You don’t have to spend a ton of money to give someone a unique and fun natural gift! For those who prefer to use ecologically sound items or for the natural foodie in your life, take a look at this fun natural gifts list for some interesting ideas…
In my never ending attraction to all things natural, I often get inspired by adventures in cooking or adventures that come about simply in the course of living. We tend to (not by design!) move about frequently, so we come in contact with new items/ideas all the time.
As interesting as that may sound, it has its upside and its downside. The wonderful upside is that we have met some amazing people, seen some incredible places and been introduced to diverse cultures and their particular natural products that we had never known about before. That’s why I want to share this list of fun natural gifts that won’t break your budget.
We usually live in a particular area for a year or longer. The downside is that we seem to be forever re-creating our daily lives, as in, we’ve just arrived to a new area and we have no idea where to find something as simple, yet necessary, as a bar of natural soap.
Of course, over the years we learned to carry a couple of bars of natural soap with us wherever we go, but we can’t practically carry everything that we need to set up a new home. (Although, you may have read about my fantastic pressure cooker that I have been carrying with us for the last couple of years in this post).
At any rate, it is part treasure hunt and part necessity that finds us combing a new area for spices, utensils, medicinal herbs and more, every time we travel. Along the way I have discovered a good number of interesting items that would be fun gifts for someone who is interested in natural living or is a natural foodie.
We are usually on a conservative budget, so these items are not luxury or costly; they’re just little goodies that someone might enjoy as a treat. They’re things that I love myself and/or would enjoy as a gift, so I thought to pass these ideas on to you!
Fun Natural Gifts That Won’t Break Your Budget
1. Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Tea
This beautiful, bright blue herbal tea is popular in South Asian countries, particularly Thailand, and Vietnam. It has a mild earthy-type flavor, similar to green tea. It’s known as “Magic Tea” because the dried butterfly pea flower tea changes from its natural deep blue color to brilliant violet when lemon is added. With a bit of hibiscus or honey, the color turns pinker! It’s gorgeous!! Buy it for the fun; drink it for its health benefits, which include improving heart health and lowering stress levels.
The dried flowers can also be used as a natural blue dye for foods or DIY projects.
I found these this nice option online: Butterfly Tea Powder ✓
2. Palo Santo Oil
Palo Santo (or Holy Wood, in Spanish) is a sacred tree (Bursera graveolens) indigenous to Central and northern South America (we discovered it while living in Ecuador). It has been known for thousands of years among local peoples for its spiritual and healing properties. The wood is used via smudging or burning (similar to the use of sage in the southwestern USA by native tribes) to energetically cleanse environments from negativity or, as it is said in Spanish, to clear “mal energia.”
The essential oil is woodsy and fragrant, with highlights of mint and lemon, and is used to ward off colds, release stress, to relieve headaches and as an insect repellent. It is very relaxing to the mind.
When purchasing Palo Santo essential oil or wood sticks, be sure to check that you are getting the mystical Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) wood that is collected from old sticks, twigs and tree bark that has naturally fallen to the forest floor. Don’t be confused by another variety of Palo Santo, Palo Santo (Bulnesia sarmientoi) which is a different (and now endangered) tree, whose wood is often harvested for flooring materials and does not have the same positive health effects.
Although most Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) is sustainably harvested for spiritual and health purposes, my suggestion would be to treat a small bottle of Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) oil as a special gift to be used with respect and conscience.
You can find Palo Santo oil:
3. Carajillo Coffee Beans
On one of our many sojourns in Mexico, we happily discovered Carajillo Coffee of San Cristobal de Las Casas, in the Chiapan highlands.
This organic coffee is hand grown in small indigenous communities – there are several varieties, all with excellent and unique flavor profiles. We sampled numerous at the famous Carajillo Slow Coffee cafe in San Cristobal, enough to be gifted a prized frequent customer card, one of my favorite souvenirs from our time there. 🙂
And now you can buy Carajillo coffee beans online! My favorite was the San Pedro variety, as it is robust yet smooth – I don’t like a bitter coffee, and this one was perfect for me. But the varieties all have their distinct merits, you can’t go wrong with any choice.
When you purchase from Carajillo, you’re getting coffee that is sustainably produced and moreover, you are helping to support the indigenous families that live and breathe their coffee production.
