The Organic Traveller
Saturday, 30 December 2017

Organic Steinkjer

Norwegian smalltowns can be a frustrating experience for those used to organic food, hunting-gathering the nation-wide chains as described here. What a surprise when I spent the time waiting for a bus in Steinkjer with a stroll through the town's main street, Kongens gate. Five minutes from the train station you'll find Grønn bølge ("Green Wave"), a small friendly organic convenience store cum day cafe where you not only can buy daily supplies (surprisingly much of it from local producers, including a small selection of fresh seasonal fruit and veges) but also have a smoothie, plain coffee, home-made cookie or seasonal soup. Until 2016 the shop was located in a side street a few steps away.

For a more substantial meal in the afternoon or evening simply cross the street. Here you'll find Ox Steak House, where you can have grilled or cured beef, burgers (with home-made buns), sausages, and more from free-ranging highland cattle from a small-scale farm about 15 kilometers north-west. The animals are allowed to keep their horns, but neither the farm nor the restaurant is certified organic. The place was however recommended to me by another local farmer in the course of an exchange on free-range and organic farming. You can also order food to take away.

To dine in style at a decidedly committed organic farm you'll have to book in advance and take a taxi 12 kilometers out of town to Bjerkem organic farm and cultural heritage centre. Since September 2017 the farm has been playing host to the new organic gourmet restaurant of acclaimed Norwegian (formerly London-based) chef Kim Tore Sjøbakk, the Experience. The tasting menu consisting of 14 courses comes at 1250 NOK per person, together with matching wine and drinks at 2250 NOK. Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to dine there yet, so let me know about your experience.

Closed

2017-12-30 14:00:05 [Steinkjer, organic, supermarkets, grocery, eatery, restaurant, burgers, fastfood] Link

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Monday, 25 December 2017

Organic Namsos

For those of us living in big Western cities and metropolises and used to a stable supply with eco-conscious products small Norwegian towns like Namsos in Northern Trøndelag come as a shock: In this rich country with lots of well-educated people the individual has to take a big extra effort to source organic food and eco-conscious household products. It's not only about to know where to go, no -- you may simply not be able to find staples in organic quality. Planning ahead often is no option since you cannot rely on supermarkets to have organic sugar or cream all the time, flavoured yoghurt, gomme (traditional Norwegian dairy spread), durum pasta and ice-cream once where available, but no longer, yeast or mushrooms (to name a few) have never been seen here. Creativity is key: Shop what's available and hack your meals according to what is on offer.

There's no support for the zero waste approach, in fact the big chains usually sell organic vegetables and fruit pre-packaged in plastic foil to avoid accidental mixing with the larger conventional batches.

Forget completely about eating out -- in a town like Namsos which has dozens of branches of the cheaper supermarket chains, but not even a single branch of more upmarket chains like Meny (which was closed about eight years ago) or Coop Mega (which was converted into an inferior Coop Extra at about the same time) the general inhabitants' priorities obviously do not include quality food. (The region's organic farm-to-table delivery service, Økomat Innherred, stopped serving Namsos at about the same time owing lack of demand.)

Food and staples

The good news is that even Namsos is not completely ignorant of a certain trend towards a more sustainable lifestyle, and, to my surprise, after years of stagnation, I have been observing an improvement since 2016. By now there's a steady supply of organic apples, oranges, lemons, bananas, eggs, milk, wheat flour, whole-meal pasta, butter and oil, fresh herbs and a basic assortment of dried herbs and spices, tomatoes (both fresh and canned chopped), onion, carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, salad, tortillas, ketchup, coffee, tea, chocolates, muesli, apple juice, kefir and sour-cream ("rømme"), cheese, crispbread, sesame and sunflower seeds, preserved olives, canned corn, peanut butter and chocolate spread, honey, baby food and usually also bread, potatoes, rocket in summer, and cauliflower (I may have forgotten some items). Hence vegetarians are quite reasonably catered for, and this is a vast improvement compared with the situation only two to three years ago.

