imagine waking up on a Sunday morning and going to the local organic produce market. You grab a freshly roasted coffee and a gluten free brownie (it’s the weekend after all, so why not!), then you stroll past stalls of home-made jams, organic vegetables and fresh milk. Sound familiar? Organic farmers and markets have risen in popularity throughout the world, particularly in environmentally and health conscious cities where the middle classes have spare pennies.
Chiang Mai is no exception. The number of organic cafes and amount of produce has grown significantly in the last few years. On a Sunday morning at JJ Farmer’s Market, you can
walk around and taste delicious products, you can also shop for fruits and vegetables for your weekly grocery. JJ Farmer’s Market (located close to the Kam Tien Tree Market) hosts a laid back atmosphere with a large number of stallholders from Chiang Mai and surrounds. There is often live music around 10am, and yes, there is organic coffee, gluten free cakes and more delights.
In Thai, the word “Blot Pie” means be safe from chemicals and “Blot San” denotes that a product is chemical free. Often people confuse the two or put them in the same category. When shopping in Chiang Mai you can never be sure if what you are purchasing is 100% organic, however you at least know it is much safer to eat.
With this in mind, organizers at JJ Farmer’s Market have organized their market into three categories: first a “Pure Organic” hall by local farmers, next to it is the “Pesticide Safe” hall with crispy salads and fresh parsley, and finally the hall with breads, fried snacks and cooked meals ready to go (vegetarian and non-vegetarian). A great way to make it clear for customers in search of true quality product. And, don’t forget to bring your own shopping bag!
JJ Farmer’s Market has a lot more to offer. Walking in the little alleys of the market, you’ll find a stand of Anatami Edamame Milk. A cup of edamame soy milk provides 33 grams of protein, it is a great source of essential amino acids and a change from traditional soy milk. Anatani is a home made product, cooked according to Japanese recipes. It is all 100% natural, with no preservative, no coloric and using only a low amount of organic sugar, plus it is possible to order with no sugar at all. (Facebook: Anatani Edamame)
Another healthy product made in Northern Thailand is the “Hilltribe Organic Eggs” product. Based near Chiang Rai, this social enterprise produces high value organic eggs and improves the livelihoods of mountain communities in a sustainable and scalable way. The company supplies hilltribes with all necessary inputs free of charge, such as the organic chickens, organic feed, and farmer training, and garantees a market for the eggs at a fair and predictable price. Eggs are sold to consumers through organic and premium supermarkets such as Rimping and Tops. Recently, Hilltribe Organic Eggs commenced its first exports to Hong Kong (www.hilltribeorganics.com).
Healthy people, seeking a caffeine fit will be happy to discover MiVana’s coffee, shade-grown and handpicked close to a national park on the way to Chiang Rai. This 100% organic Arabica coffee is produced at altitudes of 1,000 meters or more, above the sea level. Shade-grown organic coffee refers to the coffee beans being grown under large trees. Coffee grown this way gives a fuller and heartier aroma than coffee grown in full sun. In Chiang Mai, you can enjoy delicious MiVana Coffee at Tamarind Village Hotel, on Ratchadamnoen Road, Chiang Mai.
Many Chiang Mai people are proponents of the benefits of local herbs and the use of traditional herbal medicines. Herbal drinks by Noi’s Chiang Mai are home-made and excellent for health. Two of her popular drinks are made with Bai-Ya-Nang (also known as Yanang) and Khow Tong leaves. Khow Tong herbal drink is used to assist in curing side effects of radiation and chemotherapy; it is also recommended for regulating blood pressure, allergies, constipation, migraines and boosting the immune system. The leaves of the Bai-Ya-Nang plant are used in various cooking recipes throughout South East Asia. In Thailand, Bai-Yanang is well-known as a healthy herbal drink. This beverage is created by vigorously rubbing the leaves (or blending) in filtered water to extract the chlorophyll and nutrients. Khow Tong leaves (and Pennywort) are processed in the same way. Mrs Noi from Noi’s Shop makes her herbal tonics fresh daily and sells them for 15 to 25 Baht per bottle. Noi Chiang Mai Shop is located 200/1 Kampangdin Road in Chiang Mai. Tel. 081-023 0032 (www.noichiangmai.com).
While it might be tempting to indulge in late-night
delivery or settle for grocery shopping at the 7/11, there are some great health food stores in Chiang Mai ready to help you live a natural and nutritious lifestyle. Aden Shop is a small vegetarian health-food store where you will find everything from gluten free granola, vegan and gluten free brownies, organic soy milk, spirulina and even natural cosmetics. Aden Shop is open from Monday to Saturday, 9am to 7pm. (facebook: Adenchiangmaihealthshop).
All your natural beauty products (shampoo’s, soaps, moisturisers), cleaning products, and daily snacks can be found at The Vegetarian Society Shop which is now popular with Chinese tourists, and Baan Suan Pak (translated as ‘Vegetable Garden House’), is a well stocked organic produce store most popular amongst residents of Chiang Mai and well worth a visit.
To find out more about the organic movement in Thailand we met with Peggy Reents from the Pun Pun Centre for Self Reliance. Pun Pun is an organic farm and learning centre in Northern Thailand that was established over ten years ago. Peggy explained: “The organic movement in Thailand has been growing over recent years. People are more aware of the health risks of chemicals on the food we eat, the health risks for farmers to be in contact with these chemicals, the effects it is having on our soil over time, and the inputs necessary to keep it up. Thai people still have a strong connection with knowing what kinds of local perennials you can eat (vegetables you can harvest year after year) and beautiful ways to prepare them, the medicinal properties of plants, and they also remember a time not so long ago when communities were self-reliant. They have a lot of local wisdom and they are then mixing these techniques with new technologies and techniques that are being discovered now. I think consumers are also much more interested in organic now than they were five years ago.
Pun Pun welcomes visitors to its learning and seed centre, holding courses throughout the year (see details: www.punpunthailand.org). It has two restaurants that are supplied by the farm and kitchen garden. Other restaurants in Chiang Mai are The Vegetarian Society, Food for Thought, Birds Nest, Ole Mexican, and Imm Aim Vegetarian restaurant. All restaurants cook with as much
organic food as they can access. These restaurants range in prices to suit all budgets. The long established Vegetarian Society serves a variety of Thai dishes (for under 30 baht), and the newer Food for Thought serves stuffed ravioli and gluten free treats (you’ll spend at least 250baht each time). And if you are not vegetarian don’t despair! Both Pun Pun Restaurant and Ole Mexican
source free range and organic meat for their meals. So take the time to smell and taste the coffee, and enjoy the growing array of organic produce at your fingertips. Enjoy a healthy life in Chiang Mai!