Sunday, May 1, 2011

Earth Day the organic way.

A nice guy named Craig emailed me on behalf of my FAVORITE grocery store - Central Market - and asked if I would like to review some of their Central Market brand organic products on the blog. Of course I said yes. Actually, I say "Yes! Please! Pretty please!" After all, I am already a fan of the store and the brand. And what wannabe foodie doesn't desire an opportunity to try new flavors and product and give her opinion?

A few weeks ago, my package arrived, chocked full of delicious things, including:
Central Market Organics Agave
Central Market Organics Coffee
Central Market Organics Tea
Central Market Organics Peanut Butter Dots Cereal
Central Market Organics Oatmeal
Central Market Organics Vanilla Almond Milk
Central Market Organics Rice Vanilla Milk
Central Market Organics Almond Preserves

The first thing I opened was the Peanut Butter Dots Cereal and the Vanilla Almond Milk - a delicious combo. I must admit that the cereal tastes incredibly similar to the name-brand, non-organic version of sugar cereal found on most shelves. Except of course it was organic. So, if your organic aspiration is to sub out what you like in the regular non-Michael Pollen aisles of the grocery store with something a little more earth friendly, this is your bet. The almond milk was tasty. I myself am a dairy girl - love me a tall glass of skim milk a day - so almond milk is not something I indulge in frequently. This version was light, appropriately sweet, and good with the cereal. I myself prefer the high protein, low sugar attributes of organic milk over the nutritional and flavor aspects of almond or rice milk, but if you are looking for a substitute this is a good choice.

I love toast, and both the agave and the Apricot Preserves suited bread well. If you are not familiar with agave nectar, it is produces from the agave plant, which looks much like an aloe plant and comes from Mexico and South Africa. Agave nectar has a much lower glycemic index and glycemic load than table sugar, which basically means it is a better sweetener option for those limiting sugar consumption. Fun fact: gave sap can be fermented, and by distillation it becomes a spirit called mezcal , the most widely know version being tequila. but this nectar is far from tequila, and closer to honey. Very sweet and fluid, it coated a toast snack nicely in moderation (agave nectar is about one and a half times sweeter than sugar).

Both the coffee and tea in the basket are tasty and meet my standards for high quality beverages. Nothing novel to report, but I do feel good knowing both my coffee and tea were grown organically. The tea is nice because it comes in a fabric pouch in a pyramid shape, rather than the standard "pillow" shaped tea bag.

Fair disclosure, I haven't tried the oatmeal yet because I have some Bob's Red Milled Oats open in the pantry already. I just can't bear to have two packages open at the same time, but I am swearing an oatmeal-only breakfast diet this summer so it won't be long until I get there. By the tastes of things, I am in for a pleasant bowl of oats when I get to it.

Overall I am a big fan of the Central Markets Organics brand. I like the packaging. It's clean, tidy, and shows the food accurately. Sometimes organic packaging can be the worst - it's either too hippy-dippy (making me think the food will taste like dirt), or too frou frou (making organic seem pretentious and snobby). This hits the spot and is easy to find on grocery shelves.

I can't comment on pricing, as the gift basket was a gift to me, but in general I find the Central Market brand organic products I purchase on my regular shopping trips to be fairly priced. I usually buy milk, olive oil, butter, crackers, microwave popcorn, canned beans, canned tomatoes, and other pantry staples in the brand. Pricing is usually a bit more than non-organic, but more affordable that other organic brands.

I have head debates back and forth on the value of organics. In fact, Penn and Teller even did a Bullshit episode on it in which they determined that from a consumer perspective, there is not much value in purchasing organic over commercial. But still, I value organic options in my grocery store and I will continue to be a customer of the Central Market's Organics brand. I like knowing that organic foods are products that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers. I like knowing that my food does not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives. I also like when my food tastes good. Not only does the Central Market Organics stuff taste good, it feels healthier, and I consume with just a tad less guilt than usual knowing I am limiting the impact on the environment during my food's growth and preparation. As the packaging touts, "By choosing organics, you’re helping to reduce the chemical runoff in our ground water sources and to reduce the use of environmentally harmful artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides commonly used on conventional crops." And it's true.

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