Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

A blog reader, Viviane, recently posted a link to some best and worst pesticide lists from the UK Pesticide Action Network. (Thank you Viviane!) Their website shows pesticide residue lists for 2011-2015. They don’t say much about methodology, but it seems clear from their “worst” list (citrus is #1, #2, and #3 on the worst list, and pineapple and banana are #12 and #14 respectively) that they’re including peels and skins in their testing. Still, it’s interesting to compare their lists to my previous research. I’ll combine this data with my other data in a new post when I get a chance. (more…)


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In the U.S., the Environmental Working Group puts out a “dirty dozen” list  and a “clean fifteen” list each year.  The lists are based on an analysis of pesticide-testing data generated by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.   They use this data to rank foods according to how likely they are to be tainted with pesticides.  The lists are very useful if you can’t afford to buy 100% organic, as they allow you to target your limited organic dollars at the produce that’s mostly likely to be contaminated.  I’ve been working on constructing a similar list for Europe (especially for produce grown in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Turkey).  My last post on this topic is from March 2014. This post updates that list to include the results of a recent Consumer Reports report, which includes data about U.S. produce but also produce from other countries around the world. (more…)

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I just came across a new risk report from Consumer Reports, which is designed to help consumers minimize pesticide exposure, while keeping costs within their budget. Their tool show the risk of pesticide exposure from eating 48 fresh conventional fruits and vegetables from 14 different countries. It’s based on 12 years of data from the Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program. Their risk assessment considers the number of pesticide residues on each food, the frequency with which they were found, and the toxicity of the pesticides. Their analysis also takes into account the typical serving size of the food, and how it’s typically prepared (i.e., apple with the peel, banana without). Their categories are based on the risk to a 3½-year-old child, estimated to weigh 35.2 pounds. They also say that the risk categories “correlate with the number of daily servings of that fruit or vegetable.” I have no idea what that means. Do they mean that for foods Americans eat more of, they bump up the risk level? It’s totally unclear to me.

They recommend buying organic for any produce-country combination in the medium or higher risk categories. (All organic produce falls into the low- or very low-risk categories.) In particular, Consumer Reports said that shoppers should always choose organic options for peaches, tangerines, nectarines, strawberries, cranberries, green beans, sweet bell peppers, hot peppers, sweet potatoes and carrots. They say that conventional (i.e., non-organic) items in the low or very low categories are essentially equivalent to organic.

After looking at the data, I want to note two particularly interesting points. First, the country-specific data doesn’t fall into any clear patterns. Sometimes the produce from Canada is better than the U.S., sometimes worse. Same with Mexico vs. the U.S. Second, when they have processed items in the list (like canned peaches and prunes), they generally have low risk, even if the unprocessed item has higher risk. Not sure why. Maybe they have to use more pesticides on fruit they’re going to ship to consumers? Maybe because looks are more important?

Below I’ve divided the Consumer Reports results into three categories: Items that corroborate my previous research, items that contradict my previous research, and mixed/new results. (more…)

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Grin and beer it

I am not a beer drinker. In fact, most vegetarians that I know are not big on alcohol. I’m not sure why, but the two traits seem pretty highly correlated. In any case, this post (helpfully dictated by my non-vegetarian, alcohol-drinking husband Derek) is for the rare beer-loving vegetarian in Saarbruecken, and the beer-loving non-vegetarian ex-pats that read my blog. (more…)

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A friend told me that a new gourmet grocery store and restaurant opened up in Halbergstr. across from Lidl. I went by a few weeks ago, surprised to discover that Fridel (a pun on Fidel Castro / Gastro perhaps??) is actually a small Globus outpost, with lots of Al Natura products. The “restaurant” is actually a bunch of stations, i.e., a salad station, a pizza station, etc. The food looked way below par. Not gourmet at all. For the most part the grocery selection was no different than you could get anywhere else, but there were a few items of note:

  • a vegan section, including Vegenaise, vegan salad dressings like thousand island, Daiya vegan cheese, and a large selection of Tofurkey deli “meat” and vegan sausages, each packet of sausages costing about 5 to 6 euros. They also carry Al Natura brand veggie sausages.
  • some “ethnic” sections with things like seaweed snacks from Korea, tamarind paste from India, and hummus (2 euros for 200g).
  • a large selection of Al Natura products, including fresh organic produce. The prices are better than at Martinshof or the Biofrischmarkt, but are similar to what you’d find at Rewe/Edeka, and more than at Lidl/Netto/Aldi.
  • various “Globus Gold” brand products, including wild rice and Camargue red rice, which I’ve tried and liked (but it’s not cheap, at 2 euros for 250g).

