ARTICLE courtesy of the Queen of Green, SUZUKI FOUNDATION

The holiday season is now truly upon us, and with it, the season of culinary indulgence. Yum!

If your festivities in any way resemble mine, chocolate is part and parcel of celebration. Bird-friendly, fair trade or organic chocolate, that is — anything else is less than festive.

You've probably heard the research suggesting that eating moderate amounts of chocolate is good for you. It's packed with antioxidants, magnesium and the amino acid tryptophan. Lovely excuses to indulge!

But our favorite temptation is full of dirty secrets. Destruction of rainforests. Child labour. Impoverished farmers and rich corporations. A high price to pay for a cheap treat!

Thank (the Mayan) gods, chocolate lovers can skip this long list of woes and opt out of high fructose corn syrup, wax and other equally unappetizing ingredients by choosing fair trade, organic chocolate.

Certified organic chocolate promotes farm management systems that preserve soil fertility, protect farmers' health and conserve ecosystems. Where conventional chocolate is heavily dependent on pesticides, organic, shade-grown chocolate relies on natural fertilizers and a healthy relationship with the birds and bugs! Like all organic foods, those chocolate treats are also free of synthetic food additives, dyes and genetically modified organisms.

Fair trade means that farmers receive an equitable price for their product and that labour rights meet internationally recognized standards. Children go to school. Working conditions are safe. And most often, chocolate is purchased directly from the farmers or farm co-ops, so communities thrive. The fair trade certification system also prohibits GMOs and limits the use of agrochemicals.

Luckily, some of the most delicious delicacies win the triple crown: bird-friendly, organic and fair trade.

Sure, ethical chocolate costs more. Chalk it up to those fair wages, the lack of child labour and the cost of making sure critters get to thrive too! Then break a nugget, take a bite and savour the melting bliss. Real chocolate is so rich and wonderful, a little less goes a long way!

We'll soon be sharing chocolate bark around the table and sipping homemade cocoa on our nightly neighborhood walks. What about you? Will you visit a favorite chocolatier this season, indulge in a square of organic delight, or whip up a little homemade chocolate heaven?


Tovah Paglaro, The Queen of Green