organic food

Sweden has been seized by the Eco bug – of late, the newspapers present articles and statistics about how people start buying organic food. The exact reason for this sudden trend is not clear to me. The people-in-the-street’s answers presented yesterday in Svenska Dagbladet certainly don’t help to bring more light into the matter. There are a few opinions like ‘I don’t buy it, it is too expensive and doesn’t taste any different than other food’ and ‘I do buy it, it tastes better’. However, most people seem to buy organic food because somehow vague, it feels better to do so. In any case in Stockholm, there is these days a “great interest” for organic food but “not enough of it in the shops”.

I live not in Stockholm, but in the countryside a bit east of Göteborg. I have been trying to get hold of organic products for fourteen years. Having grown up in an area outside Bremen that, during the early seventies, was completely transformed by the massive advent of chemical fertilizers (all the fish went away and the water went muddy and the meadows started to smell funny…), I am quite convinced that organic farming is better for the environment. Being traditionally used to the products of a fairly well organized vegetable patch, I am also convinced that organic food can be better to eat. For quite a long time now, I have had no problems getting organic milk, various grains (for baking), butter, eggs and things like rice and beans from various sources. Some of these do taste better than the ordinary non-organic variety, especially the eggs, others just give a better feeling.

I am, however, unable to understand the policy of the organic vegetable department of my supermarket. Indeed, a half-year old white cabbage is not better simply because it has a tape with a green Eco brand around its shrunken belly. A cauliflower that has not been treated with snazzy chemicals needs in fact a kinder hand than the other indestructible ones – this one has brown spots; lots of them. I am finding decomposed cucumbers, a pack of four lemons, one of which is sporting a soft and fluffy layer of turquoise mildew (and this is the milder version. Robin reminds me that she once mistook such a four-pack of lemons for organic Kiwis) Here’s another pack of four: this times tomatoes, one of which is split and rotting (as in the next package). It seems no wonder that the critics of the new rage don’t understand what the advantages are.

Of course I am hoping that people here will respond to the trend. Perhaps there will be fewer organic vegetables for a while, but hopefully fresher ones. Nobody in that shop seems in any case to be going the other way: to understand what freshness means, to exercise quality controls beyond the Monday-morning toss-out of brown and dripping bags with undefined contents, to learn how to keep ecological lemons so they don’t rot (in a refrigerator! So simple), understanding that bleak or mangled tomatoes are not good, however environment-minded they were produced.

But hey. If I’m getting a good batch of Eco lemons, Robin makes us a lemon tart, and that is better than anything in the world!


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