Archive for November 23, 2011

Organic fruit on line

When I started this website I did not anticipate covering food items. But as I go on I find there are things that I want to share. So bear with me.

I love dried mango. I used to live in Zanzibar, which is a big mango producer. We tried drying our own in the sun but never quite managed to get it dry enough.

mango

Much of the dried mango in the stores is adulterated with sugar (whose idea was it to add sugar to sweet mango?) and sulphur dioxide (think volcanoes and acid rain…..). The sulphur dioxide preserves and prevents discolouration but it is not something that is on my `must eat’ list. Its use as an additive is regulated: while it is theoretically fine to eat in small quantities, there are known health risks associated with it (see here for a summary). So I prefer my mango straight up.

The problem is that straight-up dried mango is both hard to find and expensive (at least where I live). Not the sort of thing I would be packing in my kids’ lunch boxes everyday.

So when, late one night, I discovered the fantastic Nuts.com site, I was thrilled to see that they sell organic – and pure – dried mango for just $10.99/lb. Except I was sure they would not ship to Canada. But up there at the top of the shipping page I spotted a little red maple leaf and found that they do indeed ship here, at very reasonable cost.

mango bag

To where I live in Ontario (which I guess is not far from New Jersey where the company is based) shipping costs are $11.82 for 5lbs and $14.43 for 10lbs.

I ordered 10lbs of assorted nuts and fruits so effectively paid less than $1.50/lb in shipping. This still makes the mango cheap relative to what I would pay around here, and the choice of nuts is unrivalled.

Shipments to Canada are bulked up and sent by Purolator twice a week, to keep costs low. Mercifully they also deal with any taxes and duties so no nasty surprises. The most amazing thing is how quickly I received my order. I placed it on a Monday, it was shipped on a Tuesday and arrived on Thursday. Few Canadian companies could rival that.

The organic mango is very good and is one of 250 organic products available on the site, including some pretty off-beat stuff (kelp powder, maca powder, yacon syrup anyone???).

This is a family-owned company that has been around for nearly 80 years. They are very responsive to email questions and helpful with everything.

And though the company does not sell itself on its eco credentials, they do note that they are trying to do their best. They use 100% post-consumer recycled cardboard boxes and starch biodegradable packing peanuts. They have installed energy efficient lighting and motion sensors and selling in bulk has its merits too.

So I am now a late-night fruit and nut shopper…..and my kids do get dried mango in their lunch boxes from time to time. We are all happy!

In praise of the pocket handkerchief

As a child, I remember that there were two things that my father always kept in his pocket: a penknife and a hanky.
Maybe I am too urban, but I don’t carry a knife. I do, however, almost always carry a hanky. And it is amazing how often this comes in handy.

accessories-1-handkerchiefs

One thing you should know about me is that, almost every day of my life, I do at least two sets of rapid-fire sneezes so a hanky is of particular value to me (oops…now you will think I am very weird and never read this site again). But, even if you are not weird like me, I promise you will find one useful (especially with kids and food around).

Although recycled tissues are now quite widely available, I am a firm believer in cloth handkerchiefs. They are less resource- and energy-intensive, kinder on the nose, more versatile and generally a most satisfying addition to life.
And for those of you who are squeamish: you don’t have to wash them separately, nor at very high heat. They do just fine on a 40C quick wash in my household (and nobody seems to get sick as a result…).

I am pretty traditional and prefer a crisp cotton handkerchief (the type that you might see poking out of a breast pocket). But I am also willing to iron my hankies which – I recognize – puts me in a minority. Unironed (after line drying) they might be a bit stiff and unruly.

hankybook lots

If you are a non-ironer, there is help at hand as many of the organic handkerchiefs now available on-line are made from cotton jersey (non-fraying, stretchy and soft) rather than traditional cotton.
An interesting option, that is in my pocket even as I write, is the hanky book.

This is akin to a kids’ cloth book (minus the stuffed cover). It is made of 4 sheets of organic cotton jersey sewn down the middle (so 8 pages) plus a coloured cottton `cover’. It is small (3″ x 4″ when folded closed). The idea is that you open it up, blow your nose on one of the `pages’ and then close it. That way your bag/pocket/hand doesn’t get contaminated by terrible things from your nose.

You have probably gathered that I am not squeamish about hankies, so this is not a big deal for me. However, the things works quite well and it’s a neat idea, especially if it converts some tissue users to the cause. Hanky books cost $5 if bought in packs of 3 and $6 if bought separately. They ship to Canada at no great cost. If you are any good at all with a pair of scissors and a sewing machine, you could also make your own for much less (assuming you can source the cotton jersey).

hanky owls

Another, more traditional option comes from a company called Hank & Cheef. These are sewn in Vancouver using organic cotton from Turkey. I love the designs but my gripe is that the nicest ones occur on the regular-sized hankies which are really too small (8.5″ square: a real handkerchief should be at least 10″ square: dainty ladies’ versions have never cut it with me). They sell only one 12″ hanky and this is significantly over-priced (in my view) at $9.75. After all, you need at least 5 in your drawer to keep you covered.

So there you have it. In Canada, at least, it is tough to find regular hankies in the stores. Maybe that is not the case in Europe. I would hope not as I would really hate to see these items die out altogether. For now I have raided the back-up supplies of both my mother and my mother-in-law so I am in good shape….but they won’t last forever (sadly: because I lose them, otherwise they pretty much do).

Right now I need all the hanky (and help) I can get as I have a lousy cold.

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