sunburn - Soak a flannel in chilled ACV and apply to soothe sunburnt skin.
How to use at home:
Just add water - For a daily tonic, just add one tablespoon of ACV to a small cup of water - add honey if this makes it more palatable for you. Drink twice daily or before each meal.
Drink neat - Be like Black Eye Peas singer Fergie, who proclaimed to take ACV shots to aid weight management.
In food - If you can't stomach the taste, how about adding it to a dressing for a rice or quinoa salad? It also gives soups a little kick - try it!
If you're looking for a top quality raw apple cider vinegar that is made with love for the environment, you'd be hard pushed to find anything better than Little Stour Orchard's! - www.littlestourorchard.co.uk
As with all other health supplements, consult with your doctor if you have any health conditions or are taking medication.
Complementary therapist and natural health expert. On a mission to sprinkle health and wellness wherever I go...