Thursday, October 27, 2016

Stop gifting junk for festivals, care for the planet and gift organic food and ingredients | 11 organic food gifts you can source directly from farmers


The great Indian season of festivals is on. We have slayed one festival (ahh that was Ravan) already and gearing up for another, the one that celebrates the arrival of the God, wealth and knowledge, light and awakening, Diwali, when we decorate our homes and light lamps of all types.

Diwali gifts

For the last 2 decades Diwali has become a festival that makes the lives of asthmatics difficult and most of us feel sick of the pollution caused by the firecrackers. Our family has not been lighting any firecrackers since around 1989 when my younger brother came home one day saying we wont do any firecrackers since they cause air pollution. We were not into firecrackers even before that but a customary phuljhadi and anar (both sparklers) were brought to usher in Diwali every year, we realised the customs can be changed with changing times.

We can't afford to pollute our surroundings even more.

But it is not just the firecrackers that cause pollution, a lot of plastic waste and other types of solid waste is also generated during Diwali. One walk through the markets around Diwali and we can observe how the tradition of gift exchange during this festival has become more and more trashy, literally so. Carton packs of soft drinks, plastic bottles of artificially coloured and synthetically sweetened drinks, a sea of crackers and cookies in shiny plastic packages and more shiny wrapping keeps luring people to buy more and gift more.

gift ideas

All markets target more and more sales, cheap products and shiny packaging helps sometimes. As consumers we need to take stock of the situation. If it is food we need to be alert and aware all the more.

Deeply concerned about all such reasons I thought of asking a few of my farmer friends how they would revolutionize Diwali gifting if they had to offer their own produce as Diwali gifts. How wonderful it will be if we all started supporting the farmers directly by ordering our Diwali gifts also from them.

gift ideas
The suggestions by the farmers friends who grow organic food have been listed below. I think these produce are impressive as gifts, and support the farmers who are struggling to get market for small quantities they grow.
1. Cold pressed oils. Many farmers grow oil seeds and getting cold pressed oils directly from them for home consumption as well as gifting is a great idea. Good quality ghee is also difficult to get so if you know someone who makes it, better make good use of it.

cooking oils
    2. Single origin or wild honey, neem, mustard or multi-flora honey is also a great gift. Many farmers do beekeeping as it helps their crops in pollination too. Some farmers make their own jaggery too, we can find them if we try harder.

    alternative real sweeteners
    3. Some artisan quality healthy products like Malted ragi drink, fresh sattu (roasted chikpea flour) etc are some of the products that are not available easily in the markets but you can trust your farmer friends. For unpolished lentils, local rice varieties and pearl barley etc I find my farmer friends absolutely reliable.

    spices and healthy flours
    4. Millets of the season. Yes the fresh millets are a delight to cook. For ages we used to get dusty and rancid millets because they were stored poorly, the reason being millets were being marketed only as bird feed and few humans cared about them. Now more farmers are growing them and one can get fresh millets to know how good they are. Include some red or purple rice varieties grown in India and may be Amaranth, Buckwheat and pearl Barley to the mix.

    millets
    5. Spice blends and individual spices that the farmer is growing. I am just back from a coffee estate where pepper is grown as a secondary crop and the pepper is so good it is the best pepper I have ever had.

    spices
    6. Healthy processed foods like peanut butter, tahini, fruit preserves, sun dried tomatoes and vegetables etc can be sources from farmers you know. Try and find out more you will actually bump into many such organic farmers. I have seen Jimmy's kitchen in Chanakyapuri Organic Farmer's market and his nut butters are nice.

    nut butter and preserve

    You can get some jams, marmalades or preserves made by some home cook too. See this spiced amla jam that went for a gift hamper of Eat With India this season, along with the kanji. Eat with India is promoting regional cuisines and home cooks in several innovative ways.

    gift ideas
    7. Get your tea and coffee from plantation owners directly. Yes it is worth it for everyday consumption as well as for festive gifting.

