Gimel Organic

Driving by CCS off Cherni Vrah, I noticed this interesting little shop with a wooden facade and what seemed to be the word “organic” written on the side. I made a mental note of Gimel Organic and visited the shop on my next visit to Sofia, what I found was rather impressive, not because of the assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, packaged goods and wine, but they had two parking spaces outside reserved for customers.

 
The Gimel brand is quite recognizeable. You will find most if not all of the bio/organic shops that sell fresh fruits and vegetables carry Gimel’s brand. The offer a huge assortment of fruits, vegetables and herbs. According to their website they are the largest produce of greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes in Bulgaria. Their products are also available throughout Europe.
This shop is the first for the brand and it features the entire spectrum of what an organic shopper wants, except meat. Unlike most shops they focus on the fresh more so than the non-perishable.
They also have freshly made food items on hand like these cream soups, which are prepared daily and freshly squeezed juices.
I think the location will really cement this shop with organic shoppers that live on the outskirts of the city and Lozenetz. It is a unique shop, but I have some questions about the source of the food, which are primarily grown abroad. This fact raises a larger debate, what is more important to you local, clean and seasonal or year-round availability and certified organic? I personally subscribe to the former rather than the latter, but regardless this rising level of consciousness is trend that I see continuing into the foreseeable future.

23 Arsenalski Blvd./бул. Арсеналски 23
Sofia, Bulgaria 
понеделник до петък (Mon – Fri) – 8:30 – 20:30 
събота (Sat) – 10:00 – 20:30 неделя (Sun) – 10:00 – 19:00

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My Organic Market

 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with My Organic Market, it is a great shop for all your organic needs and it is conveniently located right in the center of Sofia. This a plus if you are on foot, but parking is a bit of a nightmare, but a bit better with the new parking zones and increase in the tariff.

My photos are a bit dated. They have switched things around, but the product offerings are about the same. What I like about My Organic Market is their selection of baby goods and seeds and grains sold in bulk. I visited the other day to buy stuff for Gabriel: amaranth, black & red quinoa, barley and millet.
They have a range of beauty care products as well as teas and other packaged snacks.

The freezer section is filled with beverages, tofu and other protein substitutes, dairy products and more…

As far as I know this was one of the first organic shops in Sofia. It was formerly part of Sun & Moon that includes many shops and restaurants all keeping with the same philosophy as My Organic Market, which you can read about in detail on their website, where you can also shop online.

София, ул. Парчевич 48/Sofia, 48 Parchevich Str. (Vitosha Blvd.)
 тел./Tel. + 359 878 878 342
 Отворено всеки ден 9 – 20ч. събота 9 – 19ч./Open every day 9-20h, saturday 9-19h
 skype: BioSlunceLuna.com и myorganicmarket_parchevich

Zoya BG

The purpose of my visit to zoya.bg was to find some natural massage oil for my baby. Part of his nightly ritual is a full body massage, lucky boy; right! The shop is centrally located in the heart of in my opinion one of the coolest neighborhoods in Sofia, right off Ivan Shishman, near Motto. The shop was started primarily focusing on organic and natural body care, skincare, haircare, bath and body products. They say it was the first shop of its kind in Bulgaria.

I found what I was looking for, but I have to say I was a bit disappointed in their baby and kids selection. I found two different varieties of massage oil one was about 15 leva and the other was 22. This is just my opinion, but I find that their target clientele are young and hip, so they might not be at the stage of their lives where they are looking for a family; again, just my thoughts.

Their offerings have increased significantly to include a wider range of produces and services. They offer organic and natural food products, mostly non-perishable. I was impressed by their selection of sweeteners and sugar alternatives. They also offer a decent variety of seeds and grains available in bulk, plus a selection of books.

Some of their offering include sesame seeds, amaranth, whole quinoa and quinoa flour, hemp, millet, buckwheat, and brown basmati rice just to name a few. The majority of these seeds and grains come from outside Bulgaria, but most of them are organic.

For your convenience, Zoya.bg has a comprehensive website that offers two delivery options, by mail or by bicycle. You can “like” their Facebook page or visit their website often, as they are constantly running special and promotions.
22 Aksakov str 
1000 Sofia, Bulgaria 
Mon – Sat: 9:00am – 8:00pm 
Sun: 2:00pm – 7:00pm 
phone: +359 899 884115 
fax: +359 2 491 8606 

Зелена Земя/ Green Earth

Yes, another organic shop has opened in Sofia, but here is the kicker… the people involved have ethical principals and a mission statement about the kind of shop they want to operate, which for me holds more weight than other shops that have jumped on the commercialist bandwagon to offer products that people will pay a lot of money for.  Zelena Zemia, while a commercial venture will not bend on their convictions against exploitation and violence towards animals, promoting a healthy lifestyle, concern for the planet and environment, human rights and Fair Trade products.

These ideas are the zeigist of the company which has been a work in progress for nearly 3 years. Zelena Zemia opened its doors a mere two weeks ago.  The shelves have some gaps for new products, but the owners are careful in selecting what they sell.  It is a small shop area-wise, so they need to be picky.

