Category Archives: Organic Gourmet

Organic food

Fancy an organic cup of tea?

All types of teas are made from the plant Camellia sinensis that belongs to the Theaceae family. In Latin, sinensis means Chinese and this is no wonder since the plant originated in Mainland China and South East Asia but is now also cultivated in tropical and sub-tropical regions and a cultivated version also exists in order to grow it commercially from anywhere. Camellia sinensis is a small tree usually kept trimmed to reach a height of 2m, it has white yellow flowers, leaves of 4 to 15cm long and it grows naturally in high altitude from 1000m to 2500m. The seeds of camellia sinensis are used to produce tea oil (not to confuse with tea tree oil), which is an oil used for culinary purposes much like olive oil and that has naturally occurring vitamin E, unsaturated fats and antioxidants. The tea oil is also used in the manufacturing of cosmetics (soaps, hair products).
organic black teaThe dried leaves of camellia sinensis are used to make tea and depending on the age of the leaves, the quality of the tea varies as their chemical composition changes. The altitude at which the plant grows plays also a big role and tea leaves grown at higher altitudes give the tea a much better flavor. Soils and harvesting and processes are as much as important since these factors will contribute to producing the various types of teas we know such as black tea, green tea, white tea, pu-erh tea or oolong tea, all having a different oxidation.

Organic black tea: Black tea is darker in color because it is more oxidized due to the fact that the leaves are dried longer, withered, fully fermented, and fired. The used leaves are usually more mature leaves. The best quality black teas are rarely exported unless fair trade deals have been made with the growers so always read the label and favor fair trade products.
Organic oolong tea: Oolong tea is also made with mature leaves that are withered, semi-fermented, panfired and dried. The cooking of the leaves is typically made over charcoal, giving the tea its characteristic taste.
Organic pu-erh tea: Pu-erh tea is made with matures leaves that are withered and go through a special fermentation process that darken the leaves and change their flavor over time, just like a good wine.
Organic green tea: Green tea uses mature leaves that are withered, steamed or panfired and dried.
Organic white tea: White tea uses young leaves that are only steamed and dried.

These types of teas are divided in sub-categories resulting in a variety of more than 2000 teas. Then, we can also find beverages made from botanicals or herbs and these are often wrongly referred to as “herbal teas”; wrongly because all teas come from the Camellia sinesis plant so that a beverage made of chamomile flowers is not a tea but a tisane or an herbal infusion.

Organic tea health benefits

People have been drinking tea for more than 5000 years and for a reason. Tea is rich in phytochemicals that are chemicals naturally present in plants, some of which are beneficial for health. Tea contains antioxidants (flavanoids and polyphenol types) that may reduce the risk of cardio-vascular disease and cancers. Tea can also help fight bad cholesterol and boost the immune system and it contains fluoride that is beneficial to the teeth and bad breath. Tea is however rich in caffeine and green teas, white teas and all teas contain more or less the same amount of it. The caffeine content is found in the fresh tea leaves (4% of caffeine) so the way the tea is processed does not drastically influence the amount of caffeine although black tea is the most caffeinated of all teas. Black tea contains 4g of caffeine per serving, oolong tea 30g, green tea 20g and white tea 15g. Black tea is also more oxidized and because of the way it is processed (fully fermented, fired and dried), it looses some of the effect of the polyphenol content while green tea is only withered, steamed and dried, and white tea only steamed and dried, keeping fully their health properties.

However, it is important when you chose a tea to chose it right. Indeed, the tea plant is today commercially grown and therefore is sprayed with chemicals that inevitably end up in your cup of tea. Also, what is better, a tea bag or loose tea leaves? The loose tea leaves are derived from the full tea leaves or broken leaves but from the best part of the leave. Meanwhile, tea bags usually contain the fannings or the dust of the leaves, basically the worse part. Tea bags are convenient but they are not as high quality as full tea leaves. The same applies for herbal infusions.

