10 Green Gifts for the Cook

Best Green Gifts 2009

Some kitchen gifts on this list are green because of what they're made of, others because of their long lifespans. One thing's for sure: whether you're shopping for a culinary pro or an amateur home chef, these green gifts will be welcome additions to their kitchens. Here's a list of kitchen goodies that make the cook's life easier and greener.

Top Row:
1. Blue Avocado Bags ($7.99-$79.99) Made with at least 50 percent recycled materials, the Blue Avocado line of reusable bags is top-notch. These come in kits that are perfect for trips to the farmers’ market or the local grocery store, with “pod” bags that fold into themselves, chill bags, veggie bags, and even a wrap handle that will help you carry it all. There’s a kit suitable for anyone’s shopping habits.

2. Ball Brand Fresh Preserving Kit ($39) This is a fantastic starter kit for the home canner, with all the bells and whistles needed to get someone on the road to making their own jams, jellies, and preserved veggies. Be aware before buying that a 21-quart stock pot will take up a lot of room; if you’re gifting this to someone without a lot of space, get them all the other accoutrement—try this 4-piece starter kit ($10) —and a encourage them to borrow a large stock pot. For recipes, we highly recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving ($15.61).

3. Enameled cast iron Dutch oven Lodge ($38 and up) or Le Creuset ($148 and up) Here’s a gift that’s green because it will last practically a lifetime. We use our enameled cast iron Dutch oven at least four times a week: it’s hands-down the best for soups, sautéing, roasting or braising, and even baking bread. We’re in love with our 5-quart Dutch oven, but pine for a 3-quart as well, so be sure to gauge your giftee to see what would best fit them. (For instance, are they more likely cooking for two or for four?) In equipment reviews, Le Creuset (the Cadillac of enameled cast iron) comes in on top; but Lodge, a much more affordable option, stands up to rigorous tests too.

4. Totally Bamboo Dishwasher Safe Cutting Board ($11.50 - $40) This is a fantastic option for the home cook who loves fresh fruits and veggies. Bamboo cutting boards are eco-friendly, but most can’t go in the dishwasher; as ours is in constant rotation, the fact that this one's dishwasher safe (and formaldehyde free) is a huge bonus. Bamboo is also easy on knives, hard on germs, and more affordable than hard-wood counterparts.

5. Preserve Nested Mixing Bowls ($17) Made from recycled plastic, these bright nested bowls have all the bells and whistles a mixing bowl should have: they’re dishwasher safe, BPA- and melamine-free, have a spout for pouring and a small handle for holding.

Bottom Row:
6. Bambu Give It A Rest Utensils ($25 for a set of 6) We got a set of these last Christmas, and they are our go-to kitchen utensils that handle everything from mixing cookie dough to scrambling eggs to stirring a pot of chili. And with that built-in spoon rest, they’re so very kind to both the cook and the countertop. Even better, bamboo utensils won’t harm the nice enamel on your new Dutch oven.

7. Vintage Recipe Box and Recipe cards (price varies) More and more cooking websites are offering index-card sized printouts of recipes, and where better to keep those than a recipe box? A vintage or handmade recipe box, complete with a few hand-printed recipe cards is a beautiful and nostalgic gift for any culinary enthusiast. It’s both sentimental and useful. We recommend shopping on Etsy or at your local vintage shops for this gift.

8. Bread Machine (price varies) Here’s another one of our favorite Christmas gifts; we were given a bread machine last year and have whipped up just about 52 loaves of bread since. We’ve completely eliminated all bread-related packaging, shopping for bread-making items in bulk, and we’re eating healthier carbs because of it. If you’re shopping for someone who loves to cook but is a little short on time, a bread machine with a delay start timer, like this Cuisinart model, is perfect: they’ll have fresh bread ready in time for dinner, with very little effort. For more on why it’s green to have a bread machine, read this post.

9. CSA Subscription (price varies) Part of the joy of home cooking is working with local fruits and vegetables, and this would be the ultimate gift of consumables, not to mention benefits local farmers: purchase a subscription to a local CSA (community-supported agriculture). In most communities, you can buy month-long, seasonal, or year-long subs depending on your price level. In our town, for instance, a bi-weekly local basket, including dairy and breads as well as in-season fruits and vegetables, is about $70 per month. Along the same lines, you could purchase a share in organically-raised, free range livestock, and give the gift of sustainably raised beef. And if that's too big a purchase, then opt for a simple local goodies basket, packed with local honey, olive oil, wine, and fruits (one visit to the farmer's market can yield a gorgeous gift for your favorite foodie).

10. Organic Wine or Beer Subscription Perfect for the foodie who has everything. Many wineries and breweries offer subscriptions; find a local one or an organic one and give an annual subscription (generally one bottle of wine per month, or a six-pack of seasonal lagers).

Our Best Green Gifts 2009 so far (more coming!):

10 Green Cleaning Gifts
10 Green Gifts for the Bookworm
10 Green Gifts Under $50
10 Green Gifts for the Home Renovator
10 Green Gifts for Good Causes
10 Green Gifts for the Outdoors Lover
10 Green Gifts for the Artist, Crafter, or DIY'er
10 Green Gadget Gifts for the Techie

(Images: Wine, Flickr member Joe Shlabotnik, Vegetables, Flickr member Natalie Maynor, licensed under Creative Commons)