Author: Spud

Recycling Your Black Plastic

The Sweet Potato Toronto - recycling black plastic for our community

The Problem

You may have been surprised to learn last spring that black plastic isn’t recyclable in the City of Toronto. We certainly were, as were so many other businesses that, like us, thought they were making a prudent and environmentally sustainable choice.

We’re looking at more sustainable options going forward (stay tuned!). But we also wanted to come up with a better solution for all of the black plastic containers that we purchased back when we thought they were properly recyclable, and we’re thrilled to announce that we’ve come upon a solution that, while not ideal, we think is viable for the time being:

We’ve found a private recycling company that processes black plastic. We are sending our recyclable black plastic to their facility in Fergus, ON.  Here’s where you come in: if you’ve purchased some Sweet Potato Kitchen prepared meals, feel free to bring those plastic pieces back to the store for recycling. And beyond this, we’ve decided to open this recycling program up to our entire community. In other words, if you have black plastic at home that should be recycled (hint, most takeout in the city seems to rely on black plastic), please bring it into the store, cleaned first, and we will make sure it’s recycled responsibly.  We’re doing the same thing for baby food pouches – it doesn’t matter to us what brand they are, or from what store – we will accept all clean black plastic and baby food pouches, and we will pay for them to be recycled.

So What Can Be Recycled?

Recyclable black plastic includes CPET black plastic typically marked with the recycling symbol.  Food-safe black plastic like takeout containers, produce packaging, coffee cup lids are all examples of recyclable black plastic. (We cannot recycle office and household items like printer cartridges, computer packaging or accessories and equipment.)

Where do I bring it?

You can bring these items to our Customer Service desk anytime the store is open; our priority is diverting stuff from the landfill, so we don’t care what store they came from.  Not everyone has the ability to be zero waste, but we believe that there are very often creative solutions to the environmental problems we all face – and we’re delighted that our business allows us to offer this service to the entire community.  We’re constantly trying to improve the accessibility of our store and our services, and so we’re thrilled to extend this offer to everyone.

Please bear in mind – this isn’t a permanent solution (we hope). While we are happy to at present assume the cost of this endeavour, we don’t believe that private solutions are the fix for public problems (like the state of public recycling infrastructure) – so we hope you will continue to advocate for a more sustainable civic infrastructure.  In the meantime, however, we’re very glad that we won’t all have black plastic cluttering up the place, or going needlessly to landfill.

The Sustainability of Raincoast Trading

The Sweet Potato Toronto - image of the ocean with a rainbow in the distance

Here at The Sweet Potato, we’re approached by so many brands about stocking their product. But we’re pretty darn choosey about what ends up on our shelves. Of course, it has to taste good. And we prioritise local, organic and Canadian companies whenever possible. But we also have a long list of banned ingredients, ingredients that have been nixed because research suggests they may not be great for human health, they’re dangerous to the workers processing them, or because they’re bad for the environment. Well here’s a brand we’re only too pleased and proud to have on our shelves: Raincoast Trading, a Canadian seafood cannery.

 

Raincoast Trading logo

 

Raincoast Trading makes the best tasting canned seafood (among other fishy delights). It’s single-cooked and packed in natural fish oils, creating a rich and dense flavour, while upping the nutritional punch. But it’s their commitment to sustainability that makes us reach for them again and again. Raincoast Trading fishes with integrity, working hard to minimize overfishing, bycatch and habitat damage, all serious issues that face our marine ecosystems. In fact, every tin of Raincoast Trading seafood can be fully traced back to the fishing vessel, captain, harvest method and area of catch. This information is shared not only with consumers but with international ocean conservation groups too because it’s important to substantiate any claim of sustainability.

 

Their commitment to only sourcing from fisheries with sustainable stocks and to fishers who use responsible methods (like pole-and-line tuna fishing) have made them the ONLY Canadian packaged retail seafood company to be endorsed by Ocean Wise’s Conservation program. Yup, their cans carry the Ocean Wise seal of approval.

 

So next time you have a hankering for a tuna sandwich, are frying up some fish cakes, or want to get more inventive with your recipes, give Raincoast Trading a try. You’ll thank us later.