The website and Facebook page are in Spanish, but with an online translator, you’ll figure it out! It’s well worth the bit of effort… you’ll see! (Prices are in MXN Pesos, so convert to your local currency; payments through Paypal)
If you want to know more about Carajillo, you can read my travel story about beautiful historic San Cristobal.
4. Cookbook -Lomelino’s Pies – A Sweet Celebration of Pies, Galettes, and Tarts
Any beautiful-food foodie will want a copy of Linda Lomelino’s pie cookbook. First of all, this amazing Swedish woman is the owner of the gorgeous “Call Me Cupcake” food blog, in which she offers a wide variety of unique recipes for pies pastries, cakes, ice cream, cookies, tortes, galettes – all presented in her exquisite dark photography style. For many years Linda has intrigued readers with her blog and from 2014, she began offering cookbooks, each focused on a particular type of dessert.
In this cookbook featuring pies, not only are her natural recipes unique and delicious, but her dreamy photographs, which are more like elegant works of art, will have you poring through the book with delight. Linda’s website may well be one of the first, if not the first, to feature the “Dark Photography” concept that is so popular now among food photographers. Lomelino’s Pies includes information on lighting and equipment, plus her personal tips on how she takes those beautiful photos.
5. Dried Vanilla Bean Pods
Vanilla is one of the most exquisite tastes and aromas on earth. For the natural cook, a great gift would be a few exotic dried vanilla bean pods for use in making homemade vanilla extract (surprisingly easy to do!) or for use in homemade desserts, like ice cream or cakes and pastries.
Vanilla is grown in many countries around the world and each variety has subtle fragrance and taste differences – all are fantastic, so choose one or try a sample pack to experiment!
You can also use the bean paste to flavor ice cream and other goodies or for making vanilla sugar or vanilla syrup.
You can purchase vanilla bean pods online at the links below:
Or, here is an option for ground vanilla beans ✓ that are ready to add to recipes.
6. Dried Osmanthus Flowers
If you’re tired of the usual herbal teas, or want to give a unique gift, it might be time to try Osmanthus Flower tea! Well known for thousands of years in China, Osmanthus (also known as Sweet Olive) flowers are popular in Asian cultures as a tea and are used in cooking traditional desserts. Osmanthus tea is very naturally sweet and extremely fragrant, with romantic historical connotations related to the sun, moon, and love. The flowers are so sweet that they are used to flavor desserts and even to cover the offending taste of certain medicines.
Osmanthus has its place in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as it is known to relieve stress, help in weight loss and can be used as a mouthwash and to soothe a sore throat. It also treats irregular menstruation. balances insulin levels, and reduces inflammation. All that, plus it tastes good!
To buy a package of dried Osmanthus Flowers, you can check out this source:
7. Reusable Bamboo Straws
I absolutely love the idea of never using a plastic straw again in my life! There are so many reasons why plastic straws are wrong, from the idea of sucking on plastic (even worse, heated plastic, if you’re having a hot beverage) to the idea that a gazillion of these throwaways end up polluting our oceans, rivers and streams and harming wildlife. Or they become litter on city streets and roadways.
So, when looking for an Eco-friendly replacement for the ubiquitous plastic straw, there are a few considerations, from stainless and glass (excellent, but not good for hot drinks – ouch!) to my favorite – bamboo.
These straws come in a variety of sizes and are re-usable. Most even come with a cute little brush so you can clean them out before reusing. Plus, they’re not expensive. So, definitely one of my favorite and fun natural gifts!
Do the earth and yourself a favor!
You can find bamboo straws below:
8. Svaneti Salt
Now that we have been living in the Republic of Georgia, I can tell you that Georgian Svaneti Salt is one of the best spice mixes I’ve tasted around the world. To be sure, it’s my new favorite! Just ask Jay, I’m tempted to put it in everything. 😉
Georgian cuisine is quite interesting, and most dishes are punctuated with exotic spice blends that give completely unique flavor profiles. This particular blend is from Svaneti, a picturesque mountainous region in the north of the country and is a mix that is used (more or less) in the same way that Americans would use Seasoned Salt.
