Chennai seems to be buzzing with organic farming & organic/traditional food movement, these days. Healthier and alternative food choices seem to be catching up quickly, among the urban crowd. In order to elevate my status from being clueless to organic-aware citizen, I went and spoke to the lead volunteer of an NGO called reStore (East Coast Road), Ms. Radhika. They have a shop selling organic food items.
But first – Organic food is the same food that we eat on a day-to-day basis, but they are grown without using fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals. Grains, vegetables/fruits, oils, etc. can all be produced organically.
In fact, that is how food was grown in India for many thousand years. During the last few decades, since we faced severe food shortage, Government took certain measures to increase the quantity/efficiency of produce to meet the demand, and hence chemicals were introduced into our food-chain.
What no one anticipated, however, was the side-effects these chemicals ended up creating. If consumers suffer from diseases related to chronic exposure to chemicals (over a period of time), it’s worse for producers – they suffer from acute exposure (direct and immediate) and hence face a much greater risk to their health/life.
There was another problem created by the Government policies – Favoring certain types of grains (rice, wheat) over other grains that were traditionally popular (millets, for example). Add our fast-food culture and eating fashionable foods that are not native to India (like oats), we are only creating more problems.
Black, brown & white rice!!
It’s a known fact that many of our diseases are lifestyle-related and there could be no better preventive-medicine than food. In order to encourage us to adopt a healthier lifestyle (and suffer lesser ailments), organic farming and organic shops are getting established quickly across the city and even across the country. Chennai, I am told, is a leading the organic movement with a lot of vigor.
In their shop, I saw different types of organic foods like rice, basmati, grains, flour, millets, honey, oil, vegetables/fruits, tea/coffee powder, etc.
Wheat, Kambu, Spaghetti!!
I bought one packet of the spaghetti (shown above), to try instead of noodles. I also bought one type of millet (not sure which one). The millet was made into upma and I had it with pickle – it was quite good. Should try eating this spaghetti also, sometime. I know it is healthier than instant noodles.
Organic washing/cleaning agents packed in cardboard, w/o plastic.
They had a separate section where there were chemical-less washing powder, cleaning/mopping agent, cosmetics, clothes (made of organic cotton), etc. It seems, boondhikkai/soapnut is used for washing clothes; natural essential microorganisms (EM) eat off left-over food on floors to keep pests away. They also had many books on organic farming/traditional food. I bought two – one about millets and another about growing a home garden.
I asked if chemicals and fertilizers were not used earlier by farmers, and she said that our ancestors believed in managing pests (using repellent techniques that keep them away), than killing them. There were multiple types of food grains and enough diversity, back in those days – many were grown for their medicinal value. Nowadays, we know only a few types of food grains! Millets, for example, were very popular and were used instead of rice/wheat even 3-4 decades back. Oils were cold-pressed, and not refined (which strips them off certain nutrients).
I am going to switch to organic food in a phased manner – first I will be replacing the noodles/snacks with healthier items, eat millet upma for a few days in a month. But as and when more people adopt to healthier lifestyle, organic food will be available everywhere (they are already available in certain supermarket chains) and items will be less expensive. Then, I guess, many people will convert.
Organic food is slightly more expensive than normal food, but it reduces the cost of medicines, suffering, etc. later on. So, have you/do you intend to switch to organic anytime soon?