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How can you be sure that the organic vegetables you buy are vegetarian?

January 15, 2011

That is a question we have been asking ourselves for a while.

Not all wine is vegetarian, sometimes isinglass (made from fish bladder) is used to filter the wine (and pigs blood may be used to filter cider, beers and whiskeys also sometimes use animal products as filters). Although there is no isinglass left in the wine when it is sold, wine made by this method is not considered vegetarian.

Organic farmers do not use chemicals to fertilse their crops but they are able to use products derived from animals. And this includes fish, blood and bone (and other bits of animals from abattoirs).

So if a vegetable has been grown using organic methods can we be sure that it is suitable for vegetarians?

It has been a question that Andrea and I (from the vegetarian guesthouse, 3 place des arbres) have been debating amongst ourselves for a while now, and so Andrea sent a question to a new column in the UK’s Guardian Newspaper – Ask Leo and Lucy.

Her question was as follows:

I have been vegetarian for many years and try to eat organic produce, if possible. I am grappling with the issue that many organic fertilisers are of animal origin and wondering if the animals that the fertilisers are derived from are of organic origin, too? Where does it start or end? I don’t really want to eat food that has been grown in a way that causes harm to animals, but I realise that chemical fertilisers and pesticides are potentially damaging to me and to the environment. Help. Are fish, blood and bone fertilisers the most commonly used for growing organic vegetables, or are there other sources? (A local organic farmer tells me that she uses only horse manure and I try to buy as much veg as possible from her … we live in France.)

Andrea Humphreys

It generated a huge number of responses (some more helpful than others) and I recommend you read the column

This was the response from the Vegetarian Society

Sadly, society’s attitude to animals as disposable commodities or inconvenient pests makes it almost impossible to live without causing them harm. While organic produce is very likely to have been produced using animal-derived fertilizers and soil improvers, the fertilisers and pesticides used in conventional farming cause significant harm to wildlife. Manure from kindly kept animals is one positive option, vegan organic food production is another, but neither currently produce food on the scale needed to allow ordinary people to truly live by their principles. Consumer demand makes a huge difference so Andrea and others should keep asking questions and demanding higher standards. Being a vegetarian is one of the most positive life choices anyone can make – for themselves, for the planet and, of course, for the animals. It’s not a perfect solution, but it is one that millions of people enjoy every day and bit by bit we can all make a truly cruelty free lifestyle more of a reality. Visit for free information and advice.
And this was the response from the Soil Association

Farms listed by the Vegan Organic Network won’t have used any animal products so that’s one way to be sure. Ian Tolhurst of Tolhurst Organic Farm is a Soil Association licensee. Another option is asking the producer what inputs they have used. Fish, blood and bone is fairly expensive and is not most commonly used for growing organic vegetables – the main ways of building fertility are by using animal manure or compost, and green manures including clover which are also used in crop rotations. Fish, blood and bone is a by-product derived from slaughter-house waste (mainly non-organic), which is properly treated before being sold for use. It is allowed in fertilisers approved by the Soil Association so buying organic products is not a guarantee for avoiding. It might occur as a fertiliser in potting compost, used for transplants of young seedlings or in glasshouse production where nutrient requirements are slightly higher. It also might occasionally be used for top fruit production (e.g. apples and pears).

It is an interesting debate and I again recommend you visit the Guardian column, and add to the debate (although of course you are more than welcome to comment here too!)

2010 in review

January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 3 fully loaded ships.


In 2010, there were 33 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 112 posts. There were 18 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 15mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was December 5th with 300 views. The most popular post that day was Vegan muffin-brownie-cake.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for vegetarian tagine, vegetarian tagine recipes, vegan france, vegetarian tagine recipe, and vegetarian tartiflette.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Vegan muffin-brownie-cake August 2010


Moroccan Tagine recipe March 2009


Vegetarian/vegan places to stay March 2009


Vegetarian Tartiflette recipe (Tartiflette végétarienne) November 2009


Recipes March 2009

Bonne année à tous !

