by Toni Fiore
Rainforests are the earth’s largest sinks of carbon, safely storing the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. In Indonesia, rainforests are razed to create industrial palm oil plantations, releasing massive quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making the tropical nation the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Rainforests also provide critical habitat to thousands of species including highly endangered Sumatran tigers, Sumatran elephants, rhinos and orangutans. These species are rapidly being driven to extinction. The Indonesian government has announced plans to convert approximately 18 million more hectares of rainforests, an area the size of Missouri, into palm oil plantations by 2020. As consumers we must make every effort to eliminate palm oil from our food, personal care and cleaning products.
For the past year in lieu of gifts for holidays, birthdays and weddings I’ve been making donations to organizations that rescue, rehabilitate and release animals whose forest homes have been exploited and destroyed by invasive palm oil production. There are “sustainable” palm oil alternatives but even those often overlap with non-sustainable sources. I’m trying my best to find products that don’t contain any palm oil. Let me tell you, it isn’t easy. In fact most often it’s downright impossible.
I’ve been working with coconut oil as a palm oil free alternative and I’m loving it! Here are a few reasons why this is such a good choice. Studies have shown that coconut oil can help our bodies mount resistance to both viruses and bacteria that can cause illness. It helps to fight off yeast, fungus and candida. Coconut oil can boost your metabolism, energy and endurance all while improving digestion and helping your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
It’s August in Maine and it’s the height of summer fruit season. Blueberries, plums, peaches and blackberries are everywhere! One of my all time favorite desserts for summer (and winter) is my easy and delicious Fruit Crisp. I’ve always prepared this recipe with vegan margarine and it’s been great. However, after a few modifications I’ve gotten a fantastic result using organic expeller pressed coconut oil. Now my fruit crisp has a lighter texture, better flavor and the best part for me is that it’s PALM OIL FREE!
6 Cups Blueberries (or any fruit of choice)
1-2 Tbl. all purpose flour
1 tsp lemon juice and grated zest from one half
1 cup Light brown Sugar, packed
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 ¼ cup Flour
1 cup whole (old fashioned) oats
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
10 tablespoons organic refined coconut oil, room
Preheat your oven to 350. Toss the fruit with 2 tablespoons of flour, lemon juice and zest. Spread the fruit evenly into a 12 inch casserole or baking dish. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the coconut oil and then begin blending with your hands, working the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs that are not uniform in size. The crumb should clump easily into one to two inch pieces. If it feels too dry add additional coconut oil one teaspoon at a time. Alternatively if the crumb feels too oily add additional flour one tablespoon at a time. Spread the crumb evenly over the fruit. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 325 and bake an additional 30 minutes or until the topping is nicely browned and the fruit bubbles on the side.
Serve warm or at room temp with a scoop of dairy free ice cream, whipped topping or just by it’s delicious self!
Note: Unrefined coconut oil has a more distinct coconut flavor, which can be a nice addition to this dessert.