Tag Archives: Organic

The joys of abundance

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I used to be able to buy a glass ( or bottle) of wine without a care in the world – especially for those who toil on a daily basis to create what fills that particular glass or bottle.

Changed days.

In the relatively short time we have been the proud new parents of our little vineyard in paradise, we have had more sleepless nights , stress and worry than any of our collective three offspring or two labradoodles ever brought us.

Don’t get me wrong. Like actual new parents, we love it. We are bursting with pride, we tell anyone who stands still long enough all about it and like childbirth, you forget the pain quickly as you appreciate the benefits!

However we have a new found respect for the hard work of those making the decisions to ensure that harvest brings the best quality grapes that , in turn, will make the highest quality wine.

Yesterday in the vineyard was the green cut or final thinning ; the time you take out a varying quantity of grapes, depending on what mother nature has thrown at this particular vintage. Certain weather conditions will bring greater numbers of bunches per vine and heavier weights of bunches. All of this is critical to the winemaker to ensure they get the best product for them to weave their magic in the winemaking process.

‘Waste not want not ’

Now it may be my Scottish blood, but I’m no fan of waste. Seeing beautiful bunches of grapes ( that taste sensational!) lying disregarded – even if for the ultimate sacrifice – makes me sad but then, more positively, makes me start looking for ways they can be used.

We’re not alone, a quick drive around our neighbourhood shows many of the vineyards doing the same thing in their quest for the perfect vintage.

I spent part of the day collecting the disregarded bunches and distributing them to family and friends ( ….funnily enough not as much of a novelty for them in this wine region, as it would have been in urban Auckland…!).

New friends find it wildly amusing that my newcomers eyes still marvel at the produce around us – and the amount that goes unused and unloved. They tell me that over the years  I’ll get used to it.

I’m not so sure.

I love the idea of using everything I can – for ourselves and sharing –  and I have set myself a challenge this year of making maximum use of everything we produce. Not quite self sufficiency- I’m nowhere near capable enough for that ! –  but at least a step in its general direction.

To be honest, some things are easier than others ! Apricots ? Plums ? No problem.

So I up my challenge to try to make things I’ve never done before.

‘Fun with grapes’

Finding good productive use for the surplus grapes is the current challenge.

After a quick trawl on-line, thoughts turn to verjuice and delicious natural juice from sun kissed grapes that on another day would have made stunning pinot noir.  Then there’s jams, jellies, raisins – thanks to a borrowed dehydrator-  and when all else is done, there’s compost!

I have added them to my growing list of ‘things to produce’ in my search for using as much as I can from this wonderful little pocket of the world that we call home.

Of course there is always a silver lining – the birds are happy with this suddenly readily available and easily accessible food source so hopefully , if we are very lucky, they may focus on that and leave our netted precious bounty alone.

Cheers,

Fi

 

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what a waste….

 

You can also follow me on Instagram at nzgoodlife  See you there !

Something’s bugging me

Literally .

Although not just something . I know exactly what it (they) is (are).

There were a few things that failed to make it on to the property particulars when we moved to Marlborough and, more specifically, to Paradise.

One was the wind in late spring / early summer. Although we had visited the area many many times, we must have just hit lucky on avoiding the wind. Windy Wellington – your more beautiful and slightly wine addled neighbour across the Strait can most certainly give you a run for your money on the wind front – at least for part of the year.

But that’s not it.

What’s bugging me is bugs.

Not affecting me personally, but there’s most certainly a fleeting possibility of threat for our precious babies budding out in the vineyard.

At a certain time of year (now) , the brown beetles or May bugs ( creatively named after their annual appearance in the northern hemisphere ) awaken from neighbouring paddocks to strike fear into the hearts and pockets of grape growers. The bugs choose to burst into life as the sun sets on beautiful days and, from nearby paddocks, aim for the moon and land on the vines. If they get their chance they will then happily procreate and eat their way through the leaves and buds, potentially causing damage.