The store supposedly has a handicapped / stroller lift, but it wasn’t working when I was there the second time, and the first time it made so much noise and was so slow that I decided to carry my stroller and sleeping baby up the many steps rather than try to use the lift.

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I’m always forgetting the opening / closing times of my favorite specialty grocery stores near my house, so I thought I’d start a post for reference. In the process of writing it up, I figured I might as well include information about the shops, along with the opening hours.

Note that there might be other great ethnic grocery stores in Saarbruecken, but these are the ones near my house, so they’re the ones I know best and go to most frequently. If you want to recommend another shop, or always buy a specific item at one of these shops, please post a comment!

City Basar

Mainzer Straße 133, 66121 Saarbrücken, Germany
At the Hellwigstr. Saarbahn stop (see a map)
Telephone: 681 684-837

Opening hours: weekdays 7 am – 7pm, Saturday 6am – 6pm. Note however that they start putting away the fresh produce around 30 to 45 minutes before closing time. Sometimes they will fetch something for you from the back but not always. So be warned—the closer you come to closing time, the emptier the produce shelves will be.

Description: This is a very popular Turkish grocery store. Since it’s so popular, they have very fast turnover and the produce is generally very fresh. The prices are also reasonable. The downside, however, is that it can be a madhouse on Saturdays, with packed aisles and long lines.

Although this is a Turkish market, they actually have a quite wide variety of international foods:

  • Middle eastern / Turkish: They have most of what you’d expect at a Turkish grocery, including things like olives, feta, pita bread, other flat breads, tahini, pomegranate molasses, date syrup, roasted chickpeas, and jars of chickpeas. They have several different kinds of Börek, of which the spinach/feta is our favorite. They sometimes have fresh figs or fresh kumquats. They have a large deli case with hummus baba ganouj, and various pickled and/or marinated veggies including artichoke hearts.
  • Central / South American and Mexican: They almost always have jalapeños and habanero peppers and (very fresh, well-priced) cilantro. They usually also have big bags of dried black beans, and I think I’ve seen bags of farofa. They have flour tortillas of three different sizes. They often carry orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.
  • Italian: They very occasionally have cime di rapa and Radicchio di Treviso. They often have bags of fresh basil, and pots of basil in the summertime.
  • Indian: they occasionally have fresh okra and they have a small section with various dals, besan (chickpea flour), and several brands of basmati rice. They occasionally have fresh turmeric. In the back are very big bags of cumin and a few other Indian spices.
  • Greek:  They have quite fresh, well-priced kalamata olives, large bunches of fresh dill and mint, and well-priced, tasty, good quality cooking olive oil from Greece in 1 liter and 5 liter tins. They also have halloumi cheese, although from a Turkish brand so I’m not sure how authentic it is.
  • East Asian: They often have fresh bean sprouts, lemongrass, and napa cabbage, and always have jasmine rice. In the back behind the cash register they have an “Asian” shelf with chili sauces, sambal olek, thai curry pastes, coconut milk, peanut butter, etc.
  • Russian / Eastern European: They have a small eastern european section, but I haven’t looked closely to see what is there.
  • Organic: They carry almost no organic produce, with the exception of organic lemons, and rarely organic oranges or bananas.
  • Miscellaneous: In addition to big bunches of fresh cilantro, dill, and parsley, they also carry bags of other fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, …. They have a large dried spice section. They have bulk nuts and dried fruit, as well as a large section of different sorts of dried beans and some grains.

ALA asiatische Lebensmittel aka Asia Markt aka “the Sri Lankan store”

Arndtstr. 1 66121 Saarbrücken
At the Uhlandstr. Saarbahn stop (see a map)
Phone: 0681 968-7046.

Opening hours: weekdays 8 am – 7pm, Saturday 8am – 6pm.

This shop is owned by a woman (Alageswaran Pavani) from Sri Lanka, and has lots of Indian ingredients including pantry items like various types of dal (including mung, chana, toovar, and urad dal) and Indian spices (like turmeric, ajwain seeds, whole cardamom, and asafoetida), as well as fresh items like curry leaves and paneer. She also carries a number of Asian groceries, like soy sauce and tempeh, plus good peanut butter and packaged tofu. Her prices are generally very good, but the store doesn’t have the highest turnover, and thus the produce is not always the freshest. I was recently there on a Tuesday afternoon and she was getting a delivery, so that might be a good time to drop by if you need produce.

Asia Shop aka Hary’s

Mainzer Straße 55, 66121 Saarbrücken, Germany
Closest Saarbahn stop is Uhlandstr.
Telephone: 0681 62900

Opening hours: weekdays 9:30 am – 7pm, Saturday 9:30 am – 5 pm.

This shop is owned by an older German gentleman (Andreas Hary), and he carries primarily East Asian products from Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, etc. He also carries a few Indian items, including dal, spices, and fresh paneer. Be warned though — the paneer is very expensive.

