Organic is a growing sector and a lot of consumers are slowing converting their kitchen to organic. Most of the stores in India store both organic and natural products and sometimes due to insufficient information on the label, the consumer is often confused.
The term “organic” and “natural” are widely used and a lot of consumers are not sure what it means. Let me explain to you the difference between the two.
‘Natural’ means that the product has undergone minimal processing and does not contain any preservatives or additives, but the term is not protected in any way and there is no certification. However, “all natural” term is loosely used and doesn’t have any legal definition. Natural products can also be genetically modified organisms (GMO).
Organic products are those made entirely from natural substances, which in turn have been grown eschewing the use of artificial chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides. According to WHO, organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conversation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don’t use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. Simply put, organic produce is grown without the use of any pesticide, synthetic fertilizer, genetically modified organisms (GMO) or sewage sludge. Animal products like meat, poultry, eggs and diary products don’t take any antibiotics or growth hormones. Animal products like meat, poultry, eggs are also termed as free-range, where the animals have outside access and is not couped up in a cell.
In India, the term “organic” is not legally protected for use in retail, and organic produce can also be sold without certification. FSSAI is currently in the process of notification of organic rules for the domestic market.
The retail chain Fabindia developed a three-tier labeling system that distinguishes between so-called natural products, products from farms in conversion to organic and fully certified organic products. ICCOA, also followed similar labeling system for vegetables sourced from Karnataka. Navdanya, the NGO gives the ‘navdanya gurantee’ for organically grown products, the credibility of which is based on the reputation of the NGO rather than on third party certification.
Organic labeling can be further categorized into 3 categories:
100% organic: made with 100% organic ingredients
Organic: made with 95% organic ingredients
Made with organic ingredients: made with organic ingredients without any certification
Since organic sector is an unorganized one in India, a lot of times you will see unbranded or non-labelled packets at stores. This may be due to several reasons, repackaging by the store (who doesn’t follow any labeling norms due to small supply), small production/supply, seasonal product, applied for certification and is in transition, cannot afford certification etc.
In Bangalore, it is common to see a lot of organic stores organizing twice a week sale of organic fruits and vegetables. These are mostly not certified and are sourced from farms on the outskirts. Organic in India, is mostly promoted on the basis of trust and the intent of the producer/seller. Since, certification cost is too high most of the small producers prefer to sell their goods through small retail outlets.
You might also like
Reference: Organic food marketing in urban centres of India
Sugar industry in India is one of the largest industry after textiles. Manufacture of sugar involves a series of processing and can be a little complicated as compared to jaggery. Jaggery, on the other hand can be produced in small batches and has simple production. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu are the leading manufacturing states in India. Jaggery follows 3 steps:
- Juice extraction
- Filtration & Boiling
- Molding, Cooling & Packing
Sugar and jaggery contain mainly sucrose, expect jaggery contains traces of mineral salts, iron & fiber. Most of the jaggery comes from remote rural places and reach the market through agents. There is one industrial use of jaggery, and that is in the manufacturing of rum. Karnataka is the only state which is set to become the first in the country to produce high quality rum from jaggery. Three cheers for rum drinkers 😉
Most of the processing house follow their set of proportions and heating technique and may differ from one another. The photo log should give you a clear picture of the jaggery production.
Jaggery is available in gold or dark brown shade. Gold jaggery uses some amount of chemical to showcase an attractive colour. A lot of commercial jaggery producers believe that the gold colour is what attracts the consumers.
Note: All pictures belong to this blog. Please consult admin before using it for any purpose.
You might also like
Coconut sugar production is a very simple one as compared to most other sugars. There is absolutely no additives and it is prepared in the most sustainable way. I’ve been talking about this wonder sugar for some time and its benefits. I recently visited one of the farm which produces the best coconut sugar ever!
Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut tree. This sap is collected once or twice a day and comes from the stem that would normally feed a group of coconuts. Collection of the sap is done by snipping the stem and bending it into a collection vessel, an earthen pot lined with limestone powder or chunna to avoid fermentation. The collected liquid in the collection vessel is poured into the boiling vessel which is done first thing in the morning. This is usually done early mornings when the weather is relatively cooler within a span of four hours. This neera or palm toddy is boiled to a desired runny and sticky consistency. This is poured into molds and dried before packing.
i2cook’s coconut sugar goes into further breaking down into powder form and is sun-dried. Coconut palm sugar and palm sugar are two different types of sugar. Please refer my blog post for further clarification on different types of sugar (with GI comparison). I use coconut sugar in my tea/coffee or in my banana bread amost every other day. I use this sugar to make some coconut sugar cookies too!
A lot of you may be concerned about the sap being used only in sugar production and wondering about growing coconuts… To clear your doubt – only 10-15 trees depending on the production capacity of that particular farm is kept separate for coconut sugar production only. One of the farm would only produce 10kg per day during the first half of the day and would keep the rest of the day for other work like agriculture, cattle feed etc. The trees marked for coconut sugar production are kept closer to home for a simple reason being, closer to home means closer to production/boiling facility and also no tension of coconut falling on anyone’ head 😉
Using coconut sugar in your diet is relatively a new concept in India and I can proudly say that “i2cook” is one of the first company to launch coconut sugar as a retail product. Coconut sugar production helps farmers to gain an extra income apart from their other agricultural practices. Coconut sugar is not only good for you but also good for the environment!
This post has been long over due and I cannot express how much I’ve been pushing myself to write this post. Settling down in a new home and office at the same time can be very exhausting. I’m slowly getting my life back to normal and enjoying meeting new people and learning something new every day.
I happen to know about Martha’s preserves through a friend of mine and was curious to meet the face behind such lovely products. Every product which comes out is dear to every entrepreneur and setting up a business coming from foreign land is not an easy task. Meet Martha Kohlhagen. She makes awesome marmalade and sauces which gives you a taste of a true artisan product sans preservatives.
Martha’s Preserves operates from a 20 acre farm at Bannerghatta. Martha stays and works from her farm. They are a team of 10 dedicated individuals dishing out 10 plus yummy products like pomegranate and orange marmalade, lemon curd, caramel sauce, chocolate fudge, onion relish etc. Martha has a background in food technology and uses her grandmother’s recipe to make these delicious products. She does keep the Indian taste in mind and has created products like chilli pineapple jam. Martha aims to produce quality products without comprising on taste. She says that it takes a lot of care and planning to sort fruits and make seasonal products. Martha plans to increase her reach to other cities too.
What really impressed me about Martha’s preserves is that they not only make unique combinations but also have sauces like caramel sauce, chocolate fudge sauce on offer that make life simple. Some ice-cream and a combo of these two sauces makes for a stellar dessert. However, for those who like a little more salt in their caramel sauce can add some sprinkles of sea salt to round up on the flavours. Martha’s Preserves are a Gourmet range, hence be prepared to shell an extra buck for these artisan products but trust me when I say they are worth it!
Since the time I’ve moved back to Bangalore, I’ve been enjoying avocados. My mom’s neighbouring garden produces some of the best and creamiest avocados that I’ve ever had. Long live thy neighbour! Avocado mousse is so easy to make and can be made guilt-free. The natural creamy texture of the avocado makes all the difference and you won’t miss any cream in your dessert. If you don’t have Martha’s chocolate fudge at home, you could use cocoa powder or dark couverture chocolate (melted). You can also spike your dessert with a teaspoon of brandy! This dessert allows you to play with ingredients and feel free to experiment by adding rolled oats, cashew butter or hazelnut with different flavours or textures.
Ingredients for avocado & chocolate fudge mousse
1 big size avocado, scooped into a bowl
2 tbs of Martha’s chocolate fudge sauce
1/2 tbs maple syrup or honey
1/2 tbs coffee decoction
nuts or cocao nibs for garnish
- Add all the ingredients in a mixer except garnish and make a fine paste.
- Pour the mousse into the desired serving glasses or bowls. Garnish with some nuts and cocao nibs. Refrigerate for minimum of two hours before serving.
