Food industry giants, including Mars and General Mills, have purchased smaller organic companies and introduced their organic brands to many mainstream shoppers, while additional small producers in this country, and many others, are starting new organic companies, often dedicated to artisan-style, high-quality organic production on a modest scale.
Photo courtesy Fotolia/Andres Rodriguez
It's a great time to be an organic food shopper, whether
you're new to organics or a veteran devotee. Since 2002,
when the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations for
organic foods, which set production and handling standards
that all food labeled "organic" must meet, went into
effect, the organic food business has been booming. Growing
concerns about toxic pesticides, inhumane treatment of
livestock animals, E. coli outbreaks and mad cow disease
continue to fuel the growth, as does people's desire to
support a more eco-friendly food chain.
More and more supermarkets are expanding their organic
sections and moving those products to more prominent store
positions. Local food co-ops are featuring a wider range of
products than ever before, and they are buying from local
producers whenever they can. There are even growing chains
of natural foods supermarkets: Whole Foods has 146 stores
in 27 states and Canada, and Wild Oats has 101 locations in
25 states and Canada.
Food industry giants, including Mars and General Mills,
have purchased smaller organic companies and introduced
their organic brands to many mainstream shoppers, while
additional small producers in this country, and many
others, are starting new organic companies, often dedicated
to artisan-style, high-quality organic production on a
modest scale. In either case, everybody wins — more
wholesome, flavorful organic products are being produced
and sold, more land is being farmed sustainably and more
livestock animals are being raised humanely.
Many of these new, premium organic products offer
extraordinary tastes. A few months ago at MOTHER EARTH
NEWS, we tasted several kinds of organic soybeans and
discovered how much better black soybeans taste than the
more-common yellow types. And our favorite cookie now is
the Newman's Own Organics Fig Newman.
Some items are more expensive than standard fair, but you
get what you pay for, right? Foods bringing that rare,
homegrown flavor back into our favorite recipes are worth a
premium price whether they're available in our
supermarkets, online or at a local farm. Some of these
products come from just down the road and others come from
half-a-world away. Although we normally encourage you to
buy as locally as you can, we've found that some of the
topnotch imports remind us of how good our U.S. food can,
and should, be.
A great example is the certified organic Bionaturae tomato
paste we also tasted recently here at MOTHER'S office: It
had the richest, sweetest tomato taste we've ever
encountered short of homemade. According to the company,
the paste is made from heirloom tomato varieties vine
ripened and handpicked on a network of Tuscan family farms
in Italy. The tomatoes are milled to an ultra-smooth
consistency and packed in glass to preserve the fresh
taste. This stuff is perfect with fresh herbs atop a dish
of steaming pasta, or on a pizza crust ready for the oven,
or for stirring into some soups and fish dishes. And like
many European products, this paste has no added sodium, so
the tomato flavor isn't overpowered by extra salt.
Bionaturae also makes olive oil and fruit nectars, and
we're eager to see if these products are as exceptional as
the tomato paste.
Yet another example is South Carolina-based Anson Mills'
whole-grain, cold-milled cornmeal, which we tested for our
"Heirloom Corn" article. Anson's freshly
ground, organic heirloom corn made a corn bread that we all
agreed was the best we had ever tasted, with a rich corny
flavor and pleasing chewy texture. It made us all eager to
try growing and grinding our own cornmeal.
Look for These Organic Brands
You will find increasing numbers of organic products
turning up on the shelves of your favorite
markets — sometimes in a special organic food section,
and sometimes right beside the conventional counterparts.
The brands listed below offer organic products in the
following categories. The next time you shop, be sure to
try something new from these selections; we're betting
you'll find some favorites.
Green Mountain Coffee
New Harvest Coffee
Sacred Grounds Organic Coffee
Yogi Tea Company
Canned Foods and Sauces
Kashi Organic Promise
Fairfield Farm Kitchens
Willow Wind Organic Farms
Grains, Pasta, Beans and Rice
Bob's Red Mill
King Arthur Flour
Laura's Lean Beef
Oils and Salad Dressings
Girard's Salad Dressings
Spectrum Organic Products
Snacks and Sweets
Garden of Eatin'
Newman's Own Organics
Mori-Nu Organic Soy Products
Spring Creek Natural Foods
Morton & Bassett Spices
The Spice Hunter
E-mail or Phone Order
Alakef Coffee Roasters
Sun Organic Farm