Personally, I go there most often to buy fresh bulk tofu, which is not organic, but is my favorite tofu in Saarbruecken, and costs only 1.50 euros for a 12 to 16 ounce block. It’s delivered on Thursday late afternoon, so I generally try to buy it between Thursday evening and Saturday evening. I also sometimes get bok choy, fresh thai basil or rau ram (which he has only occasionally) or a bag of bamboo slices. I’ve also heard that they make their own kimchi, but I’ve never tried it.

Other than tofu, prices are typically quite high, so I try not to buy things there that I can find at other shops. For certain specialty Japanese or Korean items, however, his shop is the only place I can find them, and the owner is such a friendly guy, I do like to support his shop.

Note that he doesn’t take debit or credit cards, but if you’re a regular customer and you forget to bring cash, he will put your items on your tab and you can come back and pay later.

Kim Asia Shop

Mainzer Straße 121, 66121 Saarbrücken, Germany
At the Hellwigstr. Saarbahn stop (see a map)
Telephone: 0681 9686 3570

Opening hours: weekdays and Saturdays 9 am – 7 pm

This shop is owned by a Vietnamese gentleman (anyone know his name?), and the shop carries primarily East Asian products from Vietnam, China, Thailand, etc. It’s smaller than Hary’s asian shop, and has fewer items from Japan and Korea. If Hary’s is out of tofu or I can’t get there before closing time, I sometimes buy tofu here, but it’s a bit firmer and more expensive than the tofu at Hary’s. I also occasionally buy thai basil or rau ram, but haven’t purchased much else there. They have huge bags of rice in the window.

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As you all probably already know, Derek and I, being proper Americans, have an unhealthy peanut butter obsession. But of course, being proper foodies, we disparage the popular American peanut butters like Skippy and Jif in favor of the true natural peanut butters, of which Smucker’s is the creme de la creme (unless you like it chunky).

Smucker’s peanut butter has tons of great roasted peanut flavor, the consistency is neither too thin nor too thick nor too sticky, and it has just the right amount of salt added. So for years we begged any and all visitors from the U.S. to smuggle in jars of Smucker’s. Then we found an online source, and were paying through the nose for our obsession. But the online source dried up, our visitors stopped coming or else had better things to bring us than peanut butter, and we had to find an alternative source.

pindakaasFor a few years we had to resort to the Dutch peanut butter (pcd brand) that’s available in the Asian stores and at City Basar, which tastes kind of like cross between Jif and a natural peanut butter, but it’s definitely not natural, as it has added sugar, sunflower oil, and palm fat. It has a good roasted peanut flavor, but the texture is a bit too industrial tasting for my taste.

monkiThen one of Derek’s students introduced us to the Monki brand organic peanut butter (available at the Biofrischmarkt). Most organic peanut butters are made from raw (not roasted) peanuts, which is just wrong. But the Monki peanut is properly roasted. It has less salt than Smucker’s, and the texture is a bit stickier, but it’s a pretty close second. Whenever we manage to get to a Biofrischmarkt we totally clear our their Monki peanut butter stock.

peanutpasteBut the Biofrischmarkt isn’t so convenient, and so I was excited to find a jar of pcd-brand natural peanut butter yesterday at the Sri Lankan grocery at the Uhlandstrasse Saarbahn stop. The ingredients are 100% roasted peanuts, and it’s made from roasted (not raw) peanuts. It tastes a lot like Smucker’s without the salt, and at 2.10 euros per jar it’s significantly cheaper than the Monki brand (but not organic, of course).

Without a bit more time, I can’t say whether it will replace Monki in our pantry, but it’s nice to know that in an emergency we can find a decent natural peanut butter around the corner. I’ll report back on how we feel about the pcd peanut after we finish a jar or two (which at the rate we are going, will likely be in a day or two).

By the way, Derek’s tandem partner told us that in German natural peanut butter is called Erdnussmus, whereas the ones with added sugar and fats are called Erdnussbutter. Not sure if it’s true. And if it, how does Erdnusspaste fit in?

We’ve tried many other organic peanut butters, but as I said, most are made with raw peanuts, and are unsalted. Bleh. After Monki the best of the bunch was the Unueco peanut butter, which is organic and fair trade, but is made from Chinese peanuts and has 6% vegetable oils added.

Also, in case I haven’t mentioned it already, the Biofrischmarkt also carries other Monki-brand nut and seed butters, including … drum roll … sunflower seed butter. Finally! It’s not my favorite sunflower seed butter in the world, but it’s acceptable. We use it in smoothies quite frequently. They also have Monki almond butter, white almond butter, cashew butter, and even a dark green pumpkin seed butter.

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