Regardless of the type of tea you prefer, chose an organic loose leaves tea that has been grown in non-contaminated soils and that has not gone through a chemical treatment such as pesticides or herbicides spray. As always, read the label when you buy organic products because of the marketing scams. Don’t forget that where you prepare your tea is also important not to boil the leaves. Bring the water to boiling and once off the cooker, throw 2 to 4 grams of leaves and let it infuse for a few minutes. If in a hurry and you want to pour the boiling water on the leaves, you should first dip them in cold water so that the tea will keep all its good properties.

Enjoy 🙂

Organic maitake mushrooms

Maitake is a Japanese mushroom also known as the “Dancing mushroom” belonging to the Meripilaceae family and the G. frondosa species. The maitake mushroom grows in Japan and in North-America and has been praised for its healing properties, restoring unbalanced body systems. Maitake mushrooms are recognizable as they look like a cluster made of of multiple grayish-brown caps that are curled or spoon-shaped. It can be as big as 60 cm large and it grows at the same place for few years in a row. The maitake mushroom can weigh up to 20 kg and is dubbed as the King of the Mushrooms in Japan where it widely used for cooking purposes just like the Shiitake mushroom.

Maitake mushroom health properties

Besides being used for culinary purposes, the maitake mushroom also have amazing health properties and can be found in various forms: fresh mushroom, dry mushroom, powder, capsules, liquid or tea. In Asia, it has traditionally been used for its ability to boost the immune system thanks to its active constituent, Beta-glucan and is a good supplement/food to intake before the winter to fight colds and flu. It is also known to lower blood pressure, to lower bad cholesterol levels as well as to lower sugar levels in diabetic patients thanks to its hypoglycemic properties (naturally occurring alpha glucosidase inhibitor). It can also help manage weight loss. Maitake is rich in minerals, vitamins (B especially), fibers, amino-acids (proteins) and antioxidants and can help release inflammations.

Many studies have been conducted on the maitake mushroom and in 2009, a human trial was performed at the Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center in New-York on breast cancer patients demonstrating that the maitake mushroom could stimulate the production of immune system cells. Other studies were performed to research on prostate cancer, bladder cancer and various types of cancer cells and revealed that a portion of the mushroom called D-fraction was responsible for the anti-cancer activity. Further studies are being performed on the maitake mushroom that could become a life saver in the future.

How to take maitake?

First of all, depending where you live, it might be hard to find fresh maitake since it does not grow everywhere. However, dry maitake is commonly found in natural health stores or online and organic maitake is recommended to ensure it has grown on untreated soils. Dry organic maitake mushrooms can be soaked in warm water until it becomes soft (1 hour usually). It can then be cooked with other organic products such as olive oil and added in meat, pasta, organic quinoa or with other vegetables. The taste is quite pleasant although it is very different from the mushrooms we are typically used to eat; however, knowing what good it does to us, the taste can easily be put aside. maitake ampulesYou can also find maitake in the form of liquid in maitake ampules. You can use these ampules to do a cure of 21 days during the fall and during the spring, basically at the times when the immune system is at its lowest and needs a boost. You can also use 2 to 4 grams of maitake mushrooms to make a maitake tea. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 to 4 hours, pass it and drink a cup in the morning and the evening. You can also easily find maitake supplements to take with a glass of water, but be always careful with the origin of the product to ensure it has not been mixed with other powders, as the effects will be lowered.

Cinnamon to boost your immune system for the winter

With the winter months coming up, it is time to boost our immune system and organic cinnamon might be one of the spice to incorporate in our daily diet.

Where is cinnamon coming from

Cinnamon, also known as Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Ceylon cinnamon or “true cinnamon” comes from a small evergreen tree of 10 to 15 meter-high belonging to the Lauraceae family and to the genus Cinnamomum. cinnamon treeCinnamon is native to South East Asia and more particularly to Sri-Lanka that supplies 90% of the cinnamon in the whole world. Cinnamon comes from the Greek kinnámomon and means sweet wood. Cinnamon was not available in Europe before the 16th century but it was already a highly praised spice in the Ancient World (Greece, Egypt, Phoenicia) where it was offered to Gods or to Kings.

