I made a decision to go organic a few years ago when I learned and understood the harmful effects that chemicals used in agriculture and food processing had on my health.
Being constantly involved with sourcing food, buying food, cooking food and educating people about organic cooking, I am at a slight advantage to most people who wish to go the organic way and I understand the challenges that could be present.
Cooking organically is not just a decision, it is a conscious choice and you have to be prepared and organized to really live this way. Organic cooking is not just about the ingredients but all aspects of the ingredients from source to transport to packaging and importantly, seasonality. Organic produce and products are very specific and although they are quite readily available, you still need to do a bit of research to find the best and most suitable option for you.
I will outline some important steps to cooking organically.
I feel the first thing to decide is about animal protein. Decide if you are including it in your diet and if so, then what you are going to eat. Chicken should be at least free-range, lamb and beef too. Fish most definitely needs to be from sustainable sources (termed “green” fish) and venison like kudu and springbok is naturally free-range. Ensure that the protein is as fresh as possible and preferably not frozen. If you buy extra, freezing is suitable although not ideal. Only eat, as you really need to, not just from habit and remember the life given for this meal.
The next is your seasonal fresh produce. Decide where you are going to get it. There are a number of choices. Box schemes have specific days of ordering and delivering. This is a weekly date you want to keep. Also choose the kindest delivery option for your fresh produce. By this I mean, don’t leave it in a hot car the whole day. As soon as you can, you need to take care of your investment by washing and correctly storing your produce. Cut off leaves that will not be eaten, separate and store the produce. Have clean storage containers for your food and a dark airy draw for your onions, potatoes and hardier vegetables. Box schemes may give you an indication of what you will get.
Another choice you are presented with is how strict are you with “certified” organic or “grown” organic. I like supporting local, small-scale farmers and especially community gardens. Fresh produce markets whether small or large, are on specific days so one needs to go early, have your own box or basket to carry your purchase and be spontaneous with your purchase as there may be some exciting seasonal greens that were just perfect to be harvested or even a homemade preserve that can spice up your meals.
Organic produce bought from a larger retailer may come with packaging that is not too environmentally friendly and it even may be imported produce. This is where you need to assess what your reasons for cooking organic is.
Dried goods like rice; other grains, cereals, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds are essential in your cupboard to contribute to a varied and nutritious organic meal. They keep for a long time and I recommended to only buy that what you have come to like and works for you after some adventurous experimentation with new and interesting things like quinoa and millet.
Spices, oils and vinegars need to be great quality and the good thing here is that the organic variety is generally a superior quality product. Keep your oil varieties to a minimum, especially the more delicate ones as these go rancid quite quickly. An extra virgin olive oil and pure coconut oil should always be in your pantry.
Grow fresh herbs in pots on your balcony, in your courtyard or your own vegetable patch. Picking fresh thyme or mint or making pesto from homegrown rocket is active participation in a life sustaining activity. You will feel good when you do this.
Now that you have all your fresh, seasonal and great quality food, take it to the next level of consciousness by preparing meals that give nutrition and pleasure.
Decide how you want to season your food (remember spices need to be gently cooked to enhance their flavour, herbs can be added raw at the end). Decide what percentage of cooked and raw vegetables you need to eat. Prepare your food with the correct soaking if it needs like grains, cereals and legumes. Create the time you need, create a nurturing environment, enjoy yourself, keep it simple till you are more comfortable then expand your repertoire. Cooking of any kind needs to be gentle. Organic food is full of nutrients, if you cook it too much you destroy them so then what is the point? Processed organic food then is also questionable. Are you making a lifestyle change or do you just want the label?
Organic cooking is an activity that connects you to yourself and the life giving energy of the planet. It’s getting back to basics and back to the essentials and it is your right and the right of your children. Always be in gratitude.
Larissa has complied a book full of delectable Organic Recipes and tips now available on Faithful to Nature – the book is a fantastic treat for you and for friends and family.