The Organic Bookshelf: Holiday Edition

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For the Organic Foodie Newbie…

For readers with basic questions about organic food, there are few better resources than "The Organic Food Guide: How to Shop Smarter and Eat Healthier," by Steve Meyerowitz. You may recognize the name: Vegetarian Times nicknamed him "Sproutman" in 1979 upon publishing a story about a 100% sprout diet. Meyerowitz later opened The Sprout House, a New York City no-cooking school.

A slim 96 pages, Meyerowitz's book is easy to navigate, addressing top issues on the minds of organic consumers. It's also a terrific book to give to friends who are thinking about going organic, but lack an understanding of fundamental terminology and concepts. Among the topics covered:

  • How can I save money by adopting an organic lifestyle?
  • What do labels like "organic" and "all natural" actually mean?
  • Are organic foods truly more healthful, vitamin-rich and safe?
  • What dangers do the pesticides in conventional foods pose?
  • What does the U.S. Department of Agriculture require for organic labeling?

You may want to check out Meyerowitz's other titles, including "Water: The Ultimate Cure," "Sprouts: The Miracle Food -- The Complete Guide to Sprouting" and "Wheat Grass: Nature's Finest Medicine."

For the Organic Cook…

There's no shortage of new cookbooks during the holiday season. For mushroom fans, "The Mushroom Lover's Mushroom Cookbook and Primer" is a must-have.

Food writer Amy Farges, cofounder of New York City's Marché aux Delices, offers a comprehensive overview of the "fungus among us," including a definitive guide to selecting, cleaning, storing and preparing wild and exotic mushrooms.

Chapters are divided into courses: finger foods, soups, salads, meat, poultry, fish and condiments. Recipes include everything from Scrambled Eggs with Black Truffles and Woodsy Mushroom Pot Pie to Mushroom-Stuffed Mini Pumpkins and Latin Tomato & Huitlacoche Soup. (For the uninitiated, huitlacoches are black, candy corn-shaped mushrooms that are "nature's gift to cooks," Farges explains.)

For the Organic Gardener…

You won't recoil at the sight of bugs after reading Allison Mia Starcher's "Good Bugs for Your Garden" -- an ideal gift for organic gardeners.

"I never gave insects much thought until I began to battle a never-ending parade of snails, aphids and caterpillars in my garden," Starcher writes in her introduction. As a dedicated organic gardener, she embarked on a mission to educate herself about the "good bugs" that could be used to keep their plant-destroying brethren at bay.

A professional illustrator who now specializes in plants and insects, Starcher has crafted a delightful handwritten book filled with descriptive text and colorful images -- from ladybirds (ladybugs) and honeybees to assassin bugs and hover flies. She also provides a thorough discussion of why specific insects are beneficial, insect development and how to attract those "good bugs" to your garden.

For the Citizen of the World…

Our children's direct experience with nature is disappearing -- with disastrous results, according to journalist and child-advocacy expert Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder."

"Nature-deficit disorder…describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses," he writes. Louv in no way wants to label this a medical condition; rather, he defines it as a consequence of social, psychological, spiritual and environmental distance from natural surroundings.

Louv is a strong proponent of "nature therapy," prescribing outdoor play as an effective treatment for obesity, depression and attention-deficit disorder. Parents everywhere have a responsibility to ensure their kids will not be "the last child in the woods," he asserts, offering an alternative future that allows families to bond through nature while preserving our planet.

Check our organic living blog, which is updated Monday through Friday, for news about just-published books.

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