The cinnamon is extracted from the roots of the trees that are grown for 2 years and then coppiced (cut down), allowing new branches or shoots to regenerate. Only the inner barks from these shoots are extracted (0.5 mm of inner bark is used) in long rolls of cinnamon strips that curl into rolls upon drying and that are then cut into smaller rolls for trade.

The strong smell of cinnamon is due to its content of essential oil (cinnamon essential oil) and more particularly its chemical content cinnamaldehyde that amounts for 60% of the cinnamon essential oil.

Real cinnamon versus cassia

Real cinnamon is often confused with cassia that looks a bit similar but that is in fact really different. Cassia is known under the latin name Cinnamomum aromaticum and also belongs to the Lauraceae family but to the genus Cassia. Cassia, especially in powder form is often sold and substituted for cinnamon while it is not and when we think we are eating cinnamon, more often we are actually eating cassia. In the past few years, this has alarmed the health authorities in Europe that are sending warnings against consuming large amounts of cassia because cassia can actually be dangerous for our health unlike cinnamon. Indeed, cassia is rich in an ingredient called coumarin. Coumarin can be toxic and create liver and kidney damages when taken constantly.

How to tell the difference between real cinnamon and cassia?

Real cinnamon stickWhen using cinnamon and cassia in the form of sticks, it is actually very easy to tell the difference. Cinnamon is made of very thin and many cinnamon bark layers like on the picture above and the stick looks much like a cigar. cassiaCassia on the other hand is a more solid, uniform and hollow stick with a darker brown color.

In the form of powder, it is more complicated to determine if you are eating cinnamon or cassia but real cinnamon has a sweet aroma while cassia has a harsher smell. Also, the origin of the product can give a clue as to whether it is cinnamon or cassia. Cinnamon is called Ceylon cinnamon and comes typically from Sri Lanka while cassia will often say Chinese cinnamon or Saigon cinnamon. In the USA, most grounded cinnamon sold is actually cassia.

The health benefits of cinnamon

If you want to take advantage of the health properties of cinnamon, ensure that you are actually getting real cinnamon, otherwise, it will not work. Cinnamon is known to boost the immune system and will help ward off colds and flu thanks to its anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties and antioxidant activities. A teaspoon of cinnamon contains as much antioxidants as a pomegranate juice glass. It may help the digestive system and bowel movement disorders. A recent study published in the Diabetic Medicine: A Journal of the British Diabetic Association October 2010 showed that taking 2g of cinnamon a day can help lower blood sugar in Type 2 diabetes as well as lower blood pressure. Cinnamon can also help with blood circulation and as a sexual stimulant. It can be used in case of tooth ache and bad breath. It is great to repel insects.

Of course, cinnamon is mainly used in cooking and incorporating cinnamon in your meals, desserts, beverages will have the positive effects listed above. You can for example incorporate cinnamon in your breakfast by blending 2 fresh oranges with a tea spoon of cinnamon and drink as a morning boost.

If you want to refresh your home and take advantage of the anti-bacterial properties of cinnamon, you can also get cinnamon essential oil and pour a few drops in the filter of your vacuum cleaner. It will leave your house free of bacteria while smelling really good. However, be careful when using cinnamon essential oil as this oil is very strong and can be irritating to the nose or to the skin if improperly used.

Organic quinoa

Organic quinoa is one of the nutritious superfood that can be incorporated in breakfast, lunch, diner.

The origin of quinoa

Quinoa is a seed whose origins come from South America where the plant Chenopodium quinoa has been cultivated for more than 6000 years. It is also called the “Gold of the Incas”. It was considered the “Mother seed” because of its exceptional nutritious properties and was a sacred food. However, with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, the cultivation of quinoa became prohibited and the use of the seed slowly disappeared until recently when it started being grown again in the USA. Indeed, quinoa health benefits were rediscovered and people started to show interest in the seed again.

quinoa plant
Quinoa belongs to the Chenopodium genus and is therefore closer to the spinach or beet rather than grains. Quinoa is usually of light-yellow color but other varieties exist with red, orange or black color. The taste is rather pleasant with a nutty flavor.

