It is one thing to talk about the advantages of buying local organic herbs, but doing so is another thing entirely. My search for local organic herbs began at the supermarket. Below are the details of my visits to four local supermarket chains, two of which were health food stores.
Mislabeling & Unclear Definition of Local
The first supermarket I visited held the promise of a bountiful supply of local organics. The fresh produce aisle was full of colorful “Local” signs and “I’m local!” product tags. After excitedly inspecting the labels on a row of “organic locally grown” herbs, my excitement turned to confusion. The label on the back of the organic chives package revealed it was a product of Washington state. The organic thyme came from Mexico. Finally I found sage, the only truly local herb in this particular display.
When I mentioned the mislabeled herbs to an employee, he promptly cut away the local tags. He was happy to answer my questions about what constitutes “local” (product source must be located within 100 miles of the store’s distribution center). The mislabeling was clearly a simple case of someone being trigger-happy with the “I’m local!” label gun, rather than an intent to mislead customers.
I found a similar situation at all four supermarkets: signs that tout “local”, but with a very generous definition of the word. All four markets had small packets of herbs that were locally grown. My purchases included sage, fennel, lemons and garlic, all from a single supermarket. (Though the garlic stretched the “local” definition, as it was grown in Gilroy, CA—well over 300 miles from the supermarket.).
Few Herbs, Many Possibilities
At first glance, this seemed like a paltry selection of herbs. Then I hushed my inner herb snob and stopped wishing for herbs that were unavailable in the supermarkets. Instead, I thought about the wide variety of uses for the herbs I found. Used along with the jar of local honey in my cabinet, I had a simple but complete herbal medicine chest for the flu, colds, coughs, indigestion and more!
If the vision of the local medicine movement is to be realized, herbs must be easy to find and easy to use. The local organic herbs I found at the supermarket fit the bill. Because the season clearly dictates what products are available, it will be interesting to see how the selection varies come Spring.
Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below. Which organic herbs are found at your local supermarket? Are the herbs locally grown? How do you use these herbs?
The Search Continues….
The next post in this series will detail my search for local organic herbs at farmers markets. Please be sure to follow along!