 

An FAQ on Farmed Fish and Seafood

We’ve had a lot of questions about farmed fish and seafood. It’s important to think about farming fish the way you would other farming practices: there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here are some of the answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions. 

What is farmed fish & seafood?

Fish and seafood that aren’t wild caught, but rather raised in either open net pens in the ocean or in land-based aquaculture systems are considered farmed. Now as with all farming, whether that’s cattle, poultry or salad greens, there’s the gold standard and then there are harmful practices. We research, interview, visit farms, and insist on third-party certification to ensure we’re only ever selling healthy, sustainable fish and seafood. 

What is Aquaculture?

Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, is the farming of fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic plants and other organisms to produce food. It’s also used to restore habitat and replenish wild stocks, and rebuild populations of threatened and endangered species. There are two main types of aquaculture—marine and freshwater, where populations are cultivated under controlled conditions either directly in bodies of water, like the ocean or lakes,  or inland.

What are the pros of land-based or inland fish farms?

Some people hear inland fish farming and they look mildly horrified. Consider some of the challenges around farming fish in the ocean:

  • Escapes: If you’re farming a non-native species, escaped fish could compete with native species for resources like food, habitat and spawning areas.
  • Chemical usage: The open nature of ocean-based open net pens means that if farmed fish need to be treated with antibiotics or other chemicals, these would flow directly into the ocean.
  • Parasites: Ocean-based open net pens can also allow for parasites, such as sea lice to infect wild species

Given the potential issues that surround open net pens, land-based aquaculture systems can be a solid alternative. Escapes are unlikely, bio-security and control over water quality allow the farm to avoid disease outbreaks, meaning chemicals such antibiotics are rarely, if ever, used. Waste water is also treated, meaning polluted water won’t reach the ocean. Many inland facilities, and ALL of the land-based fish farms that provide us with fish, meet the HIGHEST STANDARDS for fish and seafood farming and are OceanWise certified.

What is Ocean Wise?

Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program, created to help businesses and their customers identify and purchase sustainable seafood. Whether it’s wild or farmed, the Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item lets you know that option is the best choice for the health of our oceans.

How does Ocean Wise make recommendations on farmed fish?

The Ocean Wise Seafood program bases recommendations on scientific reports published by the Seafood Watch program out of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Each fish is scored on ten different criteria that measures the impact of seafood farms on the environment. Fish must score at least 5.5 out of 10 to be recommended by Ocean Wise.

What’s BAP?

The Sweet Potato Toronto - BAP Certification

Best Aquaculture Practices – BAP–  is one of the world’s most trusted, comprehensive and proven third-party aquaculture certification programs. They’re committed to improving and growing the global supply of responsibly farmed seafood. Check their website for a list of certified facilities around the world.

What’s ORganic Fish?

Some folks are surprised to learn that organic fish are farmed! But just as it pertains to organically raising cattle, the designation speaks to the standard not only of their environment, but of what they’re fed. To certify fish as organic, a number of rules with respect to water recycling, disposal of waste and feed need to followed. This means the food the fish are fed must come from certified organic sources.

What do we mean by sustainable?

Limiting our environmental impact is one of the core values of The Sweet Potato. We look closely at how the foods we sell are cultivated. We value humanely raised meat and seafood, and practices that are environmentally sound. This means we focus on locally raised meat, seafood and produce, and will consider new technology like aquaculture and hydroponics when it means we are getting a ‘clean’ product.

What’s wild Atlantic salmon?

This is a trick question, and yet one, we’re asked a lot. There’s currently no wild Atlantic Salmon available in stores because wild Atlantic Salmon is an endangered species. If you’re eating Atlantic Salmon, it’s farmed!

Want to learn more? Our friends at Ocean Wise put together this Wild vs. Farmed Mythbusters video. And if you still want more, consider becoming an Ocean Wise seafood Ambassador.

 

 

What’s The Deal with Farmed Fish?