My first reaction on hearing about our unknown challenge  was confidence that there must be something that could deter them ( or more accurately blitz them into oblivion). But being organic, with a karma-esque attitude to living things, we have found our options are limited.

So, our ritual now is an enforced walk of the vineyard every night as darkness creeps in. Torches in hand, we inspect the leaves and flick the bugs to the ground, where they can no longer do any damage.

No matter how many times we are told by those who have considerable experience in this : “ you’ll know when you have a problem” – ( thankfully, we haven’t found out so far) – we still spend our time cursing the little bug(ger)s and counting how many we knock off. Although a swarm in the thousands is what we are told will indicate an issue (?!) , we still feel the overwhelming need to protect our babies and that’s where it gets compulsive. We are the equivalent of first-time parents. Anxious to do the right thing but no experience yet to give us any real perspective. Being told that we are probably the only growers paying such attention is little comfort.

Although small numbers of bugs will not cause damage, the very fact they are there ‘bugs’ M & I . So we currently spend our evenings knocking as many off leaves as we can, while acknowledging nightly that we can’t get around every single vine.

But we still try.

A good friend who is born and bred in both the area and the industry and therefore experienced in such matters, not so reassuringly said to me, “ you really don’t have a problem until they’re mating on your eyeballs….” .

Now there’s a less than comforting thought to hold for the next few weeks…..

But. 

And there’s always a but!

This has given us the pleasure of having a nightly walk together under glorious inky skies. The doodles happily chase hedgehogs and whatever else they pick up a scent on. We talk. We appreciate our surroundings. We count blessings.

Welcome to Paradise !

Yours (hopefully) bug free,

Fi

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The little                  brown bug(ger)s!

Of frost and fans

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Frost fan against an indigo dawn

On the many visits to Marlborough before making the permanent move , I have always loved seeing the large but elegant fans in the vineyards which make up the stunning landscape of the area.

They were almost reminiscent of days spent in Holland and the beautiful windmills amongst the fields of bulbs .

That’s where the similarity – if indeed there ever was one – ends .

Our baptism of frost came on day 2 in Paradise . Frosts can wipe out your budding vines and destroy your crop for the current vintage year and even beyond . It’s not a vineyard owners friend at this time of year . Fair to say , no one thought to mention this on the sales particulars …..

But , enter the fans . Without getting all technical , they warm the air by helping it circulate around and stops frost from settling . To do this they are big .And tall .                And noisy . Very noisy .

We are surrounded by vineyards so the culmination of all the frost fans jumping into life is loud – and unmissable .

Last year , as first timers , our response system was based on watching the weather forecast from several sources ( in case one was wrong ) , then based on that , me waking up every hour to look out the window to see if the temperature sensitive alarm lights were showing the right colour for us to leap into action . There are 3 colours of alarm  . One says get ready to move , the second says run quickly to your vineyard and the third says find another day job . Suffice to say that after you see the first colour , your chances of sleep after that – until the sun has risen and starting spreading her warmth – is limited at best.

Then there are the frost pots . Or Dante’s Infernos as I fondly(?) renamed them . Fiery scary noisy heaters that warm the areas the fans can’t reach.

And then there are the helicopters . Larger vineyards bring them in at massive cost to fly low and move the air around their vines. A skilled and precise job with no air traffic control and only night sight vision keeping them , and all of us below,  safe. Not for the faint hearted . No surprise then to know that Richie McCaw was piloting over our heads most of the night . ( I can’t say that didn’t add something wonderful to the overall experience !)

I’ll never forget one moment when standing in the middle of all of this , having the thought that it’s the closest ( thankfully) I’m likely to get to a war zone.

M , being the more practical , was thinking of the commercial opportunities of offering overnight frost experiences to Marlboroughs visitor population …!

