Diwali Special: The farm fresh hamper5 min read . Updated: 25 Oct 2019, 05:48 PM IST
- Come Diwali, food takes centre stage. Therefore, it is a great time to be mindful of what we eat
- Lounge curates a clean, green Diwali hamper with local produce
Come Diwali, food takes centre stage—gulab jamuns in cardamom-scented syrup, ghee-soaked motichoor laddoos, piping-hot pakodas and crunchy sev and bhujiya and four-course family feasts. This is also what makes Diwali a great time to be mindful of what we eat and make conscious choices that benefit us and the environment. Shop online for these products—on their eponymous websites—that spell festive gifting and holiday indulgence rolled into one.
Honey—wild and flavoured
There’s an exciting range of ethically and sustainably harvested, wild, unpasteurized honey sourced from across the country—from the hills of Kumaon to the forests of Kodaikanal and Sundarbans, made available by home-grown brands focused on sustainability. Take your pick from flavour notes, colour and viscosity, depending on seasonality, floral source and the kind of bees. At Kodaikanal-based Hoopoe on a Hill, for instance, you can choose between the rare Wild Cerana Honey with medicinal properties or the unique Kurinji Honey made from the nectar of the kurinji flower that blooms every 12 years in the forests of Kodaikanal.
You can also buy raw wildflower honey from brands like Zama Organics and Theo Organics. Theo Organics sources from Himalayan farms, and has a range of flavour-infused and smoked raw wildflower honey. Most of these places also stock eco-friendly beeswax wrappers that can be used for wrapping your edible Diwali gifts.
Jams, spreads and pickles
Jams, spreads and pickles make for delightful jar gifts. Skip the additives-laden stuff and go for all-natural products handmade with local ingredients from farms committed to sustainable practices.
The Earth Reserve’s handmade jams and pickles use local ingredients like mango ginger rhizome, hog plum, bird’s-eye chili and lovi lovi (also knows as bakoto plums). Their coffee butter is made with coffee beans from Karnataka estates. “The fruits for our jams and preserves come from trees that grow wild in our coffee and pepper plantations in Coorg. No harmful chemicals go into these plants," says co-director Nidhi George Ramapuram, who runs the company with her sister-in-law Thresi Ramapuram.
Future Organics too has unique preserves like lotus flower and thippili pepper, in addition to pickles made with amla, red chillies, gongura and drumsticks.
Ghee and Oil
Instead of adding a bottle of extra virgin olive oil to the gift box you’re putting together, go for a 100% natural, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil or a jar of organic ghee. Coco Soul specializes in organic coconut-based products and its cold-pressed virgin oils come infused with chillies and oregano or fresh coriander.
Amorearth Desi Gir Cow Cultured Ghee by Two Brothers Organic Farms is another option. “Our ghee is made of milk from cows that free-graze on our Ecocert certified farm and are hand-milked. The milk is boiled the traditional way in an iron kadhai on firewood.... The ghee is made from the fermented butter churned out of this yogurt, unlike most places that make ghee from malai (cream)," says co-founder Satyajit Hange.
Spice up your festive hamper with the comprehensive organic selection of Zama Organics, The Earth Reserve or The Little Farm Co. From pantry staples like turmeric and chilli powder to aromatics like nutmeg and star anise, the range is supplemented with regional spices like bhanjeera and jakhiya seeds, the high-curcumin lakadong turmeric from the Jaintia hills of Meghalaya and the Himalayan timur (a kind of Sichuan pepper).
Indian chocolatiers experimenting with organic Indian-origin cocoa sourced locally from organic certified farms are churning out an impressive range of handcrafted bean-to-bar chocolate with a distinctly desi accent.
Chennai-based Kocoatrait offers single-origin chocolate bars in familiar flavours like Masala Chai, Sukku Coffee, Lemongrass and Jaggery, while Malabar Secrets’ collection of artisanal dark chocolates has eclectic flavour combinations like nutmeg, coriander, turmeric with black pepper and rose. Kochi-based Paul and Mike, with Alphonso mango, sitaphal (custard apple) and jamun (Malabar plum) chocolates on offer, aims to be carbon positive by 2023.
An ancient symbol of prosperity, rice is an apt gift to convey luck and abundance. India folk rice varieties have unique nutritive and culinary virtues. The past few years have seen concerted efforts to revive some of these forgotten rice strains. Kolkata-based Amar Khamar, an online platform that works with women farmers through cooperatives and non-profit organizations, features a range of indigenous, heirloom rice varieties from Bengal. Chennai-based Sempulam Sustainable Solutions’ range of Namma Nellu Rice Gift Boxes feature variants such as the fragrant mullankaima, the red mappillai samba, karunkuruvai and kullakar.
While choosing tea to serve guests this Diwali, or as gifts for friends and family, opt for ethical tea brands that ensure proper working conditions and fair wages to workers, and is committed to sustainable farming techniques that causes no enduring harm to the environment. Assamica Agro and Mana Organics have an exciting range of ethically produced organic teas. Assamica’s exclusive hand-blended teas, like their green lemongrass or zesty hibiscus, make for good gifts.
Desi Organic Coffee
If you’d rather have coffee, there are some exciting options. Think organic, single-estate coffees in complex flavour profiles and different roast degrees, with notes of hazelnut, caramel and dark chocolate or distinct notes of green grapes, sweet lime and molasses. Brands like Blue Tokai and Dope Coffee Roasters identify and highlight the estates or farms from which the coffee is sourced, to maintain transparency. The Indian Bean too sources its coffee directly from farmers and employs fair trade practices. Black Baza Coffee calls their coffee radical and themselves an activist company. They are committed to ensure secure livelihoods for coffee producers while promoting biodiversity-friendly coffee farming practices.
Millets instead of Motichur
Opt for sweets and savouries made with sustainable, indigenous grains like millets, amaranth and buckwheat. Millet laddoos and halwa, sorghum pops, roasted amaranth, fritters made with buckwheat flour can be just as delicious. Brands like Kiru offer a range of millet and other grain-based sweets and savouries—there’s everything from mixed millet cookies and laddoos to spicy mixtures and crackers available online. You could also try The Earth Reserve’s multi-millet papad.
All-natural dehydrated fruit from Mumbai-based Fruit Munch is meticulously cleaned, sliced and dried using advanced drying technology before being packed without added sugar or preservatives. They have a range of fruits like apple, mangoes, strawberry, chikoo and pineapple. These fruits could be mixed into cake batter or used to liven up your cereal bowl. Besides, these are a good alternative for candy treats to gift children this Diwali.
Priyadarshini Chatterjee is a Kolkata-based food writer.