Omnivores have a harder life: You may be so fortunate to find "Gilde økologisk spekepølse", a cured meat speciality similar to a salami, and if you scan pre-packaged meat products (both frozen and fresh) you may find minced meat, sometimes even beef cuts and before X-mas pinnekjøtt. In general scan carefully for the "økologisk" keyword and all organic labels you know of, especially the Debio label, the European one and the Swedish KRAV. You may be surprised to find a new type of cheese, pre-backed rolls or even Norwegian beer.

Coop Extra Bygg Spillum To keep frustration as low as possible shop from the Coop supermarkets -- the Coop Extra Verftsgata within the Storsenter mall and the Coop Extra Bygg in Spillum offer most organic options and often complement each other. All products of the Änglamark own brand as well as all dairy products from Røros meieriet are organic. Veges are often advertised as the Aroma variety, but to be sure check for organic labels. The branch on Verftsgata has had a stronger organic focus during the past years and still offers a better selection of veges, among them pears, fresh ginger and garlic, and sometimes even of non-mainstream varieties. But the bigger Spillum branch has kept up: They even showcased a surprisingly good selection of organic lemonades and light beer from Reins Kloster for the holiday season 2016/17, proudly sporting hand-written organic labels. By now organic fruit and veges have their own sales area, so it's been easier to find them. The Spillum branch has been offering organic parmesan cheese, frozen bread rolls, plain yoghurt and even organic cream since -- products I've never seen in town before. Still, there are quite a few product categories which are impossible to find in organic quality, among them Norwegian staples like sauerkraut, frozen pizza and (!) Italian-style pasta made from durum wheat.

For ice-cream stop by the (otherwise inferior but late-evening open) Rema 1000 supermarket opposite the Rock City cinema: The chain recently invested in Kolonihagen, a 100% organic delivery service, allowing them to develop and extend their own brand. Some of these products (like ice-cream and orange jam) can be found in Namsos as well.

To supplement baking ingredients, dried fruit, tea and sweets head for the small Life healthfood store within the Storsenter complex -- just follow the indoors aisle starting at the Coop branch and head for the second shop to the left. They offer a decent range of products of the Helios brand of organic and biodynamic quality and are the most reliable and exhaustive source of organic tea and tisane bags in town.

Organic wine and stronger beer can be sourced from the town's Vinmonopolet also located in the Storsenter mall -- they usually have a small selection of organic items in stock, but you're required to order more fancy stuff in advance.

If you happen to be in town on the few occasions a farmers' market (Bondens marked) is being held or during the annual Kulturmartna fair on the premises of Namdalsmuseet in August shop for organic cured meat smoked in the sauna of Brattlia farm in Namdalseid. If you call in advance you may also pay a visit to the farm itself and buy their products directly (leave the bus from Steinkjer to Namsos at Lyngen stop and follow the signs.) On both market occasions one or two other local organic small scale farmers will sell their produce.

The best source for smoked or fermented wild salmon as well as fermented char or trout ("rakfisk") and dried wild fish is the town's only real butcher cum delicatessen, Aakervik. On a few occasions they also stock organic meat, and they are a reliable source of Norwegian lamb chops: Even though usually not organically certified most Norwegian sheep spend their lifetime roaming in the mountains, feeding on what the countryside has to offer, and thus, a stress-free death provided, can be taken for almost organic.

In general a huge amount of the country's organically produced milk and meat is being sold undercover as conventional food. Where, you might ask, go all the Norwegian organic hens at the end of their lives as producers of organic eggs? As of today organic Norwegian chicken meat products have been unseen of in the country's supermarkets. While the countries largest dairy distributor, Tine, seems to give up its long-time opposition against organic products, egg distributor Prior and meat distributor Gilde often are not interested in marketing their products as organic claiming that consumers would refuse to buy them as they would be perceived as overprized.