James Tober, The Sweet Potato’s red seal certified butcher & fishmonger, provides his thoughts on farmed fish

I’m not a city guy. I grew up in the country, hunting and fishing to help fill our freezer for the winter – and fill it we did, with moose, bear, deer, pickerel, salmon, bass and smelt, all caught in the wild. Between me and my five brothers and sisters, the family had to supplement our catch with farmed meats too, obtained on our weekly grocery store run.

In my mid teens I left the country, but I still return as often as I can. Every year on my return I’ve noticed it’s become increasingly hard to catch fish. The water is warmer, there are more worms in the fish I do catch, and there’s a lot more algae. This last summer, on our trip out to my dad’s, my daughter and I caught nothing! I didn’t want to believe it was my fishing skills, so I started to ask around. And sure enough, I kept hearing the same refrain: year after year it’s increasingly hard to catch fish. Stocks are depleted from the abundance I remember 20 years ago.

My next question was: WHY? These lakes don’t suffer from overfishing. So what’s going on here? Every single person I spoke with answered the same way: pollution and runoff are affecting spawning grounds and killing fish.

As a chef, butcher, fishmonger and dad, this hit me hard. Sourcing local, sustainable, and healthy options are a priority for me both personally and professionally. Where does this leave us?

 

Farmed Fish as a sustainable option

There’s no question there’s stigma and misinformation about farmed fish. Seventy percent of customers will walk away from the fish counter when they learn a particular fish is farmed, even though it’s Ocean Wise and Best Aquatic Practices (BAP) Certified. Interestingly, many of those people will then walk over to the meat counter and buy farmed meat without a second thought.

We need to start thinking about farmed fish the way we think about all animal farming: There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. The process matters. The certification matters. The individual farm matters. 

I’ve been lucky enough in my career to meet people who are as passionate as I am about quality food, and who care about local sustainable options. So I reached out to Ned Bell, Executive Chef at Ocean Wise. Ned’s an international expert on sustainable seafood, and when I asked him about farmed fish he was absolutely clear on the subject: Wilderness is NOT a measure of seafood quality. He told me that we need to compare fish farming to other farming practices. This is a really novel way of thinking about this, even for me. But really, when was the last time you ate wild cow or pig?

Ned told me that, the way things stand, wild fish won’t be a sustainable option 40 years from now. Between pollution and overfishing, we have so damaged the oceans and wild fish stocks that inland aquaculture is our best way forward to help wild fish stocks recover. (Mind you, we definitely also need a global strategy to address pollution – but that’s a topic for a separate post). Ensuring your farmed fish is coming from a farm that meets the highest standards that govern fish and seafood farming matters immensely.

Fish farming, when done right, yields a great quality product and, when you take a long-term view of wild fish populations, is certainly a sustainable option. It’s also the only way to enjoy certain species of fish. Some of the pros of fish farming include: There is less water waste, no use of antibiotics, all the waste that is produced can be turned into compost and fertilizer, and the waste water is kept out of oceans.

And don’t forget, all organic fish are always, necessarily, farmed – how else would you know what the fish ate? That organic standard is about the quality standards that govern the water and feed – and is impossible to validate with a wild population.

Here at The Sweet Potato we know exactly where our food is coming from. We know about the farms we work with, including the source of farmed fish. We have certificates that demonstrate our offerings meet Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP). We work with National and International NGOs like OceanWise to ensure the choices we make here are the healthiest for both families and the planet.

I hope I have slightly if not completely changed your mind on inland farmed fish. It is a clean, sustainable, and viable way of putting fish in our diet. And it’s probably the only way my daughter will get the opportunity to grab a pole and show her kids how to fish.

Next up: a FAQ on what standards for fish farming actually mean.

The Sweet Potato Toronto - school lunches from around the world - a sampling of what's eaten for lunch in Japan

School Lunches Around the World

School Lunches Around the World

The Sweet Potato Toronto - school lunches from around the world - a sample menu from France

Image via Karen LeBillon

Isn’t it interesting that there’s no such thing as ‘kid food’ in much of the world? And how different countries treat the “public school lunch” is fascinating. The effects of a quality national school lunch program have broad positive implications for overall health and happiness for years to come. Canada could totally learn something from these three countries. 