- Serve chilled. Serves 2-4.
Note: I layered my serving glasses with some caramel sauce at the bottom to give my dessert a surprise element.
Martha’s Preserves is available at Foodhall.
An invite to an organic chocolate tasting and a 1 hour drive led me to a quaint cafe at Indiranagar where the tasting was held. A nice breezy evening and conversation over some tea and chocolate made me forget all about the horrid Bangalore traffic. We were all seated in a room and watched David and Angelika educate us about their passion – Earth Loaf.
Earth loaf makes artisan raw chocolate and tea infusions. I was surprised to sip on a glass of pure raw cacao beans infused in hot water that tasted good to my liking. David explained that it is a good energizer and a perfect post lunch drink. Earth loaf also has a blend with Assam tea leaf and cacao beans. David and Angelika come from the background of cocktail mixing. Their true calling for raw organic food lead them to experiment with chocolates. Earth loaf is based out of Mysore and currently David is busy training two women who come to work with him from a nearby Village. It took about two years to source and make their own machinery to produce the finest quality of handmade chocolate, right from scratch. David believes that chocolate is addictive due to its sugar content and he wants his customers to experience the opposite in his product. He believes that by adding minimum amount of coconut sugar, he is giving a pure taste of cacao rather than a sugar overload. David believes that it is more sustainable to go local (Indian) rather than sourcing it from abroad even though he may be tempted to. The raw materials are all procured from South and the ingredients used are minimum.
After all this talk about raw chocolate and cacao beans, many of you must be wondering that what is cacao beans….
Cacao beans are a source of all things chocolate. Cacao beans contain phenylethylamine (PEA), an antidepressant that stimulates the body’s adrenaline and dopamine levels for a dose of happy feelings. So now you know the reason why chocolate makes us happy 😉
Cacao beans may look like an almond and comes with a thin skin covering. This skin can be removed by hand or soaked in warm water to discard the skin. Large processing house use machine to remove the skin covering, David built his own machinery to remove the skin. These beans are then crushed and are called cacao nibs, which is used as a garnish or are processed into making chocolates. Cacao beans is particularly found to be very healthy for its flavonoid content. The darker the chocolate the better flavonoid content is has, which helps to prevent diseases Cancer and Alzheimer.
How is earth loaf chocolate different from the conventional dark chocolate?
Earth loaf chocolate is made with minimum ingredients and doesn’t contain any milk solids. This chocolate is made from pure raw cacao and is also vegan. Most of the conventional chocolates are so highly processed that they tend to lose their nutrients and antioxidants. More on raw chocolate and coconut sugar.
David says that he is trying to set a trend as it is one of its kind in India. I liked the idea of tasting raw cacao and coconut sugar in my chocolate. Right now, I’m enjoying my chocolate with a glass of wine 🙂
I’m here to share my experience with organic food and how it changed my kitchen!
My kitchen still functions the same with any recipe from any cuisine that I like to cook. The only thing that has changed is that 99% of the ingredients that I use now are sans pesticide. Sounds unbelievable doesn’t it….
There is a lot of information on the internet telling you that organic food is good for you or that there is no proven fact that organic food is more healthier compared to the conventional food. My theory is very simple, if my food is grown artificially or ripened or polished with the stuff that I cannot even pronounce, I prefer to stay away. I like my bottle of peanut butter to taste like peanuts and nothing else. For me, it doesn’t matter if I have to consume my condiments within a certain period of time. I prefer it this way as it gives me more confidence that there has been nothing artificial added to it to make it last long.
I was first introduced to the term ‘organic’ when I was interning in an Architect’s office in Auroville. I used to have my lunch everyday at the solar kitchen where most of the ingredients were grown locally and were organic. As a young individual, I never realised the importance and forgot all about it. In the year 2011, I was reintroduced to organic produce through Farmer’s Market. This is when I took notice. The first thing that hit me was the taste. The produce were not only fresh but had a sweet, refreshing taste. I started cooking with organic produce and noticed that my cooking tasted of pure ingredients and that I didn’t have to do too much to enhance it. Thus my journey to learn about different organic ingredients started.