Our first night was spent walking around making sure everything was on and operating and then waiting in the hands of Mother Nature .
The payback for this disruption to your nights sleep however is more than compensation . Achingly beautiful sunrises – the likes I have never seen before .

Thankfully these frost events, we were assured, were few and far between and there had never been two in a row . That is , until our third night in paradise .

But this time I knew the drill and knew what would make an overnight stay amongst the vines, more palatable .Pillows, blankets , food , hot drinks and extra clothes are now a permanent fixture in the Ute and ( to be really honest )make it a bit of fun and you always have a spectacular sunrise to look forward to in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. Reality kicks back in when you then just have time for a quick shower before travelling somewhere or skyping a client !

As I’m typing this I’m on a flight heading home to Paradise with frost predictions for the next two nights . It’s the weekend so slightly more manageable than a busy travelling work week , but the thing I’m most excited about is seeing the next most amazing dawn .

How fortunate are we .

Fi

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  Buds worth protecting

 

The taste of Paradise…in a cake

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A taste of Paradise.Thank you to the wonderful people at Delicious for this amazing photo.

 

If I could sum up my first year in Paradise in cake, this would be it.

I had fully intended to blog are about food and less about drama but drama beat food hands down in the ‘keeping me busy ‘ stakes !

But this gem of deliciousness is worth sharing . And making.

I tasted it – or something like it- at the Marlborough Farmers Market where the lovely Lee works through the previous night in someone else’s kitchen to make some amazing ‘as they used to taste ‘ baking. Then I searched for something similar to allow me to make at home and played around with it until it tasted like heaven on a  plate.

You know how wine tasting can sometimes come up with very poncy descriptions for wines, well this is my equivalent for this marvellous and yummy cake. This cake transports you to a farmhouse kitchen groaning with nature’s bounty. Fresh from the country range. Sitting around grandma’s table. It’s squishy but firm enough to wrap in some greaseproof paper for an al fresco morning tea. it’s a cake to make friends with. Good friends. Long term friends.

But don’t take my word for it. Be good to yourself and have a go. I dare you not to have a Betty Crocker ( or equivalent) moment !

Enjoy

Fi

  • 50g each sultanas and raisins
  • 6 tbsp medium-sweet cider ( who am I kidding – be generous here – and one for the cook!)
  • 215g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 300g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 175g butter, softened
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • 750g eating apples (about 6-8), peeled, cored and cut into 1cm pieces
  • 100g lightly toasted walnuts, broken into small pieces – from your own trees if you’re really lucky!

 

How to make Paradise cake

  1. Put the sultanas and raisins into a small bowl, cover with a few tbsp of the cider and set aside for at least 2 hours or overnight.Be generous. And enjoy a glass yourself !
  2. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm round, loose-bottomed cake tin. Tie a thick band of folded newspaper around the outside of the tin, so it projects about 8cm above the edge of the tin, and secure it in place with string (this will stop any over-browning). It’s a bit of a phaff but keeps cake nice.
  3. Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt and ground/grated spices into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and butter and beat on a medium speed for 1 minute, stopping and scraping the mixture down the sides of the bowl, if necessary, until well mixed. Try not to eat all of this before baking….
  4. Add the eggs and mix on low speed for a few seconds, then increase the speed and beat for 1 minute until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining 3 tbsp cider.And pour yourself another glass.
  5. Fold in the prepared apples, sultanas/raisins and walnuts. The mixture will look too thick and too appley, but don’t worry. Trust me ! Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and gently level the surface.
  6. Bake for 1 hour 25 minutes ish, covering loosely with foil or a double sheet of baking paper once it’s richly browned on top, until it is firm to the touch and a skewer pushed into the centre comes away clean. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack. Remove from the tin to a plate, sprinkle with caster sugar and serve.
  7. Make friends and enjoy your own slice of paradise.

 

 

 

We live in a zoo…

Those close to me have heard me say this many times over the last year.

What was once a relatively spic and span home life is still adjusting to a life slightly less pristine and more accomodating of the boots and overalls of life on a farm.

