A scoby is an odd critter. Imagine a jellyfish bobbing placidly in a jar of tannin-tinted liquid, contentedly imbibing sugar and tea. I suppose I err when I call a scoby a critter. It might be more accurate to refer to it as a collection many billions of critters – “scoby,” after all, is an acronym for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts” – but then again, I myself am composed of many billions of cells. Who’s to say if a scoby is one being or many? More to the point, why would you care?

I’ll give you a reason. Or, if we’re still quibbling about numbers, six reasons, and two of them are on tap. Let me introduce to you a new-to-us line of kombuchas from Brew Dr. Kombucha, a Portland-based tea brewer and bottler. A scoby, after all, is the organism (or collection of organisms) that produces lovely, lightly effervescent kombucha from tea and sugar. Brew Dr. has used their collection of scobies to good effect. Check out their delicious flavors, including Clear Mind, White Rose, Lemon Ginger Cayenne, Superberry, Nutritonic, and Spiced Apple Kava. And what if you’re not feeling like you want a 14oz. bottle? We’ve got two flavors on tap. Fill your glass, jug, stein, or whatever suits your fancy.

If you’re sipping your kombucha while tending the grill this summer, keep in mind another of our new finds from our neighbor to the north: ketchup from Portland Ketchup Company. Made with organic ingredients here in Oregon by Portlandia Foods, you can be assured that this ketchup is no gag from Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s hit show. Portlandia Foods’ co-owner Jeff Bergadine claims they selected the name long before “Portlandia” hit the airwaves. In any case, Portland Ketchup is a really nice addition to our Oregon grilling season.

If you’re looking for a condiment made even closer to home than Portland, how about our new Meyer Lemon Pesto from Pretty Pickle Company, right here in Salem. I hope you’ve tried Pretty Pickle’s other great offerings – including Pickled Asparagus, Pickled Garlic, and Pickled Green Beans – in the past; in any case, the new Meyer Lemon Pesto is delicious. Great on News In Natural continued from page 1 fish, chicken, and vegetables, or as an ingredient in salad dressings, marinades, and dipping sauces, Meyer Lemon Pesto is another grilling season favorite in the making.

While we’re looking at items made here in Salem, check out the new wheat-free cookies from Sugar n Spice Baking Co. If you’re not on a wheat-restricted diet, you probably tuned out at the words “wheat-free,” but I’d encourage you to tune back in. These cookies are yummy by any standard. I particularly enjoy the fruitfilled Italian Butter Cookies, but check out the other excellent flavors, too: Island Shortbread, Peach Apricot Shortbread, Rum Raisin Shortbread, Northwest Cranberry Cookies, Lemon Crisp Cookies, and Cherry Macaroons.

Speaking of sweet stuff, here’s another new introduction, from a bit further afield: Justin’s Candy Bars. Justin’s has been making nut butters and peanut butter cups for a few years now, but the new Milk Chocolate Almond Bar and the Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Peanut Bars are a great addition to their line. The peanut bars have been compared to a Snickers bar (but better!) while the almond bars are a novel and delicious twist on the theme. They are, of course, candy, so not exactly health food, but if you’re going to be eating something filled with nuts, caramel, and nougat, and covered in chocolate, these bars – made largely with organic ingredients – are a great alternative to all the artificial, high-fructose corn syrup-sweetened candy bars on the market.

Stevia-sweetened sodas like Zevia hit the market a couple years ago, to great success, and ever since I’ve been waiting for more steviasweetened products to show up. I couldn’t figure out why nobody had developed a stevia-sweetened chocolate bar. I still don’t know why it took so long, but they’re finally here: Lily’s Dark Chocolate, in Original, Almond, and Crispy Rice Bars. These bars are sweetened with stevia (a South American plant whose leaf is naturally several times sweeter than sugar) and erythritol (a a moderately sweet “sugar alcohol” that is essentially non-caloric and only partially absorbed by the body). While in some cases stevia can impart a distinctive flavor to the foods it sweetens, Lily’s Sweets has done a nice job of producing a chocolate bar that tastes like chocolate, not stevia. Lily’s Sweets are definitely worth a taste.