Quinoa health benefits

Quinoa is an exceptionally complete food rich in proteins and in all the essential amino-acids, fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B and E. It is also gluten-free for people with gluten-intolerance. Quinoa is an amazing food source for vegans. Also, thanks to its nutritional properties, quinoa is a great food to increase energy levels (complex carbohydrates) and contains unsaturated fat (good fat). Its amino-acids content (especially lysine) helps promote the growth and repair of body tissues. It is said to be beneficial to people prone to migraines thanks to the magnesium (blood vessel relaxer) and vitamin B2 content (promotes energy production and synthesis of steroids and red blood cells) but also beneficial to promote a healthy heart. It has antioxidant activities to fight body toxins and the fiber content (soluble and insoluble) helps fight bad cholesterol levels, promote a healthy heart, lower the blood sugar in type 2 diabetes and contribute to a regular bowel movement.

easy quinoa recipes

Easy quinoa recipes

First of all, you should choose a brand of certified organic quinoa to ensure that the seeds have not been sprayed with chemicals. Where to find organic quinoa? You can find certified organic quinoa at your local health store or online just like any other organic products, in regular quinoa bags or quinoa in bulk or even in quinoa flakes. Quinoa is usually covered with saponins and therefore should be thoroughly washed in water before cooking to avoid the bitter taste but also toxicity. Most companies now pre-wash quinoa but wash it anyways to have peace of mind. Use:

– 1 cup of quinoa
– 3 cups of water
– Make the water boil, add the washed quinoa and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Let it absorb the remaining water and voila.

Even though quinoa has a very pleasant taste, you can make it a amazing dish by adding salt, rosemary, chopped onions, cooked peppers, tomatoes. You can even make a sort of couscous using pieces of lamb, pork, chicken and a mix of vegetables.

As a morning breakfast, you can add other grains of your choice (flaxseeds, pine nuts, walnuts, sesame seeds) to your quinoa along with superfruits such as blueberries, rasberries, acai berries, tart cherries, goji berries, etc…..

Organic quinoa is an organic product that can become part of your balanced diet and that will contribute to your general well-being.

Acai berry juice

Acai berry is a purple berry that grows on the acai palm, a palm tree belonging to the Arecaceae family and that measures from 25 to 30 m high. Acai palms grow in Central and South America, in particularly in Brazil (in the Amazon forest) where the acai berry has been valued for centuries by locals for its amazing health properties. Acai palm leaves are used to make hats, baskets, and even in construction. Acai berries are small and round berries made of 80% of seeds that can be used as organic soil to feed plants.

Acai berry health benefits

Acai berry has gained in popularity in the past 10 years thanks to marketing efforts to position the fruit as a “superfruit” like goji berries, blueberries or tart cherry. It is now grown outside the traditional Amazonian crops to meet the high demand in Western countries. The marketing buzz was done around the acai berry health benefits.

1 – Indeed, acai berries are very rich in antioxidants and rate high on the Orac scale (see our previous article about tart cherry). Acai berries are packed with anthocyanins much like blueberries and this explains their deep purple color as well as their antioxidant capacity. They are also rich in polyphenols, another type of antioxidant often related to the “French paradox”. French people eat fatty food (cheese, white bread, pastries) but the heart disease rate is one of the lowest. It is believed to be due to the amount of red wine consumed in France as wine contains polyphenols. Acai berries are said to contain 20 times more the amount of polyphenols than of red wine.

2 – Also, acai berries contain high amounts of essential fatty acids (omega 6 and 9) just like argan oil that contribute to the promotion of good cholesterol while soothing inflammatory conditions and making the skin looks healthy.

3 – Acai berries are believed to be a valuable source of energy. As a matter of fact, in Brazil, acai berries are consumed as “acai na tigela” (acai bowl) that consists of acai pulp, granola and banana to provide energy.

4 – Other claims include easing the digestive system thanks to the high amount of fibers.

