By Megha Bajaj October 2008 Organic food nourishes the body and purifies the spirit, not just of the individual but also of our planet. Here is the what, why and how of organics – to make your transition to organic, swifter and smoother Shrikumar Poddar: 68 going on 48For over 15 years now, he has not put a grain of ‘poisoned’, as he calls it, non-organic food in his mouth. 68-year-old Shrikumar Poddar, a retired businessperson, says he has never felt younger or more energetic before. He shares that his health – physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual – has come to an all-time high due a single decision made years ago – to eat only, and only, organic food. While many of us buy a few organic foods, we have neither the patience nor the determination to go entirely organic. For Poddar, watching a 15-minute documentary on the devastating effects of foods laden with chemicals was enough to take this life-altering decision. Initially his family was unwilling to change over to the organic way so he simply told them, ‘Okay, you keep destroying your health and the planet’s health too, but I won’t. Let there be two varieties of food made every day in the kitchen – organic for me, non-organic for you.’ Frustrated by this complicated regimen, his family finally gave in and today all of them enjoy higher levels of vitality, thanks to him. Does he ever get bored of organic food? Poddar says that the question itself does not arise because he continues to enjoy all the delicacies he did before, only now they are healthier. He has managed to build contacts with several organic farmers and all that he needs is delivered to his house. Recently, for his mother’s birthday 39 dishes were made – yes, all pure organic and lip-smackingly delicious. All the 500 guests present there found themselves returning home with more food for thought than they had ever imagined! Organic farming: A Love StoryHemant Chabbra and his wife Sangeeta bought Hideout, a wonderful little organic farm 20 years ago as a getaway from the stressed, toxic life that Mumbai offered. Just two hours away, in Vikramgarh district, Hideout was a perfect place for them to feel one with nature and rejuvenate themselves. However, it was after hearing their friend from Switzerland share the sorrow of birds and dying trees, that the duo awakened to the fact that their farmhouse could be a lot more than just a weekend getaway. Suddenly, they had a desire to produce organic food and offer it to the cities, surviving on toxins. Suddenly, they discovered what it meant to be farmers not just on weekends, but at all times. For both of them, ‘organic’ did not just mean no use of chemicals, but also loving their plants. It meant their plants were ‘alive’ and needed all that humans need to survive – food, water and yes, lots of love. Hemant actually meditates with his plants, chants with them, and yes, often sings them lullabies to let them know they are loved. He treats them just as he would treat his two young children. Sangeeta admits that she has done a lot of ‘un-learning’ in the company of their tribal friends who take care of the plants when the couple is away. They believe that plants grow with minimal interference; after all, the insects do all the work! For Hemant being an organic farmer has been a rational decision. He asks, ‘Would you unnecessarily drink medicines, boosters and chemicals? No? Then why feed our plants on it?’ Not only do the Chabbras sell their organic goods, but Hideout has now also become a children’s delight as they organise nature camps for youngsters who learn, early in life, that nature’s way is the best way.Conscious Foods: Spiritualising FoodConscious Foods, set up in 1990, is India’s pioneering company in natural and organic food. Their philosophy is to work to a standard and not to a price. The company sources most of its products from small organic farms and farming communities all over the country. A rigorous check is maintained on quality, and stringent standards of hygiene are enforced at every stage, from the farm to the Conscious Food workshop in Mumbai, and from there on to the retail outlets. Says Titoo Ahluwalia, the Director of Conscious Foods, ‘Our mission is three-fold: One to promote natural (whole, unrefined) and organic (chemical-free) foods in order to keep the earth and its people healthy; two, to support farmers that produce organic foods and three, to provide sound information and advice on nutrition to customers!’ This is very important, given that many low-priced food products of unreliable quality appear in the shops in the name of organic food. Conscious Foods markets more than 100 natural and organic products, including whole cereals and their flours, pulses, spices, natural sugars, honey, coffee, green and herbal teas, cold-pressed oils, alfalfa, flax, watercress and other seeds, spirulina powder, amla mixes and healthy snacks made with various cereals, seeds, nuts, dried fruits and herbs. Do not wait; become more conscious of your foods right now.A ‘Pure’ ExperienceDo you want to pamper yourself beyond imagination? Visit Pure, the organic restaurant of Taj Lands End, Mumbai. As you enter, you find yourself relaxing in the natural ambience of the restaurant created by wooden furnishings, soft candlelight and gurgling fountains. Joshua Kemper, the chef, is an organic enthusiast, and aims at serving both exotic and simple preparations using fresh organic fruits, organic grains and the most temptingly delicious organic goat cheese, exported all the way from Italy. Says Kristen McGuire, a visitor from Germany, ‘I am a cancer patient and have come to India for alternative treatment. One of the first guidance I was given to heal was to go organic. Pure, in that sense has been a life-saver for me!’ Try Pure’s Asian pear salad, lemon basil sorbet and Cajun chicken breast. If that is not enough, melt yourself in their divine dessert called eight pure textures of chocolate! If you do not feel like splurging, the modest organic café at Fabindia should also be able to provide you with an organic experience worth remembering.An Organic FamilyWhen their daughter Riyanka was born, both Nikhil and Jigna Shah were concerned about her health as she was often down with fever and other minor health problems. Allopathy for such a tiny baby did not seem like a good idea to the health-conscious couple so they started asking around for an alternative. This is when they accidentally discovered organic foods and the numerous benefits it offered. Within months, Riyanka’s health had improved with organic food, and the couple’s belief in this wonderful alternative diet was reiterated. Both wanted to spread the organic awareness and this is how Greenways, an organic retail outlet, was born a decade ago. It was a time when little or no awareness about organics was present and often they had to spell organic to family and friends and tell them what it is. They began selling about four or five products but today their wonderful little shop at Carmichael Road, Mumbai, stocks over 100 products and caters to a large number of regular clients. What makes this family special is that at most times they remain, healthy, cheerful and enthusiastic. They believe their food choice is responsible for their glowing faces and high energy levels. Jigna shares a few amazing organic recipes with us to show us that not only is organic food the best health option is can also be unbelievably tasty:(All the products used are organic and are available at Greenways) Baked sev puriIngredients: 100 gm whole wheat puri100 gm baked sevI boiled potatoI chopped onionA little date chutneyA little coriander chutneyA little red chilli, garlic chutneyChopped corianderRock salt to tasteMethod:Take the puri, place a slice of potato, chopped onions and top with all the three chutneys. Finally sprinkle a little rock salt and garnish with coriander and sev. Moong daliaIngredients:50 gm moong dalia½ cup boiled peas½ cup chopped onions2 grated tomatoes1 tsp of ginger, garlic and chilli pastefew leaves of kadi patta¼ tsp chilli powder, turmeric1 tsp groundnut oilrock salt to tasteMethod:Soak the dalia 1 ½ times over with water and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. Take a kadai, add the oil and sauté the paste. Add the onions and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. After this, add the peas and all the masalas with the dalia and cook on low flame for about 10-15 minutes. Bajri seviyaIngredients:200 gm bajri seviya2 cups of mixed vegetables boiled (beans, carrots and cauliflower)1 chopped onion1-2 tsp of paste made with red chillies and garlic1 ½ tsp sesame oilrock salt to taste Method:Boil 700 ml of water. Steep the seviya in this water for two minutes. Strain the water. Take a kadhai, add oil and sauté onion and the paste. After a few minutes add the vegetables. Again, after cooking for a few minutes add the seviya with a little rock salt according to your taste. Your Questions answeredWhy does organic food cost moreOrganic food is more expensive than conventional, non-organic food for a number of reasons, the main ones being:• Organic farming is usually more labour intensive and requires greater care.• Organic farms are normally smaller than non-organic farmers.• There are no governement subsidies for ogranic farmers.• The price of non organic food does not take into account the cost of environmental damage. Living. Fresh. Natural. Sun-kissed. Tasty. Organic food is all this and more. Organic is a name given to that variety of crops which are produced without the use of pesticides, artificial fertilisers, growth hormones or any sort of synthetic chemicals. At no point – growing, harvestin
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