France

The Sweet Potato Toronto - sample monthly school lunch menu in France

Image via Karen Le Billon. Learn more about school lunches in France at her site

Renowned for their fine cuisine, France’s lunch game is strong. Starting in their preschool program all the way through elementary that ends at age 12, it’s a four course meal that begins with a salad (beet, or grated carrot), followed by a protein served with a side of grains or veggies, a cheese course and finally dessert. Of course there’s fresh baguette served with every meal too. And this is all by design: the French curriculum, where lunch is concerned, includes “developing the palate” as well as developing social skills – table manners, conversational skills – necessary to a successful life.  

 

Japan

The Sweet Potato Toronto - school lunches from around the world - a sampling of what's eaten for lunch in Japan

Image via Domo Daruma

In Japan, early childhood education emphasizes healthy eating and all that goes along with preparing and consuming meals. Students take turns serving up the hot meals to their teachers and peers each week, and in many jurisdictions, there are no janitorial staff to do the day-to-day tidying. Students are responsible for keeping the classroom, and school at large, in order.

 

Lunches are also not rushed and loud. It’s a sacred time where students are encouraged to take their time savouring their meal. Lunches are served in classrooms – most elementary schools don’t have cafeterias. So it’s a cozier setting already.

Brazil

The Sweet Potato Toronto - school lunches from around the world, a sample of a lunch in Brazil

Image via Huffington Post

Brazil’s Zero Hunger Program, administered through their public schools feeds over 42 million students every year. Not only has it been instrumental in decreasing malnutrition rates, and working healthy eating into the curriculum, it’s also groundbreaking in the way it supports local farmers. Thirty per cent (30%) of ingredients for school lunches must come from local family farms. Brazil is a growing country, with an emerging economy, but it, above others, has done much better in its bid to eradicate extreme poverty. Their national school lunch program is both reason and example of how. Brazil’s school feeding program is considered one of the best in the world.

 

With all these international models, it’s a shame we don’t do better at school lunches in our own backyard. Food is political, food is fun, food is how we socialize and celebrate, access to whole foods is necessary for good health. Food literacy is something we should be including in our curriculum. Here’s hoping we move in that direction.

Looking for more back to school Content?

After School Snack Ideas to Keep Hangriness At Bay

Top Tips to Make this the Best Year Ever

The Next Most Important Meal of the Day

What rivals breakfast as the most important meal of the day? Ask any parent of school-aged kids and they’ll all answer “after school snack”. Yup, post-school pick up is prime hangry time. Those kids have been holding it together all day, working really hard, and that school bell can release a lot of tension. One way to help manage after-school energy dips is with a favourite nutrient-dense snack. Try these quick and fun ideas!

After School Snacks: The Tried and True

It doesn’t need to be IG-worthy or a pin from Pinterest. Some crackers, cubed cheese and fruit will be devoured in moments. Or if your kids want to go the sweet route, their fave yogurt, a dollop of jam, topped with granola and berries will feel like dessert before dinner.

Avocado Boats

Image via Super Healthy Kids. Full recipe here.

If you want to win silly points for almost no effort, smash some avocado, dress it however your kids will eat it, put it back in the rind, surround with waves of tortillas. Avocado Boat. Done.

 

After School Snacks: On the Go

Fruit and Veggie Loaves

The sweet Potato Toronto - Sweet Potato Kitchen's daily fresh-baked banana bread

Banana bread, zucchinni muffins, pumpkin chocolate loaf – this is the season to hide fruit and veg in delish baked goods. Packed with fibre and protein, baked goods are a great way to pack a nutritional punch on the go.  Don’t feel like baking? The Sweet Potato kitchen has freshly baked banana bread every day. And oh is it good. Like really, really, really good.

Energy Balls

The Sweet Potato Toronto, after school snack ideas - energy balls

Image via Amy Gorin Nutrition. Recipe for Almond Pistachio Cocoa Bites here.

Protein balls are all the rage right now and with good reason. These gooey little spheres pack a real nutritional punch and are super quick to whip up. With no-bake recipes that include ingredients like nut butters, oats, seeds, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and dates they are pretty tasty to boot. Kids love ’em and they’re a super choice if you want to level blood sugars and fill tummies enough to get you through to dinner hour.