5 – Acai berries are a great source of vitamins and proteins to keep our good health.

acai berry supplementsAcai berries can be taken in various forms including raw, in acai berry supplements, acai berry tablets, acai berry juice, smoothies, jam or cereal bars. However, always check the ingredients to ensure that the product does not only contain acai berries partially. Organic acai berry juice that is pure is the best as you can measure the amount you wish to take daily and mix it with other juices or water.

While acai berries are a powerful fruit, so are many other fruits such as blueberries or other vegetables and a mix of both should be part of the daily diet. So it is a great idea to incorporate acai berries in our diet but let’s keep aware of unverified commercial health claims over acai berries such as weight loss, sexual performances and more and always read the label of organic products to ensure they are truly organic.

By the way, acai is pronounced AH-SAH-EE if you ever visit Brazil 🙂

Blueberry benefits

Blueberry is a plant that belongs to the Ericaceae family and the Vaccinium genus. Blueberries come originally from North America and have been praised since centuries for their blueberry benefits. They are also found in Canada, Europe and Southern Hemisphere and the fruits reach maturity from May to August or September. Blueberry is one of the rare food of indigo color that is induced by the content of anthocyanin, a pigmentation present in some plants that protects from UV light (acting as a sunscreen) and that is also a powerful antioxidant. Blueberry High BushBlueberry plants grow typically in acidic soils but nowadays, blueberries are mostly mass-produced (high bush blueberries) to meet the demand although low-bush (wild) blueberries are still available. For example, Maine in the USA, produces 25% of the blueberries and is the biggest producer in the world. Organically-grown blueberries is easily achieved because they are typically less attacked by pests than any other fruits.

Blueberry benefits

Blueberries can be eaten row, but they are also sold as frozen blueberries, as blueberry jams, dry blueberries, blueberry juices or blueberry smoothies. They became part of the superfruits family much like goji berries, acai berry or tart cherry, as studies have shown the great health properties of blueberries, including their:

– high antioxidant properties (one of the highest thanks to the content of anthocyanin mentioned earlier)
anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties.

As a matter of fact, in a USDA Human Nutrition Research Center laboratory, scientists found our that eating fresh blueberries on a daily basis could slow down the aging process as well as the loss of mental capacity and memory loss by regenerating brain cells.

Blueberries are also rich in Vitamin B, C, E, and:

– help promote a good vision as well as
boost the immune system.

They are also:

– beneficial to the urinary tract against infections as they block the growth of bacteria much like a natural anti-biotic and a natural anti-bacterial.

They promote a:

– healthy heart by getting rid of the bad cholesterol

They are a:

– mood-enhancer and a natural anti-depressant

Organic blueberries or organic blueberry juice can become part of the daily diet for a maximized healthy lifestyle.
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Blueberry stains on clothes so if it ever happens to you, soak your garment in 1 liter of warm water mixed with 1 spoon of vinegar 🙂

Organic wines

History of Wine

Drinking wine is not new and traces back to 5000BC to 6000BC, probably from Iran. Wine drinking was common in Greece or in the Roman Empire and was often associated with ceremonial events. In Europe, wine production followed the fall of the Roman Empire and was adopted by the Catholic church as wine drinking accompanied Church masses. In the 15th century, wine consumption became popular and grapes started to be widely grown all around the world.

Sulfites in Wine

To preserve wines from spoiling, wine producers started to add sulphites to it 200 years ago. Sulfite comes from sulphur, a chemical element found in nature in a yellow crystalline solid form. Sulfites naturally occur on many growing plants at very low levels to avoid microbial growth and have been used commonly to stop the fermentation in food products.