My approach has been slow but consistent. Organic food is 10-20% higher priced than conventional foods. My theory here is more simple, If I’m cutting down on my one or two bill(s) of eating out, I can buy better quality ingredients for my family. I first made a note of all the ingredients that we consume at home and narrowed it down to the most consumed first. For example, rice is the most consumed ingredient at home and I changed it to organic first. I gradually made a progress and have converted my kitchen into an organic one over a period of 12 months. Now we eat out less and still save more on groceries than before!!
I eat organic food and I’m not a vegetarian!
It is very difficult to source organic meat. I’m told that there are organic chicken available in some parts of India. I haven’t come across any and I don’t see it available in Mumbai or Bangalore (as a retail product). I do eat fee range chicken or eggs and studies have proven that they contain more nutrition than the injected ones. I have shared more information on free range in my old blog post. I prefer the locally available seasonal fish in comparison to the frozen ones.
Does organic food taste good?
I’ve been asked this question by several people. I hope the pictures convince you that organic food is not boring as it may sound 🙂
Do I eat out?
As a blogger, I get invited to a lot of restaurants for tasting. Organic food is a part of my daily diet and I tend to be strict about it at home. However, there are some exclusive restaurants in different parts of the country serving some locally produced and organic food like Tattva in Delhi, Carrots in Bangalore or The Pantry, Birdsong in Mumbai.
Where to buy organic food?
There are a lot of options now from where you can buy organic food. Our online store i2cook is a 100% organic store. There are also stores in different cities which stock fresh organic produce from nearby farms. Cities like Mumbai and Bangalore are holding Farmers market selling organic produce regularly. Esvasa has a good list of stores across India selling organic produce.
We are all fond of sugar and it has become an integral part of our everyday diet. Sugar is everywhere! Your morning cup of tea/coffee, fruits, cereals, bread all contain sugar. If sugar is such an important part of our diet; don’t you think you should know what your options are, before choosing the right type of sugar that your body requires? Some may also tell you that your body doesn’t require any sugar and you may go on a “no sugar diet”. Sometime later, you find yourself losing control over a candy; to kill your sugar craving. There are times when you are stressed or going through your PMS and all you want is a piece of that scrumptious dessert. Why is sugar bad for you? Is it because all good things have to be the devil incarnate?! 😉 Perhaps a little knowledge on what sugar really is might help.
Sugar is a source of energy for all our body cells. It comes from food, mainly carbohydrates and excess sugar gets stored in our muscles and liver. Which means that, most naturally available food already contains sugar as a natural sweetener. Hence sweeteners are a necessary food of life! One of the easy or the fastest way to detect sweeteners in food is by it’s GI (glycemic index). Glycemic index is a measurement of how quickly sugars from food enter your blood as glucose. High GI results in high levels of blood glucose and low GI results in slower absorption of glucose with fewer changes in blood glucose levels.
Sucrose (combo of glucose + fructose) comes from sugar cane or beet and is often referred to as ‘table’ or ‘added’ sugar. It also occurs naturally in some fruits and vegetables. Chemically speaking table sugars refined from cane and beet sugar are quite similar. However, many of the labels do not specify if the sugar is extracted from beet. Cane sugar may caramelize better than beet, but the difference may not be noticeable to most. Though, sugar beet is common in other parts of the world, there has been some interest in growing sugar beet in India too.
There are so many sweeteners available in the market and the promotional doctored articles make it really hard for us to choose what is really good for us. I’m sharing with you a list of natural sweeteners which are not only healthy but also a good alternative to switch from refined and processed sugar crystals. I’ve cooked, baked and have made them a part of my diet. I think you need to be comfortable with each sweetener and that’s when you know what works best for you.
Raw Sugar or Khandsari – This sugar is a part of my everyday diet and I use it in almost anything. Raw sugar is also known as cane sugar or unrefined sugar and it is minimally processed. Raw sugar is processed in india for hundreds of years. Sugar is made by extracting juice from the sugar cane. The extracted juice is then boiled and cooled, allowing it to crystallize. The sugar may crystallize into a very fine or granular sugar. This pale golden crystals are raw sugar.