Household and body care

Detergents and toiletries of Coop's Änglamark brand meet the requirements of the Nordic Ecolabel and are your best choice for household detergents usually free from artificial colourings and perfumes. Unfortunately this label, to name a few disadvantages, allows aggressive tensides such as SLS and SLES and does not require all natural or even organic ingredients.

For superior natural skin care or even organically certified body care products you have the following options: The Life healthfood shop stocks a basic selection of creams, lotions, soaps, toothpastes and hair care products. In addition the town's only natural care hairdresser's cum beauty parlour Art of Nature in the centre of town will sell organic hair and skin care to passers-by. You will also find a very limited selection of natural body care at Namsos Bandasje opposite Storsenter. There's no supplier of natural or even organic decorative cosmetic products in town.

Fashion

Fashionistas should keep clear of Namsos, but the local H&M branches at Storsenter offer a reasonable selection of fast fashion items made from organic and sustainable materials. Look out for the "H&M conscious" brand with their green labels.

2017-12-25 13:00:30 [Namsos, organic, wine, supermarkets, grocery, market, fashion] Link

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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Nuremberg: Groceries and bakeries

All big supermarket and drugstore chains in Germany by now offer a decent selection of organic products. Thus I'll restrict myself to mention places where you can avoid checking each item for an organic label thanks to the fact that they do not offer conventionally produced food.

The leading organic full retailer in Nuremberg is a local chain dubbed ebl Naturkost operating 13 supermarkets within the city boundaries, and more in the greater metropolitan area including the town of Fürth. The bigger ones incorporate a day cafe. Apart from this you will also find two branches of the nationwide operating Denn's supermarket chain.

While these supermarkets allow you to shop for daily necessities in a swift and efficient way, a more personal atmosphere is guaranteed in neighbourhood groceries like Bio und nah and Lotos in Gostenhof, Der grüne Laden ("The Green Shop") north-east of Friedrich-Ebert-Platz or the second Lotos branch at Unschlittplatz.

All of them cater for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike, but there's also a 100% vegan grocery, Lebe gesund ("live healthy") at Josephsplatz. The shop is part of a small chain offering fresh greens from their own fields as well as bread and cakes, yummy dried apple slices, pickles and preserves, vegan spread and sausages, pasta, pestos and more, all made from the harvest of their farm. The latter is driven in accordance with the ancient principle of three-field crop rotation justifying the upmarket prices. Some may however be hesistant to shop here as the chain is owned and driven by a controversial religious cult.

If you're fond of huge round loafs of German sourdough bread there's a less controversial source in town: the Munich-based organic bakery chain Hofpfisterei has a branch on the way from Hallplatz to Lorenzer Platz.

Ceased to exist

The following places shut down and where replaced by other, not organic ones. So don't be confused when you find references to them on the web:

2016-12-31 16:00:10 [Nuremberg, organic, grocery, supermarkets, bakeries, vegan, vegetarian] Link

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Monday, 29 August 2016

Organic Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum)

Perhaps even more than in Europe an environmentally friendly lifestyle seems to primarily concern (a fraction of) the more affluent, and hence you will not be surprised that buying organic is best done in the well-off neighbourhood of Kowdiar. It's here that the city's only fully organic grocery, the Organic Bazaar, is located. Climbing the stairs to the first floor you will find a neat and clean farmer's shop driven by friendly staff and backed by an NGO, Thanal. Good for the traveller: Everything on sale can be carried home safely since none of the items needs cooling. Apart from a huge selection of pulses, grains (among others types of rice the average European has never heard of), flours, sugar, cereals and spices from all over India you will find honey, chutneys and other preserves as well as locally grown fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables. They do not offer juices or other refreshments since these would need the addition of preservatives, but you will find a sufficient selection of household detergents, washing powder, toothpaste, shampoo, soap bars and skin care. As local customers tend to shop their veges on Wednesdays be prepared to find a diminished selection of greens on Wednesday afternoons. If you stay long enough to consume your purchase make sure to return the plastic packing to the shop (fresh veges will be packaged in bags made from recycled newspapers). In case you happen to go wild and, in search of the place end up in Thanal's office in OD-3, Jawahar Nagar (the former home to Organic Bazaar) don't hesitate to ask for the way -- we were even accompanied the ten minutes walk to the shop.

