In recent times, going organic has been a lifestyle trend. People are slowing accepting that natural organic foods are safer options and help in health management. But, this hype comes with a tricky notion – Higher price means organic food. This is a very damaging and misleading concept as the chances of getting duped increases. You may be eating your regular pesticide laden veggies for the only reason that it was placed in organic aisle of the supermarket and had an organic label on it. Hence, it is always good to educate yourself on a few concepts regarding organic produce, in order to choose the right and healthy product.
- Seasonality of the produce
Every produce has its own natural course for growth and maturation. Mango is a common summer fruit (March to May) and oranges are harvested during winter (December to February). So if you get these fruits throughout the year or before season, it is either pre – stored or artificially ripened for faster availability. Therefore, you can easily tag the mangoes available in February as non–organic produce.
- Refine your eating habits
We are used to eating certain foods throughout the year. Somehow our meal is never complete without a said food, a prominent example being daily use of spinach or palak. Though spinach is available throughout the year, it is harvested during fall/autumn (September to December). Spinach has the right amount of nutrients during this season and hence, more beneficial. So next time you buy spinach in summer with an organic tag, consider it as an artificial produce.
- Anything perfect in looks is never natural
We all tend to buy perfect, blemish free and bright coloured fruits and vegetables, which is a misleading attribute that can have a bad impact on your health. Naturally produced food looks natural, uniquely carved, different in size, and with spots and blemishes. Natural food need not be rotten or spoilt, but will bear the various marks of its growth cycle. Thus, a perfectly shaped, glossy looking, blemish free apple is surely not organic.
- Question your food choice
Ask the food supplier about the produce i.e. the source of the seed, how and where it was grown, its season, time of harvest, source of transportation, how it was distributed, etc. Disfigured foods with blemishes and spots need not always be organic; sometimes it just means ineffective pest control. Seasonal produce fetch high price on early market entry. For this reason, many farmers restore to various manipulative methods like artificial ripening with ethylene gas, use of lab modified seeds for faster produce etc. to make profit. Therefore, you must avoid buying off season produce and define your food choices based on seasonality.
- What is local produce?
Market hype is the promoted use of local produce. But what is local produce? Is it the produce which is obtained from the organic farmers in your vicinity or your state or the neighbouring state? There is never a consensual definition of the term ‘local produce’. If this term pops up, it is best to clarify with the super market or the vendor as to what he means by local produce. In simple terms, local produces will be seasonal with limited stock.
- Reading the labels and certifications
Even though it is not a fool proof method, labels and attached certifications give a lot of information about the product. For example, if you come across an extra virgin olive bottle, check the label, which reads– 70% olive oil, 30% vegetable oil; so be sure of adulteration and compromised standards before making a purchase.
However, unlike foreign countries, in countries like India obtaining certification is a laborious process requiring a lot of time and money. So most of the times, organic farmers forgo this process to avoid losses. It is always best to probe the local producers with the question relevant to the local produce in order to confirm the authenticity.
- Be your own judge
Sometimes non–organic farmers exhibit their produce as organic with an intention to make better profit. So always ask yourself – Is the so called local farmers are in business to double his income? Does he have a passion towards providing quality food or he is just worried about his gain? People, who come into business just to make profit, usually restore to manipulative techniques and compromises on the quality of products.
Also, if you have the time and energy visit the local organic farm and interact with the farmers. Look around and see the methods of cultivation, pest control, etc. Your passion for quality food and involvement may further motivate the farmers to supply produce of improved quality to the local market.
To conclude, consumer involvement is the key attribute for making good quality organic produce available in the market. Buy seasonal foods and avoid buying foods launched earlier than the seasonal availability since, seasonal foods are usually cost effective and healthier as compared to the off season foods.