Tag Archives: local eating

Further Adventures in Olive Curing Plus a Fig Experiment

My mom and her friend have been bringing me free food.  I don’t like fresh figs but I love them dried.  Fresh figs are really expensive and I haven’t had access to any free ones to experiment with until now.  So I was excited to haul my dehydrator out of the shed.  First thing I discovered is that whole figs don’t fit in my dehydrator so I had to cut them in half.  Second thing I discovered is that figs take a lot less time to dry than I thought.  I over-dried mine.  They are now as hard as tree bark.  Ooops.  I wish I could get my hands on more to do a second trial with but I may  have to wait until next year.

I plan to soak these before using them.   I think I’ll make some fig bars with them at some point.

I am still shamefully lagging on my olive project.  Between big transitions at work that are requiring a lot of extra attention and all the stuff going on around the house – and my kitchen always being dirty – I have yet to get my olives in their second (stronger) brine.  The top of the brine has some mold growing on it.  Having experimented a little with fermenting things and reading all about it – I’m not worried about it.  But I do want to get to the next step.

My friend Sharon who is learning to cure olives with me already has had hers in the second brined for two weeks with flavorings.  I got to try some at her house the other day and I’m pleased to report that they were really good!  I want mine to be saltier than hers are – but they had a really nice flavor and the texture was perfect.  So this method of curing can definitely get you good results.  We’ll see how mine come out in another few weeks I guess.

Walnut season is done.  DONE.  And I felt sad about it the way all you strange sun loving people get sad when summer is over and the air changes.  Two weeks is as long as walnuts were dropping.  I foraged a total of 15 lbs and 1 little oz of them.  I’m really happy to say that my mom’s friend who brought me figs also brought me a big bag of walnuts!  So now I have a more respectable haul.

Here’s the jar of pickled habanero peppers that I’ll be giving to my sister’s close friend Emily.  I’ve known Emily for a long time and now she’s a grown lady with a husband and two kids.  She and her husband like super hot peppers.  I don’t but I couldn’t resist pickling some of these because of their beauty.

I’m trying to menu plan now.  I’m not doing a very good job of it.  Here’s what I plan to make during the following week.

Menu “Plan” for the Week of 11/12/12:

  • Lentil soup  (done!)
  • Stuffed pasillo peppers – stuffed with seasoned tofu and baked in a cashew cream sauce served with Mexican brown rice.
  • Baked potatoes.  What?  You have to have something easy.
  • Salad(s) with apples and walnuts, feta, and dried cranberries.
  • Kashmiri-style eggplant in yogurt

I just got what might be the last three eggplants grown by Imwalle Gardens.  That means epplant is OVER.  I don’t buy them out of season so when you can’t get them locally grown any more it means no more for a long time.  I have wanted to make this eggplant dish for a long time but it requires you to shallow fry the eggplant – I’m not big on frying and I could probably broil them but I want my first time trying this dish to be as rich as the recipe is – because the last time you eat fresh eggplant for a year deserves to be special.

The stuffed peppers is a vegan dish I have been wanting to experiment with.  I haven’t ever tried such a thing and I don’t have any recipe for it.  I do have a recipe for the cashew cream sauce.  My friend Sid made the most amazing spaghetti squash dish that was like a lasagna with layers of squash, marinara sauce, tofu, and then topped with a cashew bechamel.  The bechamel was wonderful!  So it’s time to play with creamy vegan sauces.

What are you cooking this week?

Imwalle Gardens: the best produce market in Santa Rosa

So the farmer’s markets here in Santa Rosa are filled with produce I can’t afford to buy which is a huge disappointment.  $5 per/lb for green beans is not in my budget.  Neither is eggplant for $5 per/lb or even eggplant for $3 per/lb.  $5 for a tiny head of lettuce?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  Tomatoes can’t be had for less than $2 per/lb but most of them are upwards of $3 per/lb.  Cucumbers are $2 per/lb here – I expect cucumber to be no more than 50 cents each!  Corn is between 75 cents to $1 for one ear.  ONE EAR OF CORN.  Only some of this is organic.  The green beans weren’t (I saw organic ones for $4 per/lb).

So I’ve been shopping the regular grocery store.  The good news is that it’s not difficult to get mostly produce grown in California.  In Oregon it’s much more difficult to get mostly Oregon produce at the big grocery stores – but who cares when they have such great farmer’s markets with produce being sold for really reasonable prices?  The bad news is that even at big grocery store prices when produce is on special it isn’t affordable enough to can such produce in large quantities.  While I’ve been hearing about all my friends’ food preserving escapades I’ve become increasingly jealous.  I don’t feel right not preserving food at the end of summer.  I was getting pretty bummed when a friend suggested I check prices at Imwalle Gardens.  I’d been to Imwalle’s years ago when I lived here before but at that time I didn’t shop there much because farmer’s market produce was still reasonably priced.

So I went to Imwalle’s expecting to be disappointed.

I was so far from being disappointed – I hit the jackpot of affordable produce and the best thing of all is that this week they had 4 for $1 corn and they sell 20# of tomatoes for $12!  Both of which are grown right outside their market.  They’re a regular market in that they buy a lot of produce from other growers – mostly California growers (but not small farms necessarily) but they have their own farm and grow a few different kinds of peppers, corn, summer squash, Japanese eggplants, apples, and pickling cucumbers.

Imwalle Gardens is the BEST produce market in Santa Rosa.  Here are some of their current prices: $1.49 per/lb for green beans, 99 cents per/lb for regular tomatoes, $1.99 per/lb for heirloom toms, 99 cents (or less) for a head of lettuce, 99 cents per/lb for hot peppers (that they grow – compared to $8 per/lb I saw at the farmer’s market), $1.19 per/lb for organic potatoes, 99 cents per/lb for summer squash (compared to $2 or more at farmer’s market), 49 cents each for regular cucumbers, and $1.19 per/lb for pickling cucumbers.

For $56 I came home with 60 lbs of really gorgeous tomatoes and 80 ears of super tasty corn.  That was my first visit.

Yesterday we went back and got another 60 lbs of toms, 2 big bags of organic potatoes, some Hungarian wax peppers and some jalapenos, big bag of green beans, 6.5 lbs of pickling cucumbers, 2 heads of lettuce, big bag