Friday, March 11, 2011

Organically speaking

any of us talk about making healthier choices when it comes to the food we eat, but a great number of people are deterred by the thought that buying organic/free range food is more expensive, and that attaining said foods is an inconvenience (i.e. not all major chain grocery stores carry organic food, so people have to trek all the way to a "health food" store to get it, then have to wade through miles of hippies, etc).

Fortunately, this isn't always the case.

Here in Toronto, stores like Loblaw, FreshCo, Metro and Sobeys either have sections dedicated to organic and healthy alternative products, or have these types of foods interspersed with their regular stock. When I went shopping at one of these stores recently, I found quinoa and kamut pasta right there on the shelf next to the wheaty ones, and there were all manner of certified organic bits to be found all over the store.
That being said, I prefer to support smaller local stores than the large chain ones, but if this isn't an option in your area, you may be pleasantly surprised to find such products where you least expect to.

While some "health food" products may be a bit more expensive than others, many of them are at the same price point, if not lower (if you don't mind buying in bulk). For example, at many health food stores, buying a bag of organic granola that you've shoveled into a sack yourself is far cheaper than oh, let's say... a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal (which, though delicious, is also not the healthiest choice as far as foodstuffs go).

I'm of the belief that the long-term benefits of eating for one's health are worth a bit of investment. The old adage "you are what you eat" holds true, as food is medicine in its own right, and what we put into our bodies has a profound effect on how our bodies and minds function. If this means shelling out an extra dollar for produce that hasn't been sprayed with carcinogenic, environment-destroying chemicals, I'm all for it.

Last week, Nathaniel and I had the pleasure of receiving our first box of produce from Mama Earth Organics -- a Toronto company that connects those who live here with local organic growers by delivering farm-fresh produce and other products to our homes. My first bite into an organic apple made my toes curl with happy, and we both had similar reactions when we tasted the Boston lettuce, blood oranges and other bits of wonder. These raw ingredients were exquisite, and the dishes we cooked with them had depth of flavour that just cannot translate properly into words.
Organic produce reminds me of what food tasted like when it was freshly harvested from the garden when I was a child. I remember picking tomatoes for supper after they'd been basking in the sunshine all day, and that crisp burst of tomato scent that wafted with each freeing tug was a small delight in itself.
Most of us have grown so accustomed to the flavourless fruit and vegetables that are readily (and cheaply) available in our local supermarkets that we have either forgotten or, even more sadly, never experienced what these foods should actually taste like.

Toronto has several organic home-delivery services that not only distribute produce, but also organic baked goods, preserves, dairy and meat products, and other delectable tidbits. In addition to Mama Earth, there's also Green Earth Organics, Front Door Organics, and though you have to pick it up yourself rather than having it delivered to your door, FoodShare puts together an impressive Good Food box as well.

In this week's basket, we received ambrosia apples, navel oranges, fair-trade bananas, shallots, rainbow carrots, Boston lettuce, spinach, fennel, black kale, and snap peas. We've eaten the snap peas raw, but we have plans for the other ingredients:

- Kamut soba noodles with kale and broccoli in a garlic-ginger-sesame sauce
- Fennel, carrot and apple slaw with a yogurt dressing
- Spinach and white bean soup (minus the turkey)

At least one of the bananas will likely end up in a smoothie of some sort. *grin*

As we continue to explore this city and its surroundings, we'll be keeping our eyes open for all manner of sources for organic foodstuffs, as well as sources for seeds to be able to grow herbs and veggies in our home garden. This weekend will include a trip to The Sweet Potato ,a health food store near our place in the Junction, and I've reserved a few hours to curl up in the window seat with a cup of tea to read my Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening.

Have a gorgeous weekend!
Be well, walk in Beauty.


Cananada March 11, 2011 at 8:46 PM  

I remember those times when eating entire meals fresh from the garden as a child.
Picking things of trees, bushes & the ground and shoving them right into my mouth, unwashed and with fingers dirty from playing in the forest. It was a complete different food experience because things tasted like "real food", and I was also much healthier than I am now. I miss this. A lot.

Kelly March 16, 2011 at 8:05 PM  

I recently signed up with Mama Earth Organics as well - and feeling the same way!

I actually never really believed that organic food tasted better. I started getting it because we have a little one starting solids, and I wanted to give her organic - when I actually started eating it myself, I was astounded! I have never tasted fruits and veggies so good!

It is definitely worth the cost...