The meteoric rise of organics means that today you can leave dusty brown rice and gritty lentils on the shelf and buy tasty, top-quality organic alternatives for just about any of your cupboard essentials. And the range of convenience foods and sweet and savory snacks is growing by the day—and certainly too wide to cataloger here. Here are some pointers to help you decide how to stock your larder.
Rice, grains and cereals, corn and soya
The huge global demand for these staple crops means they are heavily doused with pesticides. Pesticide residues are routinely detected, especially in rice and wheat, and this is particularly discouraging if you prefer whole grains, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta and rice. These are also the most likely crops to follow maize and soya into wide scale GM commercial growing.
If these issues concern you, choose organic rice, soya, wheat and grain products, and for the most part you’ll discover finer tasting versions of otherwise bland foods. Organic risotto rice (arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano) is especially prized for its excellent cooking quality and nutty flavour. If you’ve only had conventional polenta and wondered what all the fuss was about, try the sunny-coloured organic version, and you’ll discover polenta really does taste of something.
Pasta and noodles
There is a staggering choice of organically grown plain and egg pastas of every size, shape and colour—including a better than average selection of wheat-free and gluten-free pastas for people on restricted diets.
Once just sold by a few specialist millers, there are now organic options offered by most big commercial millers. They are widely available and have similar keeping and cooking qualities to conventional flours. If you’re a home baker, treat yourself to some fresh stone-ground wholemeal flour from one of the traditional millers. You will notice a difference. Some bigger millers include “flour improvers” in organic flour— generally vitamin C—but it irks those in search of unadulterated food.
Beans and legumes
Canned varieties are generally good and rarely contain added salt or sugar. The quality of dried beans is less consistent—there are some tough ones about, usually victims of long storage and low turnover. Make sure you buy dried beans and legumes long before their sell-by date and from a source with high turnover.
Other canned goods
The best organic canned tomatoes are so good that you can eat them straight from the tin—and they make a great base for quick salsas. Baked beans, sweetened with apple juice or molasses, generally taste and look altogether too wholesome to convince kids, but it is worth a try.
Nuts and seeds
Whether conventional or organic, nuts with a high oil content—for example, pine nuts and walnuts—go rancid very quickly. The same advice applies as for choosing dried legumes—only more so. Conventional nuts are fumigated in storage to prevent growth of aflatoxins (carcinogens which are produced by molds in storage). Organic producers must rely on optimum storage conditions, so it’s worth choosing your supplier carefully.
Dried herbs and spices
You don’t fancy gamma-ray garam masala, so choose organic. Many conventional dried herbs and spices are irradiated, as well as being treated with the usual range of pesticides.
Buying organic avoids the noxious preservative, sulphur dioxide, that is widely used on conventional dried fruit. Sulphur dioxide can cause acute allergic reactions in some people. Unsulphured, organic dried fruits—especially apricots—are darker but flavorsome.
Just for the taste! High cocoa solids content is about 70 per cent, plus strictly limited organic ingredients make for a sublime, guilt-free treat. Leading organic brands are also “fair-trade”—so you’re supporting better conditions for plantation workers, and minimizing your own (and their) exposure to some of the most harmful pesticides. The organochlorine lindane is routinely used on conventional cocoa crops and turns up regularly in tests on chocolate.
Processed foods, including biscuits, sweets, savory snacks, breakfast cereals and ready-made meals
Organic refers to the way food has been produced, but it doesn’t guarantee that the end result will be healthy, tasty or nutritious. Many of the foods in this ever-expanding category are great, but others are just as over-packaged, high in sugar, salt and fat, and low on taste and nutritional value as their conventional counterparts. Up to 5 per cent non-organic ingredients are allowed. Read the label and exercise your common sense.
Filed Under: Home & Maintenance
About the Author: Jason Prickett loves to write about home maintenance and stuff you can do yourself instead of hiring any professional. His step by step guides will assist you in completing your home maintenance tasks.