* Prices may differ from that shown
Attempting to shop responsibly is one of my pet hobbies, for a couple of different reasons. First of all there's the fairly obvious ethical standpoint that says"yes we should treat the world properly and not buy products from unscrupulous companies that employ slash and burn policies or get 3rd world babies addicted to infant formula", but also from a purely selfish point of view to break the monotony of shopping into a more challenging task. Couple an ecological conscience with a desire to eat healthily, not waste food OR money, and shopping can go from challenging to just downright masochistic. I guess I'm borderline the latter when it comes to avoiding the easier options out there.
Whole Earth pride themselves on the fact that they don't use unsustainable palm oil in the production of this stuff, which is a lot more than can be said for the rest of the range of peanut butter out there on the shelves. It seems to be a vital ingredient, but none of the others seems to be willing to source their palm oil from plantations that haven't been created by bulldozing thousands of square miles of Indonesian rain forest. If you're not aware, palm oil is in pretty much every type of consumer product on the supermarket shelves, from biscuits and soap to bread and shampoo. It's a major source of finance to the far east, but comes at a hefty price. I'm not going to lecture anyone about it here, but if you're interested it's a quick Google search away.
This peanut butter is the most expensive on the shelf at our local supermarket, but it is sometimes on offer, either reduced in price or on a multi-buy deal. Either way, it's going to cost a few quid for a jar, but then it's not as rough a deal as it sounds. This peanut butter is very thick and rich in flavour, so not much is needed to get the desired effect. I a level teaspoon is about right on a slice of toast.
Its ingredients are simple, with no added crud. Just 97% peanuts, a dash of monkey-friendly palm oil and a pinch of salt. It's packed full of protein, and all the other goodness that comes from nuts. And there's no added sugar AT ALL which is brill, cos I'm fairly convinced that refined sugar is basically just poison anyway.
They also have a few promotions on, including the current one of win a toaster or two. I haven't won any toasters, but then I already have one so I'm not that fussed. If I didn't, then I'd be significantly less inclined to buy this stuff, as toast is the ideal platform for peanut butter - preferably combined with jam and some banana, served with a cup of tea. Go on, try it. You know you want to.
It's also remarkably good in curry or even stir fry, thickening it up and adding a bit of texture and a nutty flavour to it, great for satay curry and the like. We've also used it to make peanut butter ice-cream, cake and biscuits, and since it doesn't really go off it's a pretty useful thing to keep stashed in the cupboard. They also do a smooth variety, but I'm not so keen on it. Unless it's got one of those yellow cut-price stickers on it.
Somewhat needlessly it does give an allergen warning on the side. No prizes for guessing what it might contain.
THE TRUTH ABOUT PEANUT BUTTER
Despite being quite high in fat, peanut butter is pretty much considered to be 'good for you' (in moderate quantities) because it serves as a (yummy) source of nuts and it keeps you feeling full! But the problem with most peanut butters is that they contain a lot of added sugars and unnatural ingredients. That's why you've really got to choose your peanut butter well, to get all the wholesome goodness you need from eating peanut butter.
WHOLE EARTH PEANUT BUTTER - GOOD OR NOT?
This peanut butter comes in a glass jar with a green cap. The jar is quite sturdy, but unfortunately not the cap - I've sadly dropped my jar of peanut butter only to have the cap crack and the jar intact. The peanut butter itself is not as creamy or spreadable as other (cheaper and less nutritious) butters. For those who are not familiar with this sort of peanut butter, it might be quite a shock! Scooping it out to spread also is not so easy - very often while spreading I destroy my slice of bread instead of getting a nice spread over it. What I do instead sometimes is to take a metal spoon of peanut butter and get the peanut butter to melt slightly and slowly over an open flame. This makes my peanut butter a little more gooey and easier to spread.
I love to eat peanut butter on toast, or by itself - and in both ways, this peanut butter is shear goodness! It is crunchy with a significant proportion of peanuts which is awesome for CRUNCHY peanut butter lovers like me! Nutritionally wise, it takes about two spoons of peanut butter to make 16 g of fat intake, which is quite typical. BUT, compared to other run-of-the-mill peanut butters, this has significantly less sugar. Thumbs-up!
RECOMMEND OR NOT?
For those who have never tried peanut butter like that, this may seem like an entirely different product! It's much more peanut-ty, much less sweet - and trust me, it's a lot better for your health (only in moderation!!) Just beware that eating too much is not healthy, and it also leaves your throat feeling quite dry because it really is THAT dense in peanut content!
You can typically find this at most supermarkets including Sainsbury and Tesco. I believe the price is about 2.59 pounds, which is more expensive than other butters, but there are sometimes (though very rarely) offers. But for the goodness, I surely wouldn't mind paying the extra!