In addition, the various animals and birds that have become part of this bright tapestry of life in the country grows almost by the day – notwithstanding the Doodles best efforts to keep our chicken numbers down…. ( but that’s another story..)

A casual aside from the previous owners when they left was to keep an eye on the geese and make sure we went on an egg hunt at the appropriate time to ensure we weren’t overcome with their offspring. Our 5 handsome geese are relatively self sufficient and magnificent beasts. Apart from one of the Doodles latching on to the tail of the largest gander while being walked by City daughter and hubby and being rescued by said hubby as the gander sought to wreak revenge, they have been quite free from hassle ( the geese that is, not City daughter and hubby…!)

However ( and isn’t there always a however…), the year has flown by and we forgot to go looking for eggs.

“I think we have babies” said M as he headed off to rescue the Ute that had starting sinking in mud ( …I don’t even ask anymore).  He was right, five fluffy bundles were paddling around the dam in the creek. But although my animal husbandry is limited, I do know that geese don’t dive under water and hold their breath.  Ducklings. 5 very cute ducklings and two very protective and squawking Paradise Ducks just daring me to go any further . Nice.

And then we saw them. The goose parade. 2 pairs of grown ups and six babies all happily parading around the paddock. Too late for any family planning assistance there then. So, resigned to having doubled our geese family , we started to head back when we were lunged at by the remaining highly agitated and hissing female goose. Why? From a safe distance we could count 7 large eggs that she was protecting and just waiting to burst into more life.

So we were 5 and now we are ( or soon will be )  18.

What to do now is the interesting dilemma. I’m secretly thrilled that we have cute babies from healthy birds living well and causing us minimal problems, but 18 ( not including the neighbouring ducks) may be a tad excessive. As I’m not quite at the ‘land to plate’ stage of my immersion to country life ( i.e. can’t eat them), good homes are now being sought and I’m determined to do a better job of planning our ever expanding menagerie next year.

Fi

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“I’m sure those aren’t geese”
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“Yep, those are….”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheep may (not) safely graze….

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Who’ll blink first….

This used to be one of my favourite pieces of music.

No more.

Sheep are my friends no longer and I care not whether they graze safely or otherwise.

I have started a blog 3 times today and each time I have suffered ‘ovis interruptus’ or put another way, rampaging sheep through every part of the property they shouldn’t be.

Whoever said sheep were stupid? Well they’re not, and they’re quite athletic – managing to hurdle fences at will.

After all these years watching Country Calendar, you would think I would have picked up something about mustering. But no, nothing , not at all.

However I may not be able to tell you what to do , but I can certainly share a few pointers on what not to do.

  1. Having a bad cough is not conducive to mustering sheep. It makes them crazy and also makes them run. Fast.
  2. Waving your arms does little – except amuse neighbouring vineyard workers
  3. Swearing only benefits yourself. Temporarily.

3 times they have been returned and 4 times they have escaped.

They have won.

I, have temporarily admitted defeat.

The farmer, who owns these athletic and smart sheep has now been summoned and he can take it from here. In fact he can take them from here.

I for one am both sheeped and shagged out.

Lamb for dinner anyone……..?!

F

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No you may not safely graze in my garden……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

51 Things I love about you ….Marlborough (part 2)

Continuing my love affair with this perfect patch of Paradise….

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Perfect Kaikoura Cheeses

11. Our Farmers Market . The best in produce from the area. Especially love Leah’s freshly made cakes and bread from Mississippi Herbs , Cheese from Dan at Kaikoura Cheese and the best organic blueberries in the world from Windsong Orchard

12. The number of roundabouts ( or lack of them) !

13. Staying with the traffic theme. No traffic lights ! It took me a while to see what I was missing while driving through town!

14. The Wairau River. Icy glacial blue and fiercely beautiful. A wonderful walking companion.

15. Muffins at Saint Clair vineyard. In fact all the food and wine is great, as is the location, but the muffins are spectacular and worth a morning coffee visit !

