23 June 2009

A “How to eat organic and not feel like a Buddhist monk” guide

Somebody asked me to write a How-to-eat-organic-and-not-feel-like-a-Buddhist-monk guide. Firstly, I must admit that my knowledge of Buddhist lifestyles is almost non-existent – apart from the fact that some live under extreme religious and political suppression, wear bright colours and have shiny bald heads! There is much more to this deep and rich cultural and religious group, but that is not the discussion here and I will leave the Buddhists alone for now.

But to the thing I know a bit about, eating organic – eating organic is not for extreme tree-huggers! It’s for those people who are not happy with the idea of eating produce that is laced with potentially harmful pesticides and chemicals – that may or may not cause strange deformities in our offspring – but I’m not taking any chances.

There are different grades of organic, and depending where in the world you are, different standards that are enforced – but generally you want to be looking for non-chemically treated, fresh or minimally processed food. Organic foods have been proven to contain a higher percentage of nutrients, taste better and have positive benefits on the environment and the people who farm them.

Now, while some sceptics may see organic food as the stuff that uber-cool too-bored-to-do-anything-better-people from Sandton buy at Woolies, it’s not! Depending where you live, there are small farmers close by that sell fresh produce – that’s the kind of organic that I support. Small scale farmers are increasingly being supported by sustainable development initiatives, and buying their produce is both good for our health as well as the broader well-being of our communities.

Growing your own food is also a good idea. While it’s possible to perhaps even totally live off your own produce, my humble little garden is only the size on an old tyre. Currently growing spinach, basil and kale (a type of cabbage), all I do is water it with collected rain water daily and harvest as I need to. Once the weather improves, I hope to get another tyre set up next to it and get the carrots, coriander and chilli growing.

Baking your own bread is healthier, tastier, cheaper and much more fun that buying the boring sliced loaf from the supermarket. I will soon share some recipes and tips on bread baking and will also explain a simple way of making your own delicious and cheap yoghurt. I don’t know if the bread or yoghurt we get from the supermarket is organic or not – our home made variety is just better!

Back to the swanky boutique store organic produce – perhaps the biggest issue is weighing the pros and cons of, for example, an organic apple grown miles away and transported to me and the local apple that is not totally organic! The organic apple is perhaps healthier, but it causes more damage to the environment because it travels so far. The easy answer is to check first where the organic food you buy is actually produced and, unless your life depends on it, don’t buy it. The world is suffering because of our desires to eat apples during orange season and we need to be more aware of the unintended consequences of our actions.

Which brings me to our consumption habits in general – we consume too much, in terms of food as well as all the packaging that comes with it and ends up in rubbish dumps. The amount of kitchen waste that can be added to a compost heap is amazing – and these days it takes little effort to recycle glass, paper, cardboard and cans.

P.S. There is currently a Recycle Week campaign running from Monday 22 – Sunday 28 June - www.recyclenow.com

3 comments:

Nooj said...

Inspiring! Need this reminder to life a life of reflection. Will be using them tips...

Parasputin said...

good thoughts. quite easy as well to get a composter, they are dead cheap and a good way of using vegetable and garden waste. It is a good idea to start growing potatoes and peas as growing the spuds helps to break down the ground (read: help to get you to break down the ground) and peas fix nitrogen. they both also have a feel-good factor, as digging up potatoes is a magical experience and picking and eating peas straight out of the pods (before sugars turn to starch) is fantastic!
chillis are prob better grown under cover, fed with a phospate rich liquid feed (tomato feed is spot on) every week once the fruit have started showing themselves. if you can get grow-bags, it makes it much easier.

Dreamlife said...

The Majlis would like you :)

(Referring, of course, to the SANHA Chicken Wars ;)