Bionade: available in four flavors Elderberry, Lychee, Herbs and Ginger-Orange

You can also find their products on BG Menu, if you don’t feel like heading towards the center. You can keep up with their product selection and promotions by joining them on Facebook.  The future is bright for this shop and I hope you will take the time to check it out!

Open from 10:00 – 20:00
Telephone: (+359) 02 50 61 41
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Biodynamic Farming Lecture

This event was not my first exposure to the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, the father of biodynamic agricultural practices… I first became aware of biodynamics at The Culinary Institute of America.  It was one of our last classes in Gastronomy. We were learning about food production methods and the coverage of biodynamics was a mere dot on a map. The only things that I took away from the description was that they bury horns in cow manure and use a special calendar. Being that I am interested in farming and agriculture, I was determined to find out more. Through my involvement with Slow Food on Campus CIA, I managed to arrange a lecture and a visit to the Pfeiffer Center in Chestnut Ridge, NY.

When I first visited the center, it was for an Intro to Organic Beekeeping course with Chris Harp and Ross Conrad. The center reminded me of a summer camp, complete with mess hall and sleeping quarters. The grounds were impressive and filled with life, but my weekend at the center still didn’t give me a clue as to what made the plants grow so well. I then arranged for Mac Mead the head of the Pfeiffer Center to speak at the CIA and explain biodynamics. The turnout for the event was low because we were competing with a host of other events including Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and author of Blood, Bones and Butter, but the smaller group made absorbing the information a bit easier.

The principal ideas of biodynamic farming make sense, it focuses on the interrelationships and holistic development of the soil, plants and animals in a self-sustaining system.  The results seem like overwhelming proof in the system, but there is a lot of dispute and discord about whether or not the same results can be achieved though similar organic farming principals. In my opinion, the difference in organic farming and biodynamic farming is this sense of spiritual awareness to all the different elements in the equation, and that is the key, “different” elements. The farm needs to be a diverse ecosystem.

Red House Cultural Center

This weekends event was hosted by the Red House Cultural Center in Sofia and Foundation “Zaedno“.  The lecture was led by Dimitar Stoyanov or “Chicho Mitko” a biodynamic farmer, whose farm House of Bamboo uses the biodynamic principals.  I was fortunate to have a good understanding of the principals of biodynamics because the language barrier was a bit of a challenge, but I got the gist of the discussion.  The visual slide show images helped.

The day started with a presentation from Foundation “Zaedno”, who organized an edible schoolyard in the Lozentez district of Sofia. The project turned out nice and the children in the kindergarden seemed to enjoy the extra time digging in the dirt. It all seemed very similar to what Alice Waters is doing with the Edible Schoolyard, but what I like about Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard is that the children are a bit older and better able to really participate in garden. I have a 6 & 8 year old and getting them in the garden is a difficult feat.  What can you really get out of kids that are 3 – 7?  It will be the adults that do most of the work, but don’t get me wrong, this sort of awareness is a step in the right direction. Maya asked if her school in Kyustendil could do something similar, which honestly, would be a perfect place for and school garden/biological teaching device. Her school goes from 1st to 8th grade, so the student’s comprehension towards a project like this would be extremely beneficial. I wouldn’t even know where to begin or who to make the suggestion to, but knowing Bulgaria…. I can already hear the laughter and head shaking… meaning are you kidding… Not that negativity would dissuade me.

The turn out was pretty good, after lunch that is… I guess people don’t like to get up for a 9:30 event on a Saturday.  The crowd seemed to be a mix of young hipsters, farmers and urbanites. I think I was the only foreigner, but after lunch Maya was not to only child in attendance.

Chicho Mitko, a very passionate and dynamic speaker offered a great introduction to the principals of biodynamic farming. He delved into its history and talked about Rudolf Steiner and the Maria Thun’s calendar, which I bought. He went into detail about the interactions and relationships that exist in the garden and that effect on ecosystem. He talked about one of my favorite topics, which was compost and its necessity in not only biodynamic farming, but all natural endeavors. Then he went through and gave the steps necessary to set up your own small scale home garden using these principals. He talked about ways to germinate seedlings that was approachable and biodynamic, buying seeds and all other elements to get your ready for you agricultural adventure.

Personally, I like some of the ideas that are associated with biodynamic farming, but I can’t move past the spirituality aspect, which is vital if you are to become a disciple of biodynamics. If not for nothing else, I like the calendar and will try to plant my garden to its rhythms, when possible.

The House of Bamboo, Chicho Mitko’s farm has a room to rent if you are interested in visiting. I would love to visit during the summer or fall.  It seems like a nice little weekend getaway… that is if we arent’ too busy with baby and working on our own land.

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Healthy Living Shop: Lozenetz

I first became aware of the Здравословен Живот or Healthy Living shop while driving around on Bogatitza Street trying to avoid the Chern Vrach traffic.  I made a mental note of its location, which is easy to remember because it is situated behind Skank South Park Bar and Dinner.  While I forgot about this place for a while, I was reminded to check them out when I saw their booth set up at Sofia’s Green Days.

