Organic Food Market

One of the emphases of Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food” was on unprocessed foods. The reason for this are the as-yet unknown factors in the Western diet that lead to the various diseases of modern civilization. As I suffer, after one fashion or another, from most of those diseases I’m interested in delaying or halting those problems myself. One of the things I’ve been trying to do is locate suppliers of grass fed meats, milk, eggs, butter and cheese.

One resource that Michael Pollan recommended is the “Eat Wild” site. This is a good site, which has a page on which you can find Georgia farms that sell their products into the local markets. Using the map, you can find, for example, Country Gardens Farms and Nursery in Newnan, GA. This farm will take orders to be delivered to the Peachtree Road Farmer’s Market (open on Saturdays). Their prices are competitive, and the farm is nearby.

It isn’t just nearby farms that affect the availability of produce in the Atlanta area. South of Atlanta proper and close to the Alabama border is White Oak Pastures, of Bluffton GA. White Oak sells grass fed ground beef to Whole Foods and also to Publix. I haven’t seen the beef at Whole Foods, and I haven’t seen it at any Publix in Snellville. I have seen it at the Publix in the Prado, in Sandy Springs GA. Cost for a pound of White Oak ground beef there is $7.00 a pound. Correction: I’ve found two kinds of grass fed beef at the Publix on the corner of Ronald Reagan and 124, in Snellville.

This lack of product also affects suppliers such as Organic Valley. If you look them up, they supposedly supply Publix too, but typically the closest I can get to their pastured eggs and pastured butter are Organic Valley organic egg whites. Availability just isn’t there. To note, the Eat Wild site thinks highly of Kerrygold butter (Irish cows evidently are largely grass fed). Kerrygold butter can be found in most Publix supermarkets. Presumably, the same benefits apply to the Kerrygold cheeses as well.

For those of us in Snellville, the upcoming Snellville Farmer’s Market will offer some access to a good local farm. On the Eat Wild map, there are five push pins west of Atlanta. The third of these, smack in the middle of the group of five, is Nature’s Harmony Farm in Elberton GA. They sell grass fed beef, chickens, and eggs. If you look in the right place on their web site, you can see that they plan to attend the Snellville market on the first and third Saturdays of the month.

Interesting online suppliers of grass fed beef include Hearst Ranch and Slanker’s Grass Fed Meats. Heart is a little more conservative while I find Slanker’s to be entertaining in their zeal. Slanker’s though, has some real cooking tips and therefore worth a browse.

The day started out mostly as an idle web search. I searched on the phrase ‘heirloom beans’ and found this book (now on order).  In the process of poking around links related to that book, I ran into a discussion of beluga lentils. And after finding this very enjoyable article discussing ways to cook lentils, I just had to stop by the closest Whole Foods and see what they had. And yes, Whole Foods is very much out of the way and not a typical place for me to shop, but when looking for exotic goods, you go where you have to.

After I was there, I took stock of the grains available there. A store clerk told me there were no beluga lentils.  But there was amaranth, at least six different brands of quinoa – quinoa pasta even. For the first time since I’ve been looking in Atlanta, I found farro:

Inexpensive quinoa and farro can be found at Whole Foods.

Inexpensive quinoa and farro can be found at Whole Foods.

Afterwards I bought odds and ends for my wife and left.  Trader Joe’s is on the way home, I needed something to eat and I like shopping Trader Joe’s.  I was kind of wanting their baklava collection, and of course, once I was there, I couldn’t find it. I did find beluga lentils. They were cooked, so I wasn’t interested (I want dried legumes). I found some nice baby broccoli, and there was a well priced cut of steak (under $5). On the way out, the clerk found the baklava for me. I had just walked past it.

A price comparison: 1 lb box of Trader Joe’s quinoa is 3.99. The 1 pound bag of ‘365’ brand Whole Foods quinoa was $2.99.

Third stop was Publix, to check out what N. K. Hurst products they had, get a feel for prices, etc.  N. K. Hurst is an American company located in Indianapolis that sells bean based soups. They have recently started a blog, which posts recipes of their products (and potential products). It is currently undervisited, and if you like the “HamBeens” line of soups, drop by their site and give them a try.