Because raw sugar is not heavily refined, it has higher molasses content than table sugar. It has higher moisture content than regular sugar and keeping raw sugar in an airtight container is highly advised. Raw sugar can be used in your daily cup of beverage, in making jams, juices, Indian sweets, desserts or baking.
Liquid Jaggery or kakvi – Liquid jaggery is obtained by boiling raw sugar cane juice in a cast iron. As the liquid begins to boil the molasses is separated out. The removed molasses is usually fed to the cattle feed in India. Upon further boiling the juice condenses into a thick viscous liquid, which is called liquid jaggery (if further boiled, it leads to form jaggery). The boiling process is stopped and allowed to cool for bottling. Liquid jaggery has low GI. It helps relieve cold, cough, asthma and congestion in chest. Treats Indigestion and constipation. Also acts as a body coolant and antioxidant. Ideal for people with low haemoglobin. The uses are same as block or powdered jaggery. The disadvantage of this sweetener is that it tends to ferment. The best way to use the fermented jaggery is to boil it again with a little bit of water and use it again and you won’t notice any change ;). Here is an awesome liquid jaggery cake recipe from my blog!
Jaggery or gur – Jaggery is one of the most popular sweeteners in india. It is an unrefined sugar, made by boiling raw sugar cane or palm juice (known as palm jaggery) in iron pans. It is then formed into trays to dry and either made into balls or powder form. Jaggery is healthier than refined sugars as it retains natural vitamins and minerals.
The mineral content of jaggery includes calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron and traces of zinc and copper. The vitamin content includes folic acid and B-complex vitamins. Thus, other than that it is a good source of energy, it also prevents rheumatic afflictions; prevents disorders of bile; helps in relieving fatigue, relaxation of muscles, nerves and blood vessels; maintains blood pressure and reduces water retention; increases hemoglobin level and prevents anaemia.
Jaggery is a versatile sweetener. It goes so well with our Indian cooking that is has become a must have sweetener in every household. Jaggery perfectly enhances and gives a final touch to any Indian dish. Jaggery is used in coffee/tea or in South Indian cooking to make dishes like sambar. Jaggery can be used in baking cookies, cakes or even breads.
Palm sugar or palm jaggery – Palm sugar is a natural sweetener made from the sap of palm trees. Coconut palm sugar and palm sugar may sound same but are completely two different sweeteners. The liquid collected from the sap is called toddy or neera. This fresh toddy is boiled to obtain palm sugar or palm syrup. This process is done quickly to avoid toddy from fermenting. To make the sugar solid, the boiled juice is then poured into bamboo sections to form cylindrical shapes or into coconut shells or into small baskets woven of palm leaves. You also get palm sugar in powder form, which looks very close to coconut sugar. This sugar, even when soft, can be extremely dense and very sticky. Palm Sugar has a low GI and helps prevent diabetes and anemia during pregnancy. It is also known to be effective against cold and lung related ailments. You can use palm sugar in the same way as you would use jaggery.
Coconut sugar or coconut palm sugar – This is a wonder sugar! Most people are amazed and wonder if it tastes all coco-nuty. Coconut sugar is created from the sap of the coconut palm tree, rather than from the actual coconut itself. Coconut sugar is 100% pure, single-ingredient product with no additives, fillers, or added sweeteners. It is the single most sustainable sweetener in the world! Coconut sugar is a healthy sugar; low in glycemic index and full of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It is definitely a better substitute compared to all sweeteners including agave syrup.
Coconut sugar has to be stored in an air tight container. It looses its texture to moisture and may also turn hard. Coconut palm sugar is a versatile substitute for conventional cane sugar for most baking purposes. It is slightly less sweet than cane sugar but more flavorful, and in many cases the quantity of sugar can be reduced by up to 25 percent without altering the end result.You will find coconut sugar not as sweet as refined white sugars (so if using them for cakes or other desserts, you may need to add more to achieve the same level of sweetness). However, I find they have a nice caramel like taste which is similar to molasses, but lighter. You’ll definitely enjoy the taste! I have been using this wonder sugar in baking cookies, muffins, ladoos and I also made some yum vegan salted caramel.