Following a resolution to try and eat less of the sweet stuff, I recently swapped to buying Whole Earth no-added-sugar peanut butter, as it contains only peanuts, vegetable oil (this being palm oil) and (sea) salt. The nuts that go into it are unbleached, which presumably means they still have their interior papery skins on, as you can see the little dark-brown flecks of ground-up nut shell all through the peanut butter mix. It costs about the £2 per 340g bottle - which is about in line for peanut butter in general, although I see from mysupermarket.com that there is quite a bit of variation in prices for this product in different supermarkets; you can pay anywhere from about £1.70 per bottle (in Asda) to the £2.60 mark, so it may be worth shopping around.
This has to be about the most right-on peanut butter on the block, because not only is it approved by various worthy food organizations / consumer groups (eg. the Vegetarian Society), but the bottle it comes in is made from recycled glass, AND the palm oil that goes into its manufacture is certified by the RSPO - which, a swift Altavista search tells me, is the acronym for the 'Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil' production - an industry group comprised of various palm oil producers, who are all committed in various nebulous ways to producing palm oil in a vaguely sustainable manner.
Now, I'm no palm oil production zealot, but the RSPO's stance on conversion of "forest" for the purposes of palm oil production - this being equatorial rainforest, mind you, since that's what generally grows in the areas where palm oil plants can be farmed - seemed a bit of a cop-out. What they say they do is to attempt to not plough under what they've identified as being particularly "high conservation value" bits of rainforest. So presumably less high conservation rainforest is all right to have oil palms grown on it, in that case, is it? I'm not for a moment saying that people in developing countries - which mainly means the tropics - shouldn't take up certain profitable, agricultural options that come their way, but what does somewhat irk me is when liberal do-gooders from the west, who want to use various products that are produced in pretty much impossible-to-be-environmentally-friendly-manners try to set up organizations like what the RSPO appears to me to be, as basically, sops for their massively over-inflated woolly-minded social consciences. I may have misread this entire situation, but slapping 'made only using RSPO certified palm oil' in this case just doesn't seem anywhere near sufficient, given the scale of the problem in hand.
Of course the peanut butter like all such products is massively calorific, and has 600-odd calories in it per 100g. It's more than half by weight comprised of fat, and of this, 20% is saturated fat (so there's just under 10g of saturated fat per 100g) - which struck me as being a bit worryingly high - although this figure does at least let us know what became of all the palm oil that went into its manufacture.
Astonishingly (and somewhat ironically, given my reason for trying this stuff out in the first place) if the figures I saw on the mysupermarket.co.uk website are to be believed, somehow this peanut butter ends up actually having MORE sugar in it than the brands that put sugar in their product as an extra ingredient (common or garden Sunpat peanut butter, for example, has about a gram less of sugar in it than this stuff, per 100g).
I admit that I came late to appreciation of peanut butter, not being much of a one for sandwich spreads of any variety, be it chocolate, mallow or jam. But, once having discovered the yumminess of this particular foodstuff, I quickly became a bit of an afficionado.
If you're the kind of person who likes your peanut butter smooth and sweet and/or mixed with jam American style, you will probably not be bowled over by the Whole Earth product. However, if you have something of a sophisticated palate, like lots of crunch and adore the taste of peanuts in their unadulterated form, this is the product for you.
It doesn't come cheap compared to other varieties. It is currently retailing at approximately £2.59 for a 454 gram jar, but it is definitely money well spent.
Whole Earth, as the name implies, is a brand dedicated to whole food with as few additives as possible and with ingredients and packaging that are sourced ethically including the glass jar which is recyclable.
The ingredients are 97% roasted peanuts which are unblanched, palm oil (from a sustainable source) and sea salt. And that's it. But the combination is delicious.
Now, I'm sure most serious dieters know that peanut butter comes with a very high calorific value: in this particular product that's 637 k/cals per 100 grams, which can do serious damage to your waistline if eaten in excess.
And that, really is this product's biggest drawback. It is very easy to eat it to excess because it is so incredibly moreish. My personal preference is thickly spread on granary bread but the recommendation on the jar is to eat on wholemeal toast.
But don't think that it's only possible to eat peanut butter in this relatively virgin state. It is also a great ingredient in other dishes, such as satay sauces or even to give an extra oomph and texture to homemade curries. I make a mean Moroccan-type dish with sweet potato and spinach which includes a couple of dollops of this delicious foodstuff. Other recipe ideas can be found at the Whole Earth website
So, even if you aren't a huge fan of bread and spread, I hope you agree that this product is also an invaluable store cupboard essential.
I urge you to forget the run-of-the-mill, over-sweetened, not very crunchy varieties of peanut butter and give yourself a treat and use Whole Earth Crunchy Original peanut butter. You'll soon be as addicted as me!