16. The ’10 minute’ Blenheim travel mystery. Everywhere is within 10 minutes. How is that even possible….

17. Shops that still shut on Saturday afternoons.

18. The abundance of roadside olives – an untapped industry in itself.

19. Our local ( free) papers. Everything you need to know!

20. The abundance of cafe’s and baking on site. From scratch. Not mixes. Heaven 🙂

….to be continued….

 

51 things I love about you ….. Marlborough  (part 1)

Chasing cows

After a busy day, it was time for the fire to be lit, wine to be poured and feet to be lifted.

My favourite time of day.

I’ve gotten very used to the incredible peace and quiet of Paradise, even though we have assorted animals sharing the space.

However, you know that feeling when something just doesn’t quite stack up? I can never usually hear our three Belties ( Oreo, Tollhouse and Anzac) from their paddock, but this time it felt like they were just outside. Funny that – as that’s exactly where they were.

Now until you have eye balled a one tonne Beltie outside your front door, you just haven’t passed your ‘ I survived the country’ test…. I can also now say I’ve played ( and lost) a game of ‘who’ll blink first’ with Tollhouse.

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Who’ll blink first…..?

As I feared, three one tonne cows can cause quite a lot of damage to a garden however my positive side welcomes the natural fertiliser I now have in abundance.

An urgent call to M (who conveniently was on another island) advised me not to panic them ( them??!!) and then added that at least it gave me more material for my next blog…..( thoughtful !)

While waiting for a helping hand from neighbour T ( who helped last time I thought I had lost all 3 cows : see previous blog ), I decided to take action and well and truly earned my cattle wrangling 101 badge.

Single handedly, over a period of an hour ‘steering’ them through gardens, cars, vineyard, paddocks, stream and bonfire ( which, incidentally is still going 10 days on ! – see other previous blog), I managed to coerce them back to their own corner of Paradise – none the worse for their adventure.

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Back behind bars……

What I’ve learned:

  • cows can run – really fast.
  • cows dont respond like dogs. Actually our dogs don’t respond at all so no help there.
  • gates are usually shut for good reason.
  • Belties are REALLY big when you’re standing a metre away from them.
  • Belties have beautiful eyelashes.
  • you really can do things you never thought you would ever have to, if you have to.

 

Fun time over.

Back to the fire.

Pass the bottle !

Fi

 

 

 

 

 

 

The joy of olives

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Under Tuscan Sun has a lot to answer for .

For many years I have hankered after long lazy lunches amongst the olive trees , feasting with friends on local produce, washed down with the local tipple . Olive trees always featured .

I was a late adopter of olives. Somehow my taste buds didn’t quite want to acquire them but I’ve been a firm fan of olive oil ( pure extra virgin, of course) since I started to cook – it always felt like a nod to good health, whatever I was making !

An unfulfilled dream for M & I since moving to NZ was to grow our own olives and press them into our own oil .Our last attempt produced zero results for us, but the local bird population still thanks us. However, last week it happened .

Now we don’t quite boast the plentiful olive groves of Tuscany – or even as many as almost everyone in Marlborough  who all seem to have a grove tucked away or at least access to one .

We have 7 trees.

And only 4 have fruit .

And they’re not even hugely productive. By calculations based on a complex equation shared over a recent dinner with friendly local experts , they were expected to provide me with a whopping 2 litres of olive oil .

So , not enough to retire on really….

Undeterred I looked to other means to supplement our meagre crop . Having been dissuaded from procuring more from laden roadside trees ( ” that’s stealing you know “),   I sent a message to new friends and neighbours to ask if any crops were going unharvested. It’s at this time I start to realise that not everyone was quite as excited as me and most saw their olives as little more than a windbreak at best . “Yeah we did all that once , said a very over-it neighbour “.

