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Before we go all hullaballoo over the chemicals in our meals today, an interesting fact worth noting is that India was producing mostly all-organic foodstuffs until the ’60s. It was a deficit in production that brought us to this point where we need to actively seek out ingredients that aren’t doused in chemicals. Luckily, many of us are choosing to do exactly that. The organic food market today is expected to grow exponentially.

Medical studies, health magazines and even our family doctors have been telling us to make the switch for a while now. Still, for many of us, the cost seems steep. Here, it helps to know that the cost is what it is due to the many hands that such produce goes through before reaching us, and the markup that keeps adding up. And even if the cost is less, where does one begin their research to estimate its actual worth?

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Thankfully, the organic food scene in India does not include the kind of western paranoia spawned by extensive labels listing allergens and nutritional values and warnings. Check out this brilliant chemistry blog to see how far labels can go! It went viral.

But let’s see what we can do to simplify this further. Having volunteered at an organic farm myself (I went WWOOFing in Canada, highly recommended!), I can tell you that even before you decide to step into a gourmet ‘natural food’ shop, it helps a great deal to keep some simple pointers in mind. So here goes.

It needs to be fully organic

Growing veggies in a farm using manure instead of fertilizers is a perfect start, but to be truly ‘organic’ the food needs to be free of any kind of additives, including colouring agents and preservatives. That means no artificial sweeteners either, so read your labels well before use. And remember, ‘natural’ is different from organic.

The organic oxymoron

It’s important to know that if you’re digging into a bag of organic chips or dropping three cubes of supposedly organic raw cane sugar into your morning chai, it doesn’t mean that this will automatically add to your weight loss programme. Organic is not automatically healthy. So plan your shopping (and diet!) with this in mind.

But not all of it is organic

Duh. Consider this simple fact – most of the organic food retailers claim to bring food from the fields of certified organic farmers to your kitchens in the city. Which means they are distributors and not growers. Which essentially means that they have no way to check and ensure that no chemicals are being thrown into the crops on the sly.

Freshness, my friend

There is little point to organic food if it isn’t being delivered fresh. Firstly, because it decays faster, and secondly because this is a fledgling industry with no clear transportation structure or procedures in place. What you need is something like back2basics — a startup in Bangalore that supplies their own farm-fresh organic produce across the city.

Find the farmer

And what if you aren’t in Bangalore to avail such a daily-harvest service? Well, if you are in Chennai you have these mavericks. If not, make a trip to the next farmer’s market in your city; most big cities have one. This one’s a regular for Mumbaikars and here’s one to shop in Delhi.

 

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