The Herbal Bear - Newsletters

The Herbal Bear Newsletter - August 2006

In this months issue:

  • Demystifying Organic
  • Keeping cool with an Herbal Granita
  • Herbal Bears' Pop Quiz
  • Question of the Month
  • The Herbal Bear's Fall Classes

De-Mystifying Organic

What is "Organic" anyway?

Americans are buying organic products for a variety of reasons.  Some of the reasons include belief that  organic foods are better: for the environment;  for their health;  and for quality and taste. Organic food has both a popular meaning, and, a legal definition. In everyday conversation, it usually refers to all "naturally produced" foods, or the product of organic farming. As a legal term, it means certified organic. The distinction is important, as the two definitions can represent quite different products.

In the United States "Organic" is defined by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture (USDA) . As of October 21, 2002, all agricultural farms and products claiming to be organic must be guaranteed by a USDA-approved independent agency to be meeting the following guidelines:

  • Producers must abstain from the application of prohibited materials (including synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and sewage sludge) for 3 years prior to certification and then continually throughout their organic license.
  • Prohibit the use of genetically modified organisms and irradiation.
  • Employ positive soil building, conservation, manure management and crop rotation practices.
  • Provide outdoor access and pasture for livestock.
  • Refrain from antibiotic and hormone use in animals.
  • Sustain animals on 100% organic feed.
  • Certified organic meat, eggs, poultry and dairy are produced from animals not inoculated with antibiotics or growth hormones.
  • Avoid contamination during the processing of organic products.
  • Keep records of all operations.

So Organic is the Best Standard - Right?
You may think that "Organic" is the highest standard for our food. Unfortunately there are a number of other factors that you may assume come along with the "Organic" label - that are not necessary so. Let's look at the labeling itself . There are three levels of organic content a processed food may have and each has a different labeling statement.

100 Percent Organic - When foods are labeled this way it means that the product contains 100% organic ingredients.

Organic  - When foods are labeled this way it means that the product contains 95% - 100% organic ingredients. Please note that up to 5% of the ingredients might include chemical stabilizers, preservatives etc.

Made with Organic (ingredient) - When food are labeled this way the product must contain at least 70% organic ingredients.

Right away you can see that just because the word organic appears on the label does not mean it is 100% organic. Read you labels carefully.

Organic certification does not cover other issues such as fair-trade wages, and does not necessarily require the same humane standards as those imposed by the Certified Humane and Raised Program. Additionally the terms "Natural" "Grass-Fed" and "Free Range" do not mean the food is "Organic".

Laws Can Be Changed
There have been several serious attempts to significantly change the Organic standards. Some of the proposed changes that have been lobbied include placing chemical materials on a list of substances approved for organic use; allowing additives to be used in processing organic foods; eliminating outdoor access requirements for poultry; and eliminating the requirement that livestock feed be 100 percent organic. For more information about these issues visit the Center of Food Safety's website.

Keeping Cool with an Herbal Granita

A cup of herbal tea is often very tempting, however in the hot summer month sometimes we crave something a bit cooler. Certainly you can serve iced tea, but why not go one step further and make an herbal Granita?

Combine 3-4 cups of a brewed herbal tea 1/2 cup of simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water, and stir over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved). Freeze the mixture in a shallow baking pan for one hour. Then gently stir the ice crystals with a fork every hour for the next 2-3 hours for tasty herbal granita. Place frozen crystals in a beautiful chilled glass and serve!

The Herbal Bear's Pop Quiz

1. What part of the hops plant is harvested for herbal medicine?
The flowers
The leaves.
The Strobile
The roots

Answer will be provided in next month newsletter

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Here's  the Herbal Bear's Fall Classes




Herbal Soap Making - Saturday, September 16th, 2006
Herbal and Holistic Practices -  4 Saturdays:  October 14, 21, 28, Nov 4th, 2006
Medical Botany II - 4 Sundays: Sept. 17; Oct. 1; Oct. 15; Oct. 22, 2006
Herbs for the Cold Season - November 5, 2006
Medicinal Plant Preparations Workshop - November 11, 2006
Herbal Spa Workshop: A Natural Approach to Beautiful Skin - Saturday, December 9, 2006

We are also currently accepting applications for the 2007 Botanical Medicine Program.

2007 Botanical Medicine Program - A  6 weekend intensive program for those interested in Herbal Studies in the Northern Catskills.

If you have any specific questions about our programs, please feel free to contact us.

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