So the offers flooded in ! With the much welcome help of M and my wunder sibling D , we managed to pick a mighty 42.5kgs over a few hours .

It’s not easy work but it’s not as hard as grape picking that’s for sure !

I really enjoyed every second of it .

We are very lucky to have a olive press cooperative in the area so I threw the olives in the Ute and went in search of good oil .

“So how many containers in total” he said . “3-  they’re all there ” I replied, pointing to the Ute.

“How much have you got” he said . “About 40kg ” I said beaming with pride .

“It’s minimum 250kgs” he said ( with a look I’m beginning to recognise in people now ).

Ok so I’m getting that ‘newby from another planet ‘feeling again .

It doesn’t get any better when a nice old guy comes up behind us and says to him , “where do you want my first tonne ? “.

Whether it was pity or kindness or perhaps a Marlborough blend of both , my ( now not so) impressive crop was accepted and overnight magically transformed into 7 litres of deliciousness .

I couldn’t have been happier collecting it in my new , shiny and very expensive olive oil container complete with tap ! (M didn’t fail to notice – or comment –  that everyone else made do with plastic buckets…..!)

It was a truly joyful process from start to finish .

So, future plans :

  • We’re going to plant more olives ( they’re also apparently good wind breaks!)
  • I’m going to stay enthusiastic for more than the first year.
  • We’re going to aim for 250kgs next year but if not I will hope for another benevolent and sympathetic sort to turn a blind eye at the Press ….

And I’m definitely going to have my long lazy lunch amongst the olive trees with my very own good oil but,  Under Marlborough Sun 🙂

Fi

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My beautiful shiny olive oil thingy and the first tasting!
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Molly the Doodle, my trusted quality controller
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The place that does the magic !

 

Honey on a Blustery Day

M and I share many passions but a biggie for us is Bees.

On a recent significant birthday, I gifted M a beehive (and someone to look after it!)

We were thrilled with our annual crop of honey with hints of pohutakawa and manuka , and loved sharing it with friends and family.

I actually don’t like honey, but that’s not the point 🙂 For me, it’s the fact that these highly industrious little things do magic. They are the true super heroes. Not only are they a crucial part of our overall food chain, they make an almost universally liked product that has uses far and wide.

When we moved, one of the first things to be put in place was the bee hives – three of them this time. They have been furiously active through the summer. Bearing in mind that a  honey bee will collect about a tea-spoon of honey in its whole lifetime, ponder that when you next spread it over your toast!

Yesterday we saw the result of their hard work.In the middle of a blustery afternoon that Winnie the Pooh would have been proud of, a sticky bucket arrived of 15 kilos of pure molten gold. With hints of citrus and a nod towards the vines on their doorstep, the honey has a uniquely delicious aroma and taste ( according to those who know these things !).

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15 kilos of molten gold honey

There is something so satisfying about filling the multitude of sterilised jars gathered from family over the year and stocking the pantry. And knowing this was all created within metres of the house is just thrilling.

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A perfect setting for making honey

Honey is also really good for you – see the nutritional facts below.

Amount Per
1 packet (0.5 oz) (14 g)
1 tbsp (21 g)
100 grams
1 cup (339 g)
100 grams

Calories 304
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0 g 0%
Saturated fat 0 g 0%
Polyunsaturated fat 0 g
Monounsaturated fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 4 mg 0%
Potassium 52 mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 82 g 27%
Dietary fiber 0.2 g 0%
Sugar 82 g
Protein 0.3 g 0%
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0% Iron 2%
Vitamin D 0% Vitamin B-6 0%
Vitamin B-12 0% Magnesium 0%
*Per cent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
It has also associated itself with some great brand ambassadors – Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Monster to name but two ( for those that remember the Honey Monster from the TV adverts – “Tell them about the Honey, Mummy“, have a look at this link. You’re welcome  !!
Taking everything into account, honey has a thoroughly well deserved and enviable reputation and I’m loving it.
Fi