Molasses or blackstrap molasses – This sweetener is used by many as a medicine more than cooking. Cane Molasses is made in a three-step process that begins with the juice from mature or green sugar cane plant. The juice is boiled to concentrate and crystallize the sugar. The result is called the “first” molasses. The crystallized sugar is removed and the residue is boiled again. The mixture darkens as the remaining sugar is burnt or caramelized. What results is called, “second” molasses. After more sugar crystals are removed, the process is repeated once again. The final or “third” boil produces the dark, concentrated syrup known as blackstrap molasses.
Molasses is rich in iron and contains benefits for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency, pregnant or lactating and growing children or adolescents.Molasses is rich in copper, manganese, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Honey – This naturally rich sweetener produced by the honey bees, making it not suitable for vegans. It is an alternative substitute for white sugar. Research also indicates that honey’s unique composition makes it useful as an antimicrobial agent and antioxidant.
The process of making honey begins when the bees feast on flowers, collecting the flower nectar in their mouths. This nectar then mixes with special enzymes in the bees’ saliva, a process that turns it into honey. The bees carry the honey back to the hive, where they deposit it into the cells of the hive’s walls. The fluttering of their wings provides the necessary ventilation to reduce the honey’s moisture content, making it ready for consumption. Raw honey is the best option than the most filtered honey available in the market. Honey is best stored in glass bottles and they can be used in to enhance your juices and smoothies or for cooking and baking.
Pure Maple Syrup – The process of creating maple syrup begins with tapping (piercing) the tree, which allows the sap to run out freely. The sap is clear and almost tasteless and very low in sugar content when it is first tapped. It is then boiled to evaporate the water producing syrup with the characteristic flavor and color of maple syrup and sugar content of 60%. Maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese and zinc. Pure maple syrup does not contain any flavouring and will be displayed on the labels. Maple syrup is commonly enjoyed with pancakes. You can also enjoy it on peanut butter toasts or in a bowl of cereal.
Stevia or sweet leaf or sugar leaf – Stevia is a plant and origins from South America. The compound in the leaves is responsible for the sweetness. This compound is sometimes sold isolated from the leaves in a highly refined form. In other cases, the sweetener is made by crushing or distilling the leaves of the plant to form a powder or a syrup with an intensely sweet flavor.
It has been shown that stevia is much sweeter than other sugars, meaning that only a small amount needs to be used. The body also processes stevia very slowly, which greatly reduces the risk of a sugar high. In addition, it is essentially calorie free, which is why it is popular with dieters. However, there has no proven facts and some scientists claim that it can cause cancer. Though stevia may seem like a natural sweetener, there has been no proven studies. Stevia leaves can be used in your dialy cup of tea/coffee, juices and smoothies. I’ve never baked with stevia and would like to know if you have used it.
Agave Syrup or agave nectar – Agave syrup is made from the juice of the agave plant, particularly found in the deserts of Mexico. Agave syrup looks like honey, but it is usually lighter and has a cleaner taste. It is nearly twice as sweet as white table sugar or raw sugar. Though agave syrup has low GI it is high on fructose and is compared to the commercially available sweeteners (because of the way it is being processed). Agave syrup can be used to sweeten your juices, smoothies or can be used in baking.
Going the natural way is the best way of not in taking highly processed sweeteners. All sugars contain glucose and fructose but what you need to check and compare is the GI’s for easy understanding. You can go deeper with the breakdowns and open a chemistry lab. All the mentioned sweeteners are available on our online store i2cook.com.
Glycemic Index (GI) (%)
|Pure Maple Syrup||
|Jaggery & Palm Sugar||
*Studies have shown that insulin is secreted by the pancreas soon after the sweet taste is experienced on the tongue, whether the substance contains calories or not. The body is fooled by the zero calorie sweetener. It expects glucose to hit the bloodstream and it gets none. This may result in increased appetite soon after.