Not on the organic wagon yet?

Saturday, 15 February 2014 - 6:00am IST Updated: Friday, 14 February 2014 - 6:49pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
With more people taking to pesticide-free food, here’s a guide for the uninitiated.

Off and on, there’s talk of organic produce, but who’s selling it? How can we be sure if it’s organic? And, most importantly, does it tip our monthly budget the wrong side? All these questions have answers. Read on...

See the real thing
The best way to understand about the organic food movement is to visit the organic Farmer’s Market that takes place every Sunday at Dharavi. An initiative by Kavita Mukhi, an eco nutritionist, from October to March, the farmer’s market at Maharashtra Nature Park on the Bandra Sion Link Road, makes available produce directly from the farmers from across the state. “While most of them are from the Nashik area, some come from Dahanu, and other places too,” Mukhi tells us. Apart from organic fruits, vegetables and cereals, the  market also has a cafeteria where you can try snacks and drinks made from organic ingredients.  

A visit to the market is a great way to be a part of  a welcoming community. And while you may feel that some items are priced slightly higher than your local vendor’s, their prices don’t fluctuate. “We have the same price throughout. Even when the market price rose, ours didn’t,” explains Mukhi.  

Weekly deliveries
Though organic foods have become popular, it’s yet to grow into a successful large scale retail model, for many reasons. Until then, there’s a network of suppliers who take your order over the phone and deliver the produce at your doorstep. Thane-based Natures Gram is one of them. Run by Vishal Ghodke, it’s patrons get a list of the weekly produce available. Web portal Organic Garden also takes orders and delivers across Mumbai, and they have a wider selection of items, including dairy products.  

Chef Speak
Those keen to pick up organic foods must look up online for Kannan’s organic vegetable farms in Tamil Nadu, Sylvester, who has a farm outside Bangalore, and line caught seafood from Stanley in Kerala. To understand the difference in taste, try an organic red pumpkin for the unadulterated natural flavour and sweetness.
—Chef Zubin D’souza, Executive Chef, Waterstones Hotel

Hybrid fruits and vegetables contain harmful pesticides. The switch isn’t that difficult anymore. Brands like Ecorico, RISO Bran Oil, Naturally Yours, Unived are already on super market shelves. But a must-by from the farmer’s market are apples, grapes, brussels sprout and broccoli.
—Navid Sayyad, Executive Chef of Orchid

The first organic vegetable that caught my attention was lettuce. It has small holes and uneven leaves. Natural produce is not perfect in appearance. In taste though, they have an enhanced flavour.
—Chef Mitesh Rangras, Lemon Grass

Online portals that provide home delivery are a convenient option. Mangoes is one fruit which is highly abused right from raw fruit to the final ripening stage so I feel one should only pick up organic mangoes.  
—Sudhir Pai , Executive Chef, Holiday Inn

My first brush with organic farming was in Goa where I met a farmer who grew organic vegetables, fruits, edible flowers and greens in his garden, right next to his stall. Most of this produce tasted wonderful raw and needs no extra seasoning. While Godrej Natures Basket stocks some items, check out the vegetable store next Kabutar Khana in Dadar, and one more hidden gem near Plaza Theatre, the lane that runs adjacent to where the theatre ends.
—Chef Bijay Pal Rawat, The Big Bang Bar and Cafe, Oshiwara

Buyer’s guide
When buying organic produce/products, you can ask if they have a certification. “Most of them are either Swiss Eco cert cerfitied, USDA certified or One cert certified,” says Swapnil Pandit, Operations Head at Organic Garden. Another common certification among small organic farmers is the PGS certification, says Ghodke. “As third party certifications are costly, most farmers certify each other’s produce,” he explains. Taste test and trust, though is the best way to go forward, advises Mukhi. A look test would be that these products are not perfect looking. “Produce from desi and open pollinated seeds is never perfect-looking. And they’ll have a shorter shelf life unlike those from hybrid seeds,” says Ghodke.

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