I had a bit of a funny incident while trying to find parking for this place, which is a big problem.  The parking situation is awful.  I managed to find a spot which was tight and on a hill so, it needed my insane parallel parking skills, but I happened to be multitasking talking on the phone and I forgot to keep my car in gear and put on the parking break… oops!  So as I am leaving the car, hanging up my phone, I see my car starting to roll down the hill… headed for a large, expensive, black SUV (a.k.a Mutri mobile), so I open the car, jump in and yank the hand break as hard as I could… narrowly avoiding and sticky situation.  I felt like I was in a movie and I was pumped with adrenaline.  Anyway… back to the shop!

The entrance to the shop is situated a little below street level, but there are plenty of signs.

They carry fresh produce, bread and other perishable items.
They also have a large selection of cosmetics and hygiene products as well as stuff for babies.
They carry Emile Henry cookware, which I am coveting.
And many varieties of flours, grains and legumes, plus other groceries such as Weet-bix and miso soup

You can find the Healthy Living shop in Lozenetz, Jilishtna Group “South Park” Bldg. 27 Kozyak Street (Behind South Park Bar and Dinner) Tel: +359 882 828 828.  They host events at the shop like wine tasting, so Become a fan on Facebook to keep up to date.

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Sofia’s Green Days 2010

I would have never have found out about Green Days in Sofia, if it wasn’t for Latty Boncheva, who worked at My Organic Market. I was traipsing around Sofia looking for interesting topics for the blog, when she mention the event, which intrigued me because I am always looking to find out about new companies and products that are available in Bulgaria.

The events and sponsors!

The festivities started with traditional Bulgarian folk music and dance, the horo. For those of you who are not familiar with Bulgarian culture, please check out these two videos.
Singing traditional Bulgarian folk music.
Once the music start the horo is never far behind
After the music, Emily (my sister) and I wandered around in the rain checking out some of the booths. Food wise, there were few things that I hadn’t already heard of. I even ran into Dessislava Dimitrova the head of Slow Food in Bulgaria.
Instead of providing a long commentary on each of the booths I visited, I will give a short description and a link to their side as well as their addresses, with one exception, Faith in Nature. 
This company was handing out free samples of some of their natural cosmetic produces. One of the samples that my sister received was Feminine Wash. I just want to say that I am completely against the idea of feminine wash. The fact that companies believe that woman need to by a separate cleanser specifically for their vagina’s is absurd. When is the last time you’ve seen penis or testicle wash?

Moving on! I did try all of the samples that I received: Hemp and Meadow foam Shampoo, Conditioner and Lavender and Geranium Body Wash. Overall, I was happy with everything, but I missed the lathery, foamy feeling of the shampoo. You can find there product in many organic, bio-shops in through out Sofia. I have a list, but they are over 20 shops. For those of you who aren’t Bulgarian or live in Bulgaria, feel free to skim through the rest.

If you like pizza then check out Тумба-Тан (Tumba-Tan). There are one of the first, if not the first organic pizza restaurant in Sofia, plus they deliver. Not everything on their menu is organic, but they identify which are the organic products… and they have whole-wheat crust, which is a rarity in Bulgaria. For delivery call: +359 871 0606

Slow Food products were represented, such as Smilyan Beans and Meurche.

Some fliers were distributed about fighting the GMO ingredients in Bulgaria. For more information visit www.bezgmo.info
SIGG had some products on display. I have to make time to pick up some of their ECO-logical water bottles. www.sigg.bg

Enza Zaden, a seed breeding company had a booth that had live bees, which have been breed to pollinate green house vegetables. They are located at: Tzalapitza, m. Cherhota  № 135 А Tel: +359 314 92 117/ +359 32 94 20 99 (с. Цалапица м. “Чернота” № 135 А Тел: +359 314 92 117/ +359 32 94 20 99)

The bees!
Another great booth was Био Свят/ Bio Sviat, which translates to bio world. I got a free sample of Rabenhorst Red Grape Juice, was tasty, but too sugary for me. They distribute many of the wonderful organic products, which are available in Bulgaria. Although their website is only in Bulgaria, you can purchase items online! Tel: +359 2 955 9501or email: info@biosviat.com
While driving around Lozenetz, I came across Здравословен Живот or Healthy Living.  I intend on writing a proper post about this organic/bio supermarket, but this will have to do for the moment.  They are located in Lozenetz, off Kozyak Street. block 27, near bar/restaurant South Park. Tel +359 2 963 02 82, Email: info@zdravosloven.com
Organic store Zoya, which carries mostly cosmetics, but some food products as well.  www.zoya.bg.  They don’t have a shop, but a showroom in Sofia on 6 Graf Ignatiev Street, Entrance A.  Tel: +359 899 884 115
You can find Himalayan salt crystals at 22 William Gladstone Street, Tel: +359 887 641 711
There were some activist at Za Da Ostane Priroda (За Да Остане ПРИРОДА) interested in preserving Bulgaria’s natural areas, which are constantly under attack from developers and corrupt politicians. For more information please visit www.forthenature.org
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