Gin, bread and biscuits: how organic food has come of age

by Jo Lamiri - Friday March 15, 2019 1:03 pm

What comes to mind when you think of organic food? Whatever it is, your ideas are probably outdated: eating organic is no longer the preserve of the rich or the hippy eccentric.

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Do you have a favourite organic yoghurt, tea, bread or even gin? Soil Association Certification has just launched its annual Best of Organic Market (BOOM) Awards – the UK’s only dedicated organic awards – to find the nation’s favourite among the 50,000 certified products on sale in the UK.

A staggering £45 million is now spent every week on organic in supermarkets, independent retailers, online and through home delivery.

As ever, it means food produced without the routine use of antibiotics, no GM crops, no artificial colours or preservatives and fewer pesticides (just 20 naturally occurring ones, compared with 300 used in non-organic farming).

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With this in mind, Soil Association Certification (which certifies over 70% of all organic products sold in the UK) has just launched its 2019 BOOM Awards to celebrate the businesses, producers and brands working hard to make food as it should be throughout the UK, as well as new products and organic innovators.

Whether it’s a much-loved brand of organic tea, creamy yoghurt from your favourite organic dairy, or something a little more exotic like seaweed gin or organic kefir, now is your chance to crown them the Nation’s Favourite organic product.

But eating organic isn’t just about better flavour and nutrition – although the lack of nutrients in our soil now means that much food produced non-organically is way less nutritious than it was, say, 30 years ago.

If all UK farmland was converted to organic farming, at least 1.3 million tonnes of carbon would be taken up by the soil each year – the equivalent of taking nearly 1 million cars off the road.

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Clare McDermott, Business Development Director at Soil Association Certification says: “By choosing to buy organic, shoppers are making choices that help support a more sustainable system of food and farming. Choosing organic means working with nature to protect soil, encourage wildlife, avoid antibiotics and reduce pesticide use.” Indeed, plant, insect and bird life is 50% more abundant on organic farms, which are also home to 30% more species than non-organic businesses.”

A supper club at Spring Restaurant was the swanky setting for the launch of this year’s awards, with an organic menu devised by Skye Gyngell.

Cook, writer and co-founder of Wahaca Thomasina Miers OBE is this year’s BOOMbassador.

She created a wonderful ‘edible soil’ starter of sourdough crumbs, blended with olives and seeds, served on a cow’s milk curd cream with astoundingly fresh and flavourful organic vegetables.

The main course was beautiful wild halibut with braised endive, spring greens and blood orange, while the dessert of posset with ginger biscuits and roasted rhubarb – a symphony of lemony creaminess and tart rhubarb, combined with a crisp ginger snap – elicited more than its fair share of swooning.

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Thomasina Miers is a great advocate for organic farming: “It helps looks after our planet: the rate of insect decline is eight time faster than animals and birds and they are essential as pollinators”.

“When I go to the market on Sundays and buy food for my family I’m concerned about the nutrition my children are getting. Organic food is up to two-thirds richer in nutrients, whereas overworking soil means that in general nutrition is plummeting in the food we eat. Supporting farmers at my local market means I’m also supporting the ecosystem, the fertility of our soil.”

Thomasina Miers’ top tips for Shopping Organic

1 Organic products are now available across the UK in over 8000 outlets from supermarkets and independent shops to box schemes, markets, restaurants and online.

2 Eat less, but better meat from animals grazed in a free-range environment and fed a natural diet.

3 Use a specialist box delivery scheme from fruit and veg to eggs, meat, herbs and honey, delivered to your door.

4 Some foods - pasta, pulses, rice and whole grains – are often the same price as non-organic and may have a longer shelf life.

5 Milk is a good entry point for those new to buying organic. It costs barely more than standard milk and contains around 50% more omega- 3 essential fatty acids.

6 Organic wine contains less sulphur, rumoured to contribute to hangovers!

7 Soil Association flocks of chickens are maximum 2000, whereas even free-range flocks can be much bigger, restricting the birds’ natural behaviours such as dust bathing and ranging.

8 Buy food as close to the producer as possible from farm shops, markets and local shops. Not only will it be fresher but you are helping the local economy and reducing transport costs.

9 Cook and eat seasonally to get best value of money and enjoy a sustainable diet.

10 Shop independent – small local delis and independent shops often stock products you won’t find in the supermarkets.

Headline sponsor of this year’s BOOM Awards is Abel & Cole, a company with organic principles at its heart that has been boxes of delivering farm-to-front-door fresh seasonal food including meat, bread, fruit and veg to homes around England and Wales for 30 years. Voters will be in with a chance to win an Abel & Cole organic hamper.

Find out more about the Soil Association Certification BOOM Awards 2019 and vote by 3 June for your favourite organic product here:

www.soilassociation.org

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