After School Snack: Frosty Treats

Remember last September here in Toronto when the summer weather finally arrived…in September? September and October are such transitional months here and it can be nice to have snacks on hand that mind the weather. 

Frozen grapes dipped in yogurt

The Sweet Potato Toronto after school snack ideas - frozen grapes dipped in yogurt

Image via Super Healthy Kids. Visit site for full instructions

Here’s a cool idea (literally), freeze grapes, then dip them in yogurt, then freeze them again to set. Easy-peasy, and an instant kid classic for sure.

Chocolate Covered Frozen Banana Bites

The Sweet Potato Toronto , after school snack ideas - thekitchn.com recipe for banana bites

Image via the kitchn. Full recipe here.

Not exactly a healthy balanced snack. But points for both wow and yum factor. Plus I’m pretty sure science agrees, chocolate’s got loads of health-promoting properties. 

Looking for more Back-to-School Ideas? Check out these posts!

Quick and Fun After-School Snack Ideas to Keep the Hangries at Bay

School Lunches Around the World

 

5 tips for starting the school year off right

Kiddo starting school for the first time this year? Make this the best school year ever with these simple tips.

 

  1. The Lunch Gear

Many TDSB schools are eco-school certified and committed to zero waste lunches. That means if you’re sending lunches and snacks to school in disposable packaging, you can expect garbage, recyclables and compost to boomerang back home.

New lunch gear makes it easier than ever to pack exciting foods your kids will actually eat while cutting down on packaging waste. Our family is partial to the bento style lunch boxes where we can divide foods up. It’s nice to keep the wet away from the crispy, while also ensuring green foods never touch red, obvi.

James, our in-house butcher and Red Seal Chef, packs his kids’ gorgeous charcuterie platters with these lunch kits. While my beigetarians enjoy yogurt with fruit for dipping and hummus with crackers and veggies for dipping in theirs. Boring, but nutricious! 

  1. Practice Makes Perfect

If you’ve got youngins just starting kindie or grade one, now’s the perfect time to get those water bottles, bento boxes, lunch bags and containers. Lunch hour’s bedlam. Truly, it’s unbridled chaos. Make sure your kids are pros at twisting open that thermos, inserting that straw, and opening and resealing that container. They may not have help when they need it (and ensuring they know how to pack up the leftovers, means less of a leaky mess for you when it comes home).

  1. Allergy Safe

The Sweet Potato Toronto - look for this logo when looking for certified peanut free foods for schoolsAll TDSB schools are nut-free zones. So as quintessential as PB and J are, they should be reserved for after school and weekends. In fact, if a classmate’s allergy is severe enough, families may be instructed to wash hands and brush teeth if they absolutely must consume nuts in the morning so as to best limit possible exposure in class. Some classrooms will have to ban other ingredients too for the safety of their students. Look for a notice at the beginning of the year from your budding scholar’s teacher. Everyone deserves to feel safe at school. 

  1. Handwashing

The Sweet Potato Toronto - handwashing social story for kindergarteners

The start of the school year, very much means the start of cold and flu season. If this is your youngin’s first year at school, be prepared for the kindergarten plague. Our eldest kiddo’s first year, we were sick ALL. YEAR. LONG. To limit the spread of germs now’s a really good time to brush up on good handwashing skills (15 seconds, lots of suds, get between fingers and don’t forget the nail beds.). My kindie aged kids and I sing the ABCs as we wash up. And tucking a travel-sized hand sanitizer into backpacks is a good idea too.

  1. Setting an intention before bed

Not every student is excited for September. Even those A-achieving social butterflies, get butterflies at the thought of school a new school year. Simple mindfulness activities before bed can help tame jitters and make the next morning a teensy bit easier. And it’s never too early to empower kids with the understanding that they can control their inner monologue.

6. The Eye Test!

The Sweet Potato Toronto - get your kids eyes tested before back to school. It's OHIP covered

Aaaaand, a bonus tip? Get kiddo’s eyes checked before the school year! Annual eye exams for kids are OHIP covered, and if your kindie-aged kiddo needs specs, there’s a free program for that too!

