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May, 2011

Organics... Not Just a Trend Anymore!

By Mark Mulcahy

Does it seem as if you are seeing more people in your local store shopping for organic groceries and Melissa’s organic produce these days?
Organic Strawberries
Well you probably aren’t the only one noticing this trend. All across the country organic food sales are up, despite the nation’s worst economic downturn in 80 years. The organic sector grew by 8 percent in 2010, dramatically outpacing the food industry as a whole, which grew at less than 1 percent in 2010. According to the OTA’s (Organic Trade Association) Organic Industry Survey, the organic industry has grown from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $29 billion in 2010. But, that’s not all; take a look at these other survey findings on the health and growth of our industry:
• The organic industry supports 14,540 organic farms and ranches across the country. A total of 4.1 million acres of land are currently in organic management, and there are organic farms in all 50 states.
• Since 78% of organic farms report planning to maintain or increase organic production levels over the next five years, the organic sector will continue to play a contributing role in revitalizing America’s rural economy through diversity in agriculture.
• Forty percent of organic operations added jobs in 2010. In addition, 96% of organic operations are planning to maintain or increase employment levels in 2011, and 46 percent of them are planning to increase employment levels three times the rate of businesses as whole.

Now here’s my favorite statistic: The leading food category for 2009 in organic (drum roll) was fresh fruits and vegetables which grew at 14% and now represents 38% of all U.S. organic food sales. Yahooo! Once again organic produce leads the way.
Organic Green Onions
This amazing growth couldn’t have happened without the dedicated farmers and quality distributors like Melissa’s who, from the very beginning, have provided stores with the finest quality organic produce available. And speaking of great organic produce, May is a favorite month of mine because organic strawberries are readily available and full of sweetness. And green garlic, spring onions, and spring greens are here to brighten up any springtime dish. Green garlic is young garlic that looks and is used more like green onions, only it has a wonderful mild garlicky flavor. I love spring garlic in just about everything I make this time of the year. I dice it up and add it to guacamole, add it to miso soup along with shiitake mushrooms and baked chicken or tofu. I especially like it in Sunday omelets or egg salads.

Spring onions are another favorite because of their mild sweetness and fresh flavor. If you like onions on a sandwich but don’t care for the heat, these are the ones for you. Because they are picked early and haven’t been cured, they have more moisture, which means less sulfur that causes the heat. You can’t keep them as long as other onions because they haven’t developed their dry, protective skin. So, only buy what you can use in a few days and keep them in the refrigerator. Spring onions add a refreshing lift to any Mother’s Day salad and are wonderful in stir-fries with spring garlic and baby Bok Choy. These are only a few of the fantastic springtime organic fruits and vegetables Melissa’s has to offer and it’s shaping up to be wonderful summer season as well.