While researching the Gluten-Free Girl Scout Snack Treat blog post I first found about WholeVine, the company who produces the gluten-free cookies. WholeVine is a company in Sonoma County, California. They’re truly sustainable and do exactly what they’re name implies – create products using the whole vine of grapes so there is little to no waste.
Stems and Shoots
But one of my readers looked over the WholeVine website and was quick to notice something (thank you Stacy!). Wholevine uses all of the vine - the grape skins, seeds, leaves, stems
and all to make their products. They’ve converted the by-products from wine grapes into oils
, gluten-free flour
, food coloring, nutritional additives and gluten-free cookies
. But after reading my recent blog post concerning Dow
developing a gluten free bread additive using inedible wood pulp no doubt you'd have to wonder how exactly WholeVine was using these woody stems and shoots.
So what are they actually doing with the stems and shoots? And are they being processed and used in the gluten-free cookies or any other foods we may eat?
Why Are They Adding the Stems and Shoots?
According to the WholeVine website the leaves, stems and shoots are used for two purposes:
- Natural paper products
- Bio-Active packaging
- High Absorbency Materials
- Textile Products
- Carbon Additives for Soil
These are all very sustainable ways to use the leaves, stems and shoots which would normally be discarded or simply composted. I commend them for this. I truly do.
Love That They're Sustainable, But . . .
But, and unfortunately, there’s a but – the second way they use these three parts of the vine is in Nutritional Ingredients. For the leaves this is not an issue as they are beneficial to eat
But the stems and shoots are also used in:
- Nutriceutical Ingredients
- Nutritional Additives for Food
What are Nutriceutical Ingredients?
I’d never heard of Nutriceutical Ingredients
before and apparently (sorry for the overload of technical jargon here!) they are parts of plants, animals, or micro-organisms. But they also include synthetic variants of natural nutraceuticals which are sold as pills, capsules or powders, or in other medicinal forms not usually associated with food. A nutraceutical ingredient is shown to have a physical benefit
or to provide protection
against chronic disease. Essential nutrients can be nutraceuticals if they provide benefit beyond their necessary role in normal growth or maintenance of the human body.
Okay, so that seems like it's a good thing, but now we get to the second part - the stems and shoots are used as a nutritional additive for food
. And once again, we have an issue with something inedible making it's way into our food.
Should We Be Eating Stems and Shoots?
Should we be eating stems and shoots? No. Are they inedible? Yes. When I eat grapes, I never eat the shoots or stems.
Do any of you?
I contacted the company in hopes of clarifying this and to see if there was any cellulose in the cookies.
I recently wrote a blog about the Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Snack Treats produced by WholeVine being offered by the Girl Scouts. One of my readers had a question regarding the stems and questioned whether the stems were used in the cookies in the form of cellulose. Are the stems or cellulose used in making the flours or the oils?
Thanks for your time. Love your efforts toward sustainability!
I received a quick reply back:
We make a great effort not to use the stems in our flours. The seeds and skins are carefully separated from each other and from the stems. (also any leaves)
So the stems do not play any significant role in our flours, or the Bites, that are produced from them.
Our goal is to use all the produce of the vineyard and we are working on projects that would use the stems.
I hope this answers your question.
But that still left me wondering so I send one more email:
Thanks for your response. On the WholeVine website it says that the stems and shoots are also used for "Nutritional Additives for Food" - is any of this in the cookies? Could you send me a list of ingredients for the cookies?
And once again WholeVine was quick to respond to my question:
Generally No stems or shoots. That said there is always a little that we cant' screen out. I am attaching PDFs with Back label copy. Hope this answers your questions.
I was glad to finally have the chance to read over the ingredient panel for the cookies. And although the cookies are gluten-free, unfortunately for many of my readers who are not only gluten-free but have other food intolerances and sensitivities, the cookies do contain a few other allergens such as dairy, soy, corn and nuts and they are also produced in a facility that produces wheat, peanuts and tree nuts.
WholeVine produces 8 varieties of grape skin flour as well as 8 varieties of grape seed flours. They also make 8 grape seed oils. All of their flours and oils are gluten-free. The flours and oils are made from made from wine grapes: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, syrah, zinfandel, sauvignon blanc, riesling, chardonnay. And I have to admit, even with all the gluten-free cooking I do, I had never heard of grape seed flours - but apparently, there are several gluten-free grape seed flour on the market. I look forward to trying some soon.
Full Cycle Sustainability
I think this company is doing so many things right, and for the right reasons. Barbara Banke and Peggy Furthe founded the company to generate funds for the children's charities they support. The company promotes "full cycle sustainability" which strives to use everything that grows each year in the vineyard for its highest best use. Not only is their company sustainable, but their grapes are harvested from sustainably farmed vineyard blocks. According to their website, once they harvest everything from the vineyard until the product is in your hands, they've kept it earth‐friendly every step of the way. They're also developing Vine Grown Colors - all natural colorants that replace chemical additives currently used in processed food.
For a gluten-free company so obviously headed in the right direction I'd rather see the stems and shoots put into the non-food items - the natural paper products, packaging and materials or as a carbon additive for the soil, and hope that they will strive toward keeping the inedible parts of the vine from becoming part of our food in any way.
Image Credits: "Grapes" by Danilo Rizzuti and "A Bunch Of Grapes On A Vine" by Dan through FreeDigitalPhotos.net