Even organic wines contain sulfites because of the fermentation of the grapes creating a chemical reaction resulting in the build-up of sulphur dioxide BUT no manually added sulfites which are not the same sulfites as the ones found in nature.
In the USA, it was enforced to inform consumers of manually added sulfites in wines back in 1987. In Europe, the same law came into force in 2005 for wines containing more than 10mg/L in which case, the label must show “Contains sulfites”. Sulphites can have negative effects on health and particularly create allergies (especially in people prompt to asthma), cramps, hot flushes or feelings of hangover. This is why many people try to avoid wine drinking. Sulfites are found in highest concentration in white wines and sweet wines that are more prompt to spoilage unlike red wines, although winemakers add them anyways. They are found in many other products including fruit juices, dry fruits, fruit concentrates, jam, pizza dough, processed vegetables, some cheeses, prescription drugs, among others and these foods/drinks can produce the same effect as wine drinking, including headaches and feelings of hangovers.

Besides the added sulfites in wines, growing grapes involves a high usage of pesticides and chemicals in order to produce good grapes. This makes wine drinking even more toxic and this is why more and more, companies push organic wines including organic red wine, organic white wine and organic rose, which means that the grapes are organically grown and do not contain any chemicals which is good for us and for the environment. Organic wines will still contain sulfites but natural sulftes and at a very low dosage which will reduce the side effects occurring when drinking regular wines.

Buy organic wine

You can buy organic wine at your local natural store or online. Drinking organic wine won’t induce the same side effects and is actually good because wine contains antioxidants that help prevent cardio-vascular complications. However, always check the ingredients of your organic products to ensure they are truly organic.

The super fruits and a close-up on organic tart cherry juice

What are super fruits?

Super fruits are fruits that are promoted through the evidence of the health benefits they provide. Super fruits are rich in nutrients and antioxidants and can be included in the daily diet for general wellness. Super fruits include rare fruits that are attractive for their novelty and that are sold as raw materials to the neutraceuticals, functional food and beverages companies to produce healthy fruit juices, smoothies or fruit blends.

The effectiveness of super fruits for their health benefits is determined via the ORAC scale (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) that calculates their antioxidant power (to fight aging and degenerative diseases). The higher a fruit ranks, the higher its antioxidant capacities are. Super fruits include blueberry, acai berry, pomegranate, blackberry, goji berries (wolfberry) or noni to name a few. However, other fruits commonly known from the general public can also fall under this category for their high content of antioxidants even though they are not bringing novelty to the market. Such fruits include grape, mango, cranberry, tart cherry and much more.

Tart cherry juice health benefits

The tart cherry also known as Montmorency cherry or the “healing cherry”, a cherry commonly grown in Michigan, USA.
Tart cherry has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to soothe inflammatory conditions (it works like ibuprofen without side-effects) and pain associated with arthritis, muscle pain, back pain, gout (by lowering the uric acid) and diseases from the nervous system.
Tart cherry has high antioxidant effect (they contain 6 times the amount of melatonin than other cherries; melatonin is a derivative of seratonin that promotes good sleeping cycles) and therefore, tart cherry is said to be used to combat insomnia. On the ORAC scale mentioned earlier, tart cherry juice rates very high with 12,800 ORAC units per 100g. Tart cherry is also rich in in the following: potassium, calcium, vitamins A, C, B6, E and folic acid.

How to use organic tart cherry juice and where to find it

certified organic tart cherry juiceOrganic tart cherry juice is said to be more effective that any other form (such as dry fruits for example or capsules) because the beneficial nutrients are conserved and therefore, the ORAC values remain. To benefit fully from this healthy tart cherry juice however, it is preferable to choose a 100% natural pure juice free of artificial preservatives, fillers, additives, refined sugar and GE (genetically engineered) cherries and if possible, even favor a certified organic tart berry juice. It is also good to eat fresh tart cherries as much as a hand full a day if available at the grocery store. Like for any other organic products, always check the label to ensure it is truly organic and pure juice.

Organic tart cherry juice can be found in health food stores or online. It is recommended to drink 2 spoons to half a glass a day depending on what you wish to achieve (maintenance of good health or treat a condition).
Tart cherry growers were asked by the Health Authorities in the States to increase the demand in this super fruit and to promote its health benefits so it seems that we will hear more and more of this powerful fruit and hopefully, see more studies related to its health benefits.