You’ve got this kiddo! You too, parentals!

Looking for more Back-to-School ideas? Check out these posts!

School Lunches Around the World

Quick After-School  Snacks to Keep the Hangries at Bay

10 Natural First Aid Essentials for Camping

Ahhhh, the great Canadian outdoors… We sure are lucky here in Ontario to have access to some gorgeous wilderness, provincial parks, and campgrounds. If you’re planning a camping trip, here are 10 items we think are essentials for first aid and personal care. Whether you’ve got an intense backpacking canoe trip planned or a laid-back family campout, you’ll sure want to have these on hand.

1. Sunscreen

Spray or cream, everyone needs a full spectrum, sweat and water resistant sunscreen all day, every day. If portability’s a thing, we love Badger Balm’s SPF 35 Sport Face Stick Sunscreen. It’s mess-free, gentle enough for kids’ skin, and fragrance-free, meaning it won’t attract bugs! Another plus? It’s small enough that everybody can carry a stick in their backpack (and it’s air-travel friendly in case you’re planning a far-flung camping adventure).

 

2. Bug Repellent

The Sweet Potato Toronto - natural bug repellent with citronellaWe all know that DEET is the chemical repellent found most effective at repelling bugs. Concentration matters here: for DEET a concentration of 15-30% seems to be best (lower than 15% doesn’t seem to do the trick and higher can be pretty darn toxic to humans).

But there are reasons you may want to stay away from chemical pesticide-based repellents including the fact they are not baby-safe and those more sensitive to chemicals don’t tolerate them well.  Some people find spraying DEET-based repellents to clothing and the exterior of tents are a good option, while they leave natural repellents like those that are Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or Citronella based for their skin. Lots of our customers swear by Druide Citronella Insect Repellent Spray which you’ll find in our Body Care section.

 

3. Anti-Itch cream

Even if you’re diligent about keeping bugs away, you’re likely to get the odd bite. For this, we yell DAPIS! (We really do, we love this stuff!) Have you tried Dapis gel? It’s an amazing homeopathic remedy that helps soothe the itching and pain of bug bites and hives and it’s totally safe for kids. New to the Apothecary, we are pretty enthusiastic about this product and it’s a must-have for your camping first aid kit.

 

4. Calendula Cream

With natural anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, calendula cream is a staple for bathroom cabinets, diaper bags and first aid kits. Great for rashes and scrapes and slow-healing cuts, it’s soothing and safe for all ages and most skin types.

 

5. Electrolytes

Ener-C's electrolyte drink mix is an important part of your first aid kit. In fact it's great to have on you at all times.

Like Gatorade without the grossness or Vitamin Water without the hype, stick these individual portion packets everywhere. Great for before, during and after exercise to support muscle function and rehydration, Ener-C Sport Electrolyte Drink Mix dissolves in water to create a sweet berry-flavoured drink that replenishes your body’s electrolytes. Super important to keep these on hand during a hiking excursion, because you never know when the heat and exhaution will pack that double whammy punch. These are available in our Apothecary!

6. Hand Sanitizer

Prairie Naturals Germ Force is an all natural hand sanitizer that's alcohol free. Antibacterial and soothing, it contains aloe

If you’re put off by the ick factor of camping, that’s fair!  Thank goodness for Prairie Naturals Germ Force hand sanitizer, our pick for clean hands on the go. It’s antibacterial, paraben free and the addition of aloe makes is soft on skin, unlike alcohol-based sanitizers.   

 

7 & 8 Biodegradable Shampoo and Soap

The Sweet Potato Toronto - all natural vegetable glycerin soap is a good option to take camping. Just don't use it in the lake. Nothing is actually lake safeHere’s something kinda controversial: those biodegradable shampoos and soaps that advertise themselves as lake-safe? We’re calling BS!  If you adhere to environmentally conscious best-practices, in fact, no product is “lake-safe”

What we recommend are unscented, biodegradable soaps, shampoos, and body washes, but in the absence of a shower on a campground, you need to bring water for bathing to the shore and do your cleaning at least 200m from any body of water. While biodegradable products are awesome and most definitely more earth-friendly than their counterparts, some take up to 6 months to break down and that’s under ideal conditions.

