Sustainability, Local, Organic and Farm to Fork are the buzzwords on the global food circuits for enlightened folk… and this stretches to India too. Whether it is five-star hotels, boutique spas or supermarket chains — that’s what everyone is talking about. What is surprising is that in just a few years, these concepts have moved out of the “marginal” zone and created a demand based on trend and substance, which is more than significant. What does it all mean?
What’s local, what’s organic?
Local means not only sourcing food which is locally grown or produced and therefore fresh, but it also hits a much deeper, socio-economic chord… it helps the local community, provides jobs and continues a tradition. It keeps families together and bonded and doing what they have been doing for centuries. And people are willing to pay not only for the product but also for the emotion. The contact with the supplier or creator is the key. We used to know our vegetable vendors, butchers and fishmongers on a first-name basis. With the supermarket boom, this has changed and now there is a very real need to rediscover our emotional roots as well as source mindfully.
Organic certification is hard to come by because it means that the land you are farming on within a certain kilometre radius is pesticide-free. Ironically, it is the bigger companies which own the vast acreage — producing grains and tea for example — where they can even apply for “organic certification”. Smaller farmers, not aware of what their neighbour has ploughed into their soil, have to be content with the stamp “organically grown” or “pesticide free”.
To market, to market...
Farmers’ markets in the US, UK and Europe are homes to many new suppliers, many of whom are homegrown start-ups and small producers. This is a long tradition in Europe where food is a ritual, a celebration of life and family, and something quite frankly to boast about. Traditionally, farmers’ markets in Europe are over the weekend and in cities like Paris, mid-week markets in each arrondissement or district are not uncommon even today. In the US and UK, the farmers’ market movement comes as a reaction to processed food and multinationals.
Food event with a heart
We started the Pune Farmers’ Market in December 2012 with a loyal and devoted young team armed with a plateful of enthusiasm and a lot of energy. We are now in nine cities and would like to think of ourselves as the first whole foods and lifestyle market — a source of exceptional Indian produce. We attract everyone from chefs and restaurateurs to passionate amateur cooks looking to express themselves, young entrepreneurs and people who just love eating and drinking.
We like to think of it as a market and a food event with a heart and a haven for anybody who cares about the quality and provenance of the food they eat. It’s a place to explore, to ask questions, to discover new flavours, to savour a unique atmosphere and to have fun!
These are some of my favourite artisanal food, lifestyle and wellness producers in the country today, all of whom are available at one or more of our markets.
THE ALTITUDE STORE
Ayesha Grewal is deeply committed to sourcing and producing fabulous cheeses, fruits and vegetables on her farm outside Delhi. Visit her shop in Mehar Chand Market in Delhi. Also visit her new cafe recently opened a few doors down.
Sunil and Deepali Bhu have a huge range of cheeses in The Cheese Ball, their Mehar Chand Market store in Delhi. Pick up a wheel of the smoked gouda or try the soft goat cheese with herbs, which make for great dips and spreads.
CAROSELLE THE GOURMAND’S CHEESE
American-born Patti and her partner produce the best camembert in India in the hills of Kodaikanal. Wrapped in round areca palm boxes, this is the closest to the original thing you will find outside France.
For the most fabulous extra virgin coconut oil, great quality nolen gur and beeswax and kokum butter massage body bars.
Cold-pressed juices to die for. Available across the country. Named after your needs — Detox, Love and so on. My favourite is their Shield — carrot, orange, ginger
Again, the cold-pressed juice phenomenon is sweeping India. Fresh Pressery is based in Bangalore. Try their Charcoal Cleanse and their Yellow Hydration — pineapple with coconut water with amla, chia seeds and aloe. They also run two cafes in the city. Worth a trip.
The most amazing products from the hills of Kumaon. Beautifully packaged apricot kernel and walnut oils and scrubs.
Seeing the need to grow vegetables in small spaces like terraces or on a balcony, award-winning product designer Satish Gokhale and his team from Design Directions, Pune, created these handy trays. A little water buoy indicates when the soil is dry.
No need to buy foreign coffee machines or capsules anymore. Bonhomia provides both, using Indian coffee beans and easy-to-identify descriptors at affordable prices.
I never liked what I thought was Assam tea — the CTC dust variety. Raj Barooah from the Assam Tea Planters’ Association demystifies Assam tea. His company produces some stunning varieties, including green and white teas.
BITES OF BLISS
I am completely addicted to their muesli bars and healthy snacks.
Sanjeevani is now available in India under the brand Taal. Some of the best organic products around, including single varietal honey, chutneys and chestnuts. Based in Dehradun.
THE FLYING SQUIRREL
Great local coffee from a Bangalore-based company.
STUDIO HAUS / IN HAUS WORKSMITH
With great passion and aesthetics, Tony transforms local woods from the tamarind and mango trees into amazing tables.
One of my go-to natural cosmetics brands. Beautiful new packaging. Their rosewater spray, lipsticks and night creams are a must.
Their Cranberry and Almond toasted millet muesli is what I start my day with. Better than most imported products I have tasted.
Karen Anand is a culinary consultant,
food writer and entrepreneur.
In recent times her name has been
synonymous with farmers’ markets.
Follow her on Facebook @karenanand