If you’re considering sharing a Valentine’s Day moment this year, paint your roses green.
Start with “To Pull a Thorn from the Side of the Planet.” (May require free registration.) This New York Times article reports on florists and growers who specialize in organic flowers. To which many people ask, “Why would it matter? We’re not eating them.” Clearly, we still need to reach out to those missing the message that pesticides can be harmful to the planet and other living things.
But there’s more to the issue of organics when it comes to earth-friendly, commercially grown flowers. As with food, which is better: local conventional or organic transported? Beaucoups of bouquets burst from South American soil, then travel outwards to florists worldwide, cutting a swath of transportation carbon along the way. But, as the Times article asks, “what is greener: large loads of flowers transported over long distances efficiently or a smaller number grown locally, but requiring a heated greenhouse and a trip to a farmers’ market in a pickup truck?”
The article also taps into related issues: better worker conditions on certified farms in South America; California’s growers who shun pesticides by growing in hydroponics greenhouses; and online sources for USDA certified organic flowers.
Of course, flowers are just one consumable associated with Valentine’s Day. You’ll find plenty of romantic meals and sweet treats at GlobalGourmet.com’s Valentine’s Handbook, and there’s a whole world or organic, fair-trade chocolates to savor. So whatever you do, if you make your February 14 footprint a little (or a whole lot) greener than you did last year, we’ll all be feeling the love.
On the goodness scale, Equal Exchange’s almonds, pecans, and cranberries float to the top: They’re not just organic and Fair Trade Certified, but they’re domestic Fair Trade, from small growers right here in the U.S. Check out their cool “Track Your Snacks” feature:
First, go to Equal Exchange’s track-your-snacks page, type in the use-by date on the back of the package, and you’ll see exactly which farm in their collective grew your food. (My almonds came from Big Tree Organic Co-Op in Carmel; a co-op of black Georgia farmers grew the pecans; and the cranberries came from Monika and Keith Mann’s organic bogs in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts.) Compared to conventional competitors, these products really do taste distinctively better. Look for:
Tamari-Roasted Almonds—Some snack almonds can be so heavily processed or flavored with additives that they taste artificial. Not so with these babies. They actually taste like almonds, lightly salted with the flavor of tamari (for an extra umami kick). No other ingredients.
Roasted, Salted Pecans—Just pecans, sunflower oil and salt. Delicate and utterly tasty.
Dried, Sweetened Cranberries—Organic cane juice and cranberries. Spoiler alert: A happy ending; you’ll never go back to Ocean Spray.
They won 2007′s Best New Products Award at the New England Products Show, and we like Robin’s Chocolate Sauces for many reasons. Three of their six sauces are Fair Trade Certified, including the elegant Orange Spice and Tropical Dark (our personal favorites), made with 70 percent dark chocolate.
All of Robin’s small-batch sauces are made with organic cocoa, vanilla and cane sugar, using local dairy products. Serve straight from the jar, or better yet, simply remove the lid, warm the jar in the microwave, and drizzle the velvety sauces over ice cream, bread pudding or cheesecake.
Robin’s Chocolate Sauce partners with National Wildlife Federation and Sustainable Harvest International, helping to conserve tropical habitats for migratory songbirds, and promote sustainable cocoa-farming practices. Unlike Betty Crocker, Robin Jenkins is a real person, whose holiday gifts of chocolate sauce grew into a true family business, starting in 2004. Today her husband and two sons pitch in, using organic, shade grown and local or Fair Trade Certified ingredients whenever possible.
As Robin says, “These standards are crucial to maintaining a sustainable environment, protecting migratory birds and creating healthy communities—and your children and grandchildren will notice the sweet difference.” So stick that in your (or some else’s) sweet holiday stocking! If you don’t live in Maine, where most stores carry their products, buy them online:
With Rising Sun Farms Tortas, you’ll shine as the perfect gourmet, and stress-free, host. Simply grab one of these layered cheese tortas from the freezer, pop it out of the container to thaw, and serve with crackers or breads, or melt into a sauce. Our personal picks: award-winning Pesto Dried Tomato Cheese Torta and Cranberry Orange Cheese Torta. Though we’ve not sampled them, gorgonzola, artichoke-lemon, key lime, and other flavors fill their torta line. They’re available nationwide (see risingsunfarms.com for retailers and products; Texans can find exclusive Southwestern-seasoned tortas at Central Market stores).
Rising Sun Farms products, made in Oregon, are better than organic. Their story dates back to the 1980s, when the couple started growing organic herbs. Today, their products are so “clean” that they’ve been exporting them to Japan, surpassing the stringent preservative- and additive-free import standards for nine years.
According to the company: “In 1992 Rising Sun Farms found it necessary to go beyond organic certification to meet personal and corporate missions to always insure the highest quality products.” An independent laboratory tests every ingredient for chemical and pesticide residues, their dairy suppliers certify their ingredients are rBGH free, and they have a no GMO policy. Any ingredient that fails any of the testing is not used. Maybe that’s why their tortas taste so fresh and good.
These sweet little bites bring new meaning to the concept of 100 percent guilt-free indulgence: they’re entirely Fair Trade, all organic, and some are even vegan. (not to mention dark chocolate’s salubrious benefits.) Plus, a portion of Sweet Earth Chocolates’ proceeds aid West African farmers.
I’m especially fond of the company’s bite-size coconut cups, which are more delicate than typical coconut confections. The dark chocolate hits the tongue first, and the toasted coconut center slowly rises in flavor. They also make a wide variety of flavors and products for consumers and bulk buyers.
“Our company philosophy is to do no harm to the planet or the people who make a living from the planet,” says Tom Neuhaus, Sweet Earth Chocolates co-founder. “It’s important to us that all of our chocolate products be both organic and fair trade, not one or the other, because we believe this combination fosters economic and ecological sustainability.” For an inspiring story about how Neuhaus turned his West African chocolate experiences into both intense cocoa creations and nonprofit action, visit Sweet Earth Chocolates Blog and ProjectHopeAndFairness.com.