December 31, 2010

Tasty vegan stuffing

November 14, 2010

Who needs packet stuffing? This recipe is simple and delicious and makes enough for 6 people…

150g wholemeal breadcrumbs

50g ground hazelnuts

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

1 medium onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 level teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

freshly ground black pepper

olive oil (we use some home made chili oil – just get some oil and put dried chilies in it and leave to infuse)


Fry onions and garlic in oil on a gentle heat. When onions are soft add 200mls water, or white wine (or a mixture of wine and water!). Add the bouillon powder, paprika, breadcrumbs and hazelnuts.

Turn off heat and mix well. Add more liquid if necessary.

Add herbs, and mix well, before putting into muffin moulds (I used brioche moulds)

Cook at 180 degrees C for about 35 minutes until they start to brown.

Serve with your favourite veggie roast and enjoy!

Quinoa stuffed Potimarron

November 11, 2010

A potimarron is like a pumpkin, but is smaller and tastier. This time of year the organic smallholders who come to the Market at Felletin every Friday, come laden with them. If you can’t find a Potimarron you can use a small pumpkin instead…

This recipe originally used just rice, but we use quinoa in many dishes to provide protein and other nutrients. It works really well with the rice.

1 Potimarron (about 1.5-175kg)

2 tblsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tbsp sage

1 tbsp thyme

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp smoked paprika

125g long grain rice

100g Quinoa

2 large ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped

600ml vegetable stock

40g hazelnuts, toasted and chopped


Preheat your oven to 180C. Cut the top off the potimarron, to form a lid. Scrape out the seeds (you should try to save all the seeds – they are lovely roasted with soy and tobasco sauce). Scoop out most of the flesh  from the lid and the potimarron, leaving a thin layer (but thick enough that it doesn’t collapse!). Finely chop the flesh and set it aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion, garlic, sage, thyme, paprika and turmeric for 5 minutes until the onion is softened. Add the chopped potimarron flesh and fry for 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice and fry for 1 minute, then add the quinoa and the tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil, cover and cook over a gentle heat for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the nuts and spoon into the potimarron shell.

Replace the potimarron lid, and place in a roasting pan. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out hot.

You can garnish with roasted potimarron seeds (if you followed my advice, and roasted them!),  or anything else you fancy.


Ex-president is on vegan diet to combat heart disease

October 29, 2010

Yesterday we reported that France may be in line for a vegetarian president, but had missed the  news that Bill Clinton has adopted a vegan diet after reading The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health

Watch Bill talk about his diet and the reasons behind this change on YouTube

France to have Vegetarian President?

October 28, 2010

Brigitte Bardot has announced she may stand as a presidential candidate in the 2012 French Presidential elections, according the Figaro Newspaper, stating “Sarkozy has taken me for an idiot by making me promises he has not kept”.

Sarkozy's replacement in 2012?

The former film star and singer has been vegetarian since 1986, and is an outspoken animal rights campaigner. She has stated that she may stand for president, although she has no political ambition, if the l’Alliance écologiste indépendante wanted her as a candidate.

Although a defender of animal rights, and an ecological campaigner, Bardot may not be a popular choice for many ecologists, as she has not always been so kind to her fellow man ( according to Wikipedia “During the 1990s she became outspoken due to her criticism of immigration, race-mixing, some aspects of homosexuality and Islam in France, and has been fined five times for “inciting racial hatred”.”).

The decision will be made in early 2011


Vegetarian Christmas in France

October 28, 2010

Do you fancy spending Christmas, or New Year, in France, but you are worried you may not be able to enjoy delicious vegetarian or vegan food?

There are lots of vegetarian and vegan B&B’s in France (see our page Vegetarian/vegan places to stay), and many of them will be open over Christmas.

3 Place des Arbres, a vegetarian guesthouse in the heart of France, is open all year round. Andrea and Bruce are offering special packages over the Christmas and New Year period – visit their website for more information on their special offers.

The French bed and breakfast is located in a small market town (accessible by trains and buses), surrounded by beautiful countryside.


French Vegetarian Bed and Breakfast Video

October 16, 2010

New video to promote

October 12, 2010
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