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Deck the Compost: Gifts for the Socially Conscious Foodie

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Everyone’s in the throes of making their lists and checking them twice, searching for the perfect presents for their nearest and dearest. But as people across the country get more environmentally conscious, gifting has become a bit harder. Give your friend a gift certificate to a local restaurant and you might be hit with a question like, “Are you sure they get their meat from within one hundred miles?” Give the gift of nice cookware and you might have to include the gift receipt so your friend can return it for something not coated in a chemical like Teflon. Even sweaters aren’t a safe bet anymore—too many people scoff at any apparel that’s not made with locally grown, fair-trade fibers colored with organic soy dye.

Your sustainability-minded, organic locavore foodie friends may have the best intentions, but their convictions can make it awfully difficult to buy gifts for them. Luckily, there is an array of cruelty-free, non-toxic, environmentally friendly gifts to put under the tree (which you’re totally going to mulch after Christmas, right?).

Mushroom-Growing Kit
Nothing’s as local as food grown in your own kitchen. Mushroom-growing kits arrive with the compost and fungus starter already prepared, and with minimal setup and care, they can yield several crops of mushrooms over an eight- to twelve-week period. All that’s required is a thermostat set between sixty-three and seventy-eight degrees, a little water, and not too much sunshine. Available varieties include oyster mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, white buttons, giant portabella, and even dowels of shiitake or reishi mushrooms to grow in blocks of wood. (From $8 to $45, available at Mushroom Adventures)

Bokashi Composting System
Any foodie worth his or her sea salt surely composts their leftovers. A smelly bag on the floor says “I care”; but an elegant Japanese Bokashi composting system says, “I care more than you do.” This five-gallon bin turns food scraps into usable compost in as few as ten days, using the Bokashi compost starter. It can also sit underneath the sink, where it’ll keep odors away and flies at bay until the organic material is ready to be repurposed in the garden. (From $8 to $60 at Uncommongoods)

Heritage Turkey
The Broad-Breasted White turkey is the standard frozen turkey in the supermarket. Poultry producers choose it because it has a high proportion of breast meat; however this breed of turkey lacks flavor and the animals are often raised in inhumane conditions. Consider giving the gift of an organically raised heritage-breed turkey for a holiday meal. Breeds such as the Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Jersey Buff, Beltsville Small White, and Standard Bronze were grown in the nineteenth century, but almost died out when industrialized agriculture took hold. They take longer to mature and cost more than a conventional turkey, but their exceptional taste is worth the wait. (From $120 at Local Harvest)

Canning Supplies

A true locavore would never buy processed jam or eat tomatoes in February. Encourage your foodie friend to start preserving the seasonal bounty in her area with a complete pressure-canning kit that contains everything she needs to put up tomatoes, jams, jellies, vegetables, pickles, and chutneys. The nine-piece set includes a pressure canner, lid-lifter, jar-lifter, funnels, ladle, and a recipe book. When your friend is eating fresh tomato sauce or peach pie in the dead of winter, she’ll thank you. ($129.95 from Amazon.com)

CSA Subscription
Even if your gift recipient is already a farmers’ market devotee, he’ll love having farm-fresh local fruits and veggies delivered to his doorstep. A gift subscription to a CSA helps the recipient learn (or continue) to eat locally and seasonally, exposes customers to veggies they may never have seen or eaten before, and supports local family farms who practice responsible growing and land stewardship. (Find a local CSA at Local Harvest)

A Foodie Bible
By now, most food enthusiasts have read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and seen Food, Inc., but the real driving force behind today’s food trends is Berkeley, California, chef Alice Waters. Her restaurant, Chez Panisse, has always been at the vanguard of organic, local, sustainable food, and Waters is still involved with food charities, such as The Edible Schoolyard. Her book The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution highlights dishes that use simple, fresh, and local ingredients, while also instructing on tips, techniques, and hints for better organic cooking. ($23.10 at Amazon.com)

Indoor Herb Garden
Every cook knows the frustration of buying an entire bunch of basil when she only needs a tablespoon, and then having to watch as the rest wilts and dies. An indoor herb garden is the only way to guarantee that a cook has the right amount of herbs on hand at all times. The AeroGarden version requires no soil or sunlight and automatically adjusts the humidity conditions for optimal growing temperatures for thyme, cilantro, basil, oregano, rosemary, and parsley. No matter what the conditions in the kitchen, the herbs grow quickly and deliciously. ($149.99 at Target)

A gift that allows your recipient to enjoy, cook, preserve, or learn about sustainable and responsible food is always a perfect choice, and it keeps giving long after the holidays are over.


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