More spices, pulses, grains, dried and candied fruit, teas and tisanes as well as natural body care products can be found a 15 minutes walk away at upmarket Fabindia, with upmarket price tags. Fabindia specializes in handmade Indian fashion and home textiles made from natural Indian fabrics -- very colourful and of high quality, but -- apart from some clothes for babies -- these are not (yet?) made of organically produced cotton or silk. A pleasant and quiet shopping retreat, one wonders howewer how fairly the profit of this exquisite boutique is distributed among the growers and makers of these beautifully and tastefully done textiles. Note that their "Organics" trademark for food items does not guarantee certified organic ingredients, for these to find you have to watch out for the keyword "organic" on the labels and ingredients lists.

Another -- local -- chain supposed to trade in pesticide-free, partially organic grocery is Aroma Fresh which also operates a branch near Kowdiar. Let me know if you can give an account on it.

As always in India you cannot always trust in names. Also in Kowdiar you will find Organic One cafe, but although they serve very tasty milkshakes, ice-cream, lassis and juices made of natural ingredients only, they are not serving anything organic.

Pathayam A five minutes walk from the State Secretariat of Kerala (go Y.M.C.A road to Southern block and swing to the left) you'll find what appears to be the city's only organic restaurant, purely vegetarian (predominantly vegan) Pathayam. Take the outside stairs to the right of the entrance to Hotel Navaratna Upendra, and you'll find a South-Indian eatery where you can have a traditional South-Indian meal and freshly pressed fruit juices. Boiled herb water is being served as a complementary refreshment if you ask. The Organic Special Meal consists of cut fruit and a veges salad, a soup, a chappati plus rice blended with veges served together with chutneys and curries of the day as well as three small cups of rasam, payasam and (in our case ginger-)flavoured buttermilk. The Ordinary Meal omits the salad (which also can be had separately) and fruit starter while the Chapati Meal consists of soup, four chapatis, curries, condiments and a slice of fruit. When you finish off your curries and chutneys a second helping is promptly filled onto your tray. The place focusses on health food, with one of their slogans being "taste comes second" which explains the rather bland taste compared with other Kerala food.

The restaurant consists of two rooms -- an A/C cooled room with a hand wash in the back and a lively non-A/C entrance hall where you can eat watching the fruit juices being prepared. The latter also houses a small organic grocery where you can shop all the ingredients used in the restaurant kitchen. Most supplies come from a Coimbatore farm, and the place is supplied by KADA, an organic online delivery service operating out of Trivandrum.

Another organic delivery service in town (which I haven't used though) is Sabarimala. Not only does it act as a grocery but also as a pizza delivery service. I did not have the time to visit neither their nor KADA's locations within Technopark (near train stop Kazhakootam) and hence am unable to tell whether they have shops on premise. Let me know if you happen to be there!

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Thanal also operated a Zero Waste Centre in Kovalam which, apart from organic food, body and homecare products, offered recycled artisanal stationary and other items made from handmade paper, textiles, bags as well as household items made from coconut shell, natural fibres, cane and bamboo. This office cum shop was however shut down in April 2016 and is now working out of Thanal's office:

2016-08-29 16:00:10 [Thiruvananthapuram, Trivandrum, Kovalam, organic, grocery, supermarkets, fashion, bodycare, household, restaurant, pizza, zero_waste, vegan] Link

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This work by trish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For commercial use contact the author: E-mail · Mastodon · Vero · Ello.