But Svaneti salt, also known as Svanuri Marili, is a blend of 6 different dried spice powders (coriander seed, blue fenugreek, dill, tagetes marigold, red pepper flakes and caraway seed) plus salt and fresh garlic.
If you find Svaneti salt, and the ingredients include “dried cumin seed” be aware that Georgians refer to caraway as cumin, or Persian Cumin… it’s not the familiar cumin (Cuminum cyminum) that is used in Mexican and South American cuisine and which is known as jeera in Indian cuisine.
Likewise, Svaneti salt contains fenugreek, but it is blue fenugreek, that has slightly different properties from its relative, yellow fenugreek, that features in Indian cuisine.
Use it like you would Seasoned Salt, in soups, meat marinades and rubs and in veggie dishes. You too, will soon find that you want to put a little in every dish… which is not a bad thing, overall…
Here are a couple of places where you can buy Svaneti salt online:
9. Morrocan Beldi Tea Glasses
For a true Moroccan experience (whether you travel there or are dreaming from home!) it is required that you have a Moroccan mint tea. Tea in Morocco is never served in ceramic teacups, but rather, in tiny gorgeous tea glasses.
The trick is that Moroccans don’t fill the cups to the top, so you can hold the glass cup by the upper part while sipping. Traditional Moroccan mint tea gets its hearty punch from a huge bunch of fresh mint leaves infused into gunpowder green tea, with lots of sugar as sweetener.
Although many shops sell Moroccan tea glasses with intricate designs and gold paint, I prefer these simple glass ones. I’m never sure of the quality of the gold painted ones and the paint always seems to come off, either while drinking (!) or after numerous washings.
These lovely little tea glasses were originated from recycled glass by the iconic Beldi company that created (since the 1940’s) their own Beldi style tea glass. The word ‘beldi” means “local” and these glasses are hand-blown by skilled artisans.
Unlike other Moroccan tea glasses with smooth sides, the Beldi tea glasses are famous for their unique middle ridge that is perfect for holding the glass when filled with a hot beverage. They come in various sizes and tints and are perfect for drinking the wonderfully delicious Moroccan mint tea or your drink of choice.
These little glasses are simple and elegant. As they are hand-blown, they may vary slightly with the usual charm of a handmade item.
Update: as of 4/01/2021 the blue glasses pictured are not available, but these beautiful green ones are.
10. VerMints – Organic and Gluten Free Natural Mints
Because we’ve been into natural foods for decades now, I’ve learned to make my natural versions of so many restaurant, fast food and childhood favorite recipes. One thing that is really difficult to duplicate is something as seemingly simple as a little white candy after-dinner mint. I’m not an experienced candy maker, so I’m not even going to try!
I shop in natural food supermarkets, but that is not often possible with all of the travel that we do. Therefore, sometimes I find myself standing at the checkout line at a regular grocery store, confronted with all of the last minute impulse purchase items. These usually include a huge variety of junky chocolate bars, candy packets, breath mints and chewing gum. There are probably foot-long beef jerky sticks there too… although that doesn’t tempt me 😉
So, then I find myself wanting some nice minty mini-candies, and I (once again) check the tins for natural ingredients and regretfully put them back on the shelf when I don’t find any natural ones.
Well. A few years ago I discovered VerMints (cute name, no?) made in Vermont, USA, and I was so happy to finally have a perfect little mint that has good ingredients! They are little flat white disks of flavor. Yum. At that time, VerMints were sold in tiny tins and I tried most of the flavors, although I skipped the wintergreen ones because that flavor usually tastes like toothpaste to me.
The peppermint, cinnamon and ginger flavors are all great. Although I like the peppermint best, I would probably want a little tin of the ginger ones if I was going on a road trip, because ginger is good for motion sickness and is helpful if you’re driving or riding on winding roads. VerMints now come in chai and coffee flavors too, but I haven’t been able to try those yet.
VerMints are more widely available these days and are sold in a few different tin and packet sizes. If you haven’t tried them, or if you know of someone who would like some tasty little mints, these are the ones! They are often available at natural or vitamin shops or you can find them in bulk (packs of 12) through the VerMints website.
You can keep the cute tins too, with their adorable artwork, and repurpose them like I have:
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