Soap Works pure vegetable glycerin bar is one option we carry and recommend while camping.

This time of year, Druide Citronella Shampoo/Shower Gel flies off our shelves. It’s a multipurpose wash and great for the whole family. Plus the citronella scent won’t attract bugs.

 

9. Protein Bars and Protein Powders

The Sweet Potato Toronto - Lara bars are a great gluten free and vegan protein bar great for healthy eating on the go like when campingHow do you pack in protein and nutrients when both refrigeration and weight are an issue? Protein bars and individual protein powder sachets are one way! These may not be your tastiest option, as far as delicious meals go, but they are the perfect accompaniment on a hike for during an intense day of portaging.

 

10 Multivitamin

The Sweet Potato Toronto - SISU multivitamin is an important way to fill nutritional gaps when campingIf you’re planning an intensely physical two-week backpacking canoe trip or the like, obviously your food choices are going to be pretty limited. Food needs to be non-perishable, easy to cook and eat and weigh as little as possible. It’s fair to say you’ll be eating differently than at home. And that’s why we recommend a great multi to fill any dietary holes you might have while adventuring.

 

May the great outdoors welcome you, return you feeling at rejuvenated!

Organic and Natural Foods Industry Glossary of Terms

The Sweet Potato - crop of lettuce

If you’re new to the world of natural and organic foods and farming, this list will help give you the vocabulary to make informed food choices.

Farming

Organic Agriculture: Organic farming is a strictly regulated farming practice that doesn’t allow for the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. Organic farming:

  • Uses non-GMO (genetically modified) seeds;
  • Employs environmentally-conscious farming practices;
  • Helps create and maintain nutrient-dense land;
  • Works with natural climate rhythms;
  • And protects the water supply.

Lands also need to be certified organic, which is a process that typically takes a minimum of three years. During this process, organic standards are employed in farming practices so that the land can be certified.

In North America, labels from Canada Organic, USDA National Organic, Pro-Cert, or Quality Assurance International let you know the product has been certified as organic by an official third party organization recognized by the Canadian government.

Transitional Farming: Obtaining full certification as an organic farm is a commitment of both time and money. Crop farms interested in pursuing certification for land that had previously been used to grow conventional crops, must first apply for transitional certification. A “transitional” crop is grown on land that’s in the process of converting from conventional to organic. Certified transitional farms use organic standards in their farming practices and need to do so for a minimum of three years for organic certification. Before the three-year mark, any crops grown on the field are considered “transitional” crops and cannot be sold on the organic market.

Biodynamic Agriculture: Similar to organic farming principles, biodynamic agriculture also draws on insights made by Rudolph Steiner, a mid-20th century German philosopher. Today the biodynamic movement encompasses thousands of regenerative gardens, farms, ranches, orchards, and vineyards in a wide variety of climates, ecological contexts, and economic settings.  

Hydroponics: Hydroponics, a subset of hydroculture, is a method of growing plants without soil. Instead of soil, plants are grown in a mineral nutrient solution in water. Hydroponic nutrient solution can be made from fish waste, duck manure, or normal nutrients (fertilizer). Hydroponically grown plants are housed in plastic reservoirs in greenhouses.

Aquaponics: Refers to a system that combines aquaculture (the raising of aquatic animals like fish, snails, or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In normal aquaculture, waste from the animals raised accumulates in the water, increasing toxicity. In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed into a hydroponic system in which waste is broken down by bacteria and utilized by plants as nutrients. The water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.

Permaculture: A combination of agriculture and social design principles that work together to support natural ecosystems.  The three core tenets of permaculture are:

  • Care for the earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.
  • Care for the people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
  • Return of surplus: Reinvesting surpluses back into the system to provide for the first two principles. Sometimes referred to as the Fair Share ethic to reflect that each of us should take no more than what we need before we reinvest the surplus.

The focus of permaculture is not on separate elements but rather on relationships created among them by the way they are placed together. Permaculture design seeks to minimize waste, labour, and energy input by building systems with a high level of synergy. To this end, permaculture designs are constantly evolving.

