Simple pointers on how to tell what is organic
◊ By Nandini Gulati
Many consider organic food (food grown without the use of any chemicals) to be something special. But before the Green Revolution in India, all food was organic and it was just called “food”! It is ironic that today, non-organic food has become “conventional” and labels and certificates are required to verify authenticity of organic food.
The Green Revolution (1967 to 1978) entailed, among other measures, the menacing chemicalisation of Indian agriculture. It encouraged use of fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, larvicides, and fungicides. These poisons are meant to kill unwanted insects and toxic growths that damage crops, but in fact, they destroy all life form, some of it beneficial—such as earthworms and microorganisms present in the soil.
Most food today is sprayed with chemical fertilisers, primarily containing only Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, which do not provide wholesome nourishment to plants. Moreover, these chemicals, by way of food consumption, enter our systems and rob us of longevity and good health, and cause myriad diseases.
With growing awareness of the ills of chemical based farming, the demand for organic foods has been growing over the years. Yet, the authenticity of organically grown food is a matter of serious concern. Due to the trend for organic foods and their more premium price, some scamsters try to pass off conventional (containing pesticide residue, ripening agents and other toxic chemicals) food as organic and customers are none the wiser.
Having been a loyal consumer of organic foods for six years now, I have learned to identify real organic foods. Here are my 5 simple tips:
01 LOVE THE UGLY
Organic food does not look as smooth and shiny as the conventional produce you may see on the carts of vegetable vendors. Organic vegetables may have odd shapes and may appear dull in colour (they are not waxed and spray painted). Also, organic daals and beans may not have uniform colours and may have a rustic, rough and unfinished look. In nature, almost every fruit or vegetable has unique bumps and edges. If the produce looks shiny, uniform, even and smooth, it’s likely not organic.
02 SHORT & SWEET
Organic produce, especially, grains and pulses, do not last as long as conventional staples on the shelf because insects are not repelled by the chemicals. Also, organic foods are preservative free, so nothing is added during the packaging process to make the product last longer.
The ideal thing to do is buy manageable quantities of food frequently rather than buying in bulk for months. This way, you can enjoy nutritionally superior and safe food without having to resort to wastage.
03 THE SMELL, IT TELLS
The strong fragrance of organic fruits, spices and herbs is more potent than that of conventional foods. When one brings organic mangoes, oranges, turmeric, ginger or coriander home, the whole house comes alive with their fragrance. Regular food, although primped and preened, barely smells of anything, if at all.
04 TASTE THAT PACKS A PUNCH
Due to the rich nutrient concentration in organic produce, its taste is far more flavourful and, in the case of herbs and spices, quite intense. Consequently, you need to use lesser quantities of these. Conventional spices and nuts may have their oil removed to make them last longer on the shelf. This makes the taste less intense and you need to use larger quantities to “taste” them.
The satiety level attained from organic food is also higher, which means that you tend to feel full faster as the higher diversity and amount of nutrients tend to satisfy your hunger sooner.
05 INSECTS MEAN LIFE!
Sometimes you may spot a worm in your organic mango or vegetables. This actually shows there is life present on the farm from where the fruit or vegetable has been procured.
Remember what I mentioned earlier about pesticides—they kill life form. So, if your vegetable or fruit has an insect in it, it means it was not sprayed with pesticides. Or else this life form would not have existed.
Simply examine and wash the produce really well and cut out the rotten part and consume it. Of course, if it is infested, throw it away and ask your organic farmer for compensation. They are usually happy to oblige.