Hurst has a 15 bean soup, which has not gone unnoticed in the blogosphere.  They sell other soups as well – lentil and split pea based, northern bean based, etc. In comparison to the store brands (when they existed — the 15 bean soup was unique at my Publix), the Hurst products were priced anywhere from 50 cents to 80 cents more. The value added is in the recipes on the back, and a spice pack included in the product itself. It’s just my feeling mind you, but if the package had the url of the new blog on it, it might do their customers even more good. The blog has pictures of the things that can be done with Hurst beans, more so than just boiling them and tossing in the flavor packet.

Take home? It’s nice to see an established brick and mortar American company try new and innovative ways to reach their customers. Kudos to N. K. Hurst.

In terms of availability, I wish their combination lentil product were for sale at Publix. I didn’t see it there.

Back to food. Dinner was going to be pan seared steak, along with snow peas and some version of the baby broccoli. I wanted a fast, simple way to prepare the broccoli and I found this recipe.  In My Box’s use of just half a cup of water to ‘steam’ the broccoli, combined with ~ 6 cloves of garlic and 2 tsp soy, looked really good. I tried it. I only had 3 cloves of garlic and I guessed on the amount of soy sauce but it still came out nicely. Once done, my daughter insisted on having some.

I was at home, working, when my wife called and said, “There is a new organic market in town. Why don’t you check it out? They may have those grains you’ve been wanting.”  She told me where it was, more or less, and gave me the name.  I did a web search and found it quickly: Mother Nature’s Market in Snellville.

This is an established market that has moved from a location in Tucker, Georgia to a location along Highway 78.  For me that’s a huge difference in terms of time, as it takes roughly half an hour to get down to Tucker.  I called, to find out if they had the red lentils I wanted.  The young man who answered took a look and said, “Yes, we have them, red split lentils.”  That pretty much clinched the deal.

The market is located about 2 blocks east of the Oak Road-US 78 Intersection, about one block east of the Wisteria-US 78 Intersection. It’s in a strip mall on the left (north side of the road), as you’re traveling east on US 78, and it’s roughly opposite South Gwinnett High School. It has a large sign on the outside. If traffic is good, it should be pretty easy to spot.

Mother Nature's Market is a neat, clean store on Highway 78, just opposite South Gwinnett High School in Snellville.

Mother Nature's Market is a neat, clean store on Highway 78, just opposite South Gwinnett High School in Snellville.

Inside, the store is well organized, neat, clean, with a lot of free space.  They have a terrific array of supplements, as well as a large array of spices.  A good portion of what they sell is outside of my interests, as I’m not much for supplements more complicated than a children’s chewable. In some cases the prices are just surprising.  As an example, a relatively small bottle of organic maple syrup costs in excess of $30.00.

On the other side of the cost spectrum are the whole grains, peas, beans, and lentils.  I found just about anything I could have wanted, short of amaranth, and the store was particularly rich in whole grains, such as whole wheats, hulled barley, oat groats, etc. I judged the prices to be competitive with any supermarket, most less than $2.00/lb. Bulk pearled barley differed from the Publix price by just pennies a pound, and no grain I judged terribly expensive.  Now the bulk quinoa was $4.55/lb.  Given kind and type (they had red quinoa as well as traditional), this may be a moderately high price or a great price.  I haven’t done enough comparison shopping to tell you just yet. However, for many of these bulk grain items, the only other source I know is Return To Eden, and as far as Return To Eden is, you could make up in gas savings what you lose in immediate expense.

I asked about vanilla “Better Than Milk”, a dry soy milk product my wife uses, and which they didn’t have. But they said they would be happy to special order anything we wanted.  I thought that was more than fair.

Now the hours are not terribly commuter friendly, as they are open Monday through Friday 10am to 7pm, but they have Saturday hours, 9:30am to 6pm.  The Saturday times and extreme closeness make this store accessible to working families.

Even if you’re a die-hard Kroger and Publix shopper, drop by this place sometime. You won’t regret it.