Friday, March 23, 2007

Local + Seasonal = Good For Us + Planet

Shopping local is near and dear to me. I read many years ago, in a wonderful publication Small is Beautiful, Big is Subsidized (published by the International Society for Ecology and Culture), that now well-worn statistic about the average American meal travelling 1500 miles from farm to plate. I've been actively practicing "localism" ever since. It does take practice, figuring out recipes that work with what's in season. I can hardly bring myself to eat out-of-season produce anymore as the poor quality and knowing how far it has travelled make me lose my appetite. In winter, we eat a lot of kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, plus root vegetables such as beets, parsnips, carrots and potatoes. I do freeze locally grown corn, beans, asparagus, artichokes (we grow the latter two in our home garden) to give us variety. I use those in soups and stews as they aren't quite as crisp and tasty as they are fresh, though my daughter does love green beans straight from the freezer!

My one conscious exception to local food is tropical fresh fruit in winter--this is when we enjoy mango, kiwi, and citrus. Citrus is in season then, even though it isn't grown locally. I figure loading on the vitamin C at that time of year is good for us as well. My favorite is blood oranges; when I was pregnant with my son, I gave into my cravings and ate two or three a day. We don't eat bananas, which is one of those fruits that many families say they can't give up, but no one in my family likes them much, so they are easy for us to forego. I don't know when they're in season, but you might consider only eating them when they're naturally at their best and eat other fresh fruits during the rest of the year.

I have different sources for food during the year. Out here in the Far East of NE Portland, there's Rossi Farm on 122nd & Shaver, open from June through December. They're growing food literally less than a mile from our house, so I take advantage of that as much as possible when they're open. It's not organic, but that's one of those trade-offs we all find ourselves making as we reconcile our green balance sheet. We also have Grower's Outlet at 162nd & Glisan, which is open year-round. I shop at New Seasons quite a bit and appreciate how they label their produce. Less frequently, I go to the Hollywood Farmers' Market, but it's so crowded and kind of far to drive. I am looking forward to the opening of the Montavilla Farmers' Market this spring.

Finally, of course, there's our home garden. It's a shadow of its former self these days, as I haven't gotten back into the swing of things since my son was born last year,
but we do have asparagus, artichokes, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, boisenberries, and blueberries growing perennially and at the very least will grow tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and several varieties of winter and summer squash this summer. I would like to also put in green beans, sugar snap peas, and leeks as well, but will have to see how the spring shapes up for us. Long term, we would like to grow vegetables all year, but it'll be a couple more years 'til we're ready to make that commitment.

We are so fortunate here in the Pacific Northwest to be able to enjoy as much fresh food year 'round, whether grown in our own gardens or grown for us by local farmers. Find out what's in season in your area and start cooking!

1 comment:

knittinmom said...

We just signed up for our CSA share from a farm in Troutdale, and I can not wait. We are so bad at eating fresh produce, I'm hoping that this will make us a bit better (and healthier) while at the same time supporting a small local farm. Yummy!