Local: Local produce, meat, and seafood are fresher, healthier, and have less impact on the environment because they’re harvested when ready and travel less of a distance to reach your plate. Moreover, it keeps dollars invested in local communities.

The definition for local in use by The Sweet Potato is less than 200 km, though no standard definition exists.

Clean: We use clean to mean free from synthetic chemicals including hormones and antibiotics, fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. Clean does not mean a product has been certified organic, but it is Non-GMO and raised and produced responsibly.

GMO Genetically Modified Organisms

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms that have had their DNA altered or modified through genetic engineering usually to introduce a trait not seen naturally in the organism. Where foods are concerned, many cash crops like soy, corn, canola, potatoes, alfalfa, squash, beets, and flax have been genetically modified to resist pathogens or herbicides or to change their nutrient profile.

With concerns related to food safety, regulation, labelling, environmental impact, research methods, and the fact that some genetically modified seeds are the intellectual property of corporations, the public are increasingly demanding organic and certified Non-GMO foods. At the Sweet Potato all our produce is grown from non-GMO seeds. As well, our full bulk and bakery line is GMO-free!

 

Animal Welfare

Cage-Free: Eggs produced by cage-free hens describes hens that may or may not be permitted outside but do roam freely. Eggs from hens that only roam indoors may be labelled ‘barn-roaming’, ‘barn’, or ‘cage-free’.

Free-range: Animals that are raised ‘free-range’ can roam freely outdoors for at least part of the day. This term can apply to meat, eggs, or dairy farming.

Organic Meat: Organic meat comes from animals that have been raised without treatment of hormones or antibiotics and have been fed a diet free from anything grown from GMOs and with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. As well, minimum space allowances and access to the outdoors are part of criteria that need to be met. Organic meat can be fully traceable from flock to farm and is certified by an independent third party.

 

Trade

Fair Trade: What started as a social movement that advocates for the payment of higher prices to exporters of commodities from developing countries to developed countries has become a fully certified industry. Fair trade practices seek to promote greater equality where inequality exists as the starting point.

It promotes sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers in developing countries. Fair trade is grounded in three core beliefs:

  • That producers have the power to express unity with consumers;
  • That world trade practices that currently exist promote the unequal distribution of wealth between nations;
  • And lastly, that buying products from producers in developing countries at a fair price is a more efficient way of promoting sustainable development than traditional charity and aid.

With the certification of the industry, producers now need to apply for and pay to join a certifying body. Some criticism has arisen around how this prevents access for the most marginalized producers.

Direct Trade: Advocates of direct trade practices promote direct communication and price negotiation between buyer and farmer/producer. There is no precise definition for the term and no third-party certification. The term was coined for the coffee industry but is now applied to other growers such as cocoa, nuts, and handicraft artisans. The term was born out of frustration with the limitations of Fair Trade certification, mainly that certification is too onerous and costly to farmers and artisans who must qualify and apply for the very certification meant to offer them protections.

Past Potatoes – Lindsay Lee

Past Potatoes is our feature that looks back at some of the awesome crew that have helped shaped the ‘Potato over the years. A few have embarked on some pretty cool life adventures!
What’s your name Lindsay Lee (nee Holung)
 
When did you work here?
August 2013-September 2014
 
What do you like, or what stands out for you about The Sweet Potato?
The people. Whether it was a fellow cashier hollering out a produce code I’d forgotten, or a regular customer sharing their book recommendations while I rang through their morning coffee and muffin, there was a feeling of true community in the store that made work very rewarding. I made some lifelong friends during my time there, and still enjoy visiting them on the other side of the till whenever I’m in the neighbourhood!
 
What’s your favourite produce?
Nothing quite beats the honeycrisp apple. Or the smell of fresh turmeric when sliced.
 
What amazing things are you off doing now?
I left The Sweet Potato to pursue a puppetry gig in the UK, and since then have been between London and Toronto performing marionettes on screen. My current day job is with a fantastic independent Canadian publishing house, where I can freely geek out about my love of Canlit and CBC Radio, and tell the world about our amazing books!