    Once you start sourcing the non perishable ingredients directly from the farmers located in all corners of the country, you would know how we are shortchanged for the value of our hard earned money. The quality of good produce speaks for itself.

    brewed coffee in a dawra mug
    8. Dried herbs and flowers for making teas, tisanes and herb blends of your own. Like these Parijat flowers can be dried and made into a healing tisane.

    parijat tea/tisane

    One can get different flowers and spices mixed with green tea to make a new aromatic tea blend. All organic farmers grow a variety of flowers and fruits because maintaining a good diversity at the farms and plantation helps improve productivity in many ways. So you will find that a millet farmer can also send you good quality herbs, dried flowers and some fruits in season.

    herbs and tea blends

    We can just trust the farmer friends to send us whatever they grow in the season. This way we can get a unique blend every time and the flexibility to mix and match the flavours.

    herbs and tea blends
    9. Seeds and garden starter kits can be great gifts for the green thumbs you know. And of course kids can learn gardening if you gift them such novel, unusual and yet thoughtful gifts. Or you can gift potted plants and micro greens starter kit.

    gardening

    10. Seeds and nuts are the best Diwali gifts and one can buy them from source too most of the times. The power of the internet is admirable in such times when you search for farmers and orchard owners who grow nuts and fruits in the mountains or even peanuts and sesame somewhere in arid regions.

    hazelnuts

    Yes we get good Hazelnuts too grown in India. There are orchards and forests in the Himalayan region where you get to see such things.

    All we have to do is to look around we can find anything. And if we don't find it was not meant for us, yes that means it is no grown in the country.

    11. The best gift of the season is here. A friend Nina Sengupta has published a coloring book that illustrates edible weeds and flowers that will make a great gift for adults and kids alike. You can order the book from here.

    Now you have a good list of ingredients and resources, picking up gifts for healthy living will be easier now I am sure.

    I am listing the farmers and retailers and will share that soon on the blog. You can get in touch with them directly and order their specialty stuff either for gifting or for personal use.

    Don't forget to tell me if you really think that a compilation of organic food sources will help you here.

    Hope these gifting ides helps make better decisions when you buy food for yourself and for friends and family as gifts.


    9 comments:

    1. Fantastic ideas. This year I am buying homemade besan laddoos from a lady in the neighbourhood to gift. She also makes lovely homemade ghee. I have bought some from her. That way I can save on my labour and yet support another person who is giving me the same-quality stuff. We also gift saplings and have gifted avocados when the tree bore the bounty. I will look forward to your post with farmer addresses.

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      Replies
      1. Thanks Rachna. Yes buying from artisans and farmers themselves makes more sense to me. Knowing the source of our food is so important in present day situation I feel.

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    2. Dear Sangeeta,

      I deeply appreciate the effort you have put in to create this post. The suggestions are so very mindful. Would look forward to your compilation of organic farmers and from where to source their products. Since last 9 years i have switched to using organic and products created using sustainable methods. many a times not all products are available from local organic farmers and the authenticity of lot of products sold as organic is also questionable. Most of my food, spices, honey, jaggery came from a bio-
      dynamic farm near Ahmedabad. But with growing demand good products do remain scarce. Will definitely want to know about good farmers and when it comes from you I would be rest assured....Many thanks and a very Happy Diwali...

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      Replies
      1. Thanks Sheetal. Happy diwali to you too.
        I am trying my best to make a resource list but it may take some time.

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    3. Practical alternatives like the ones mentioned above is definitely a big step towards being part of the solution than just ranting about a problem. Way to go !

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    4. Great ideas...can you provide some contact details of the people you source this stuff from?

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    5. Hello Sangeeta

      Its an absolute pleasure to go through post. As earlier requested by Sheetal, I too reuest you to kindly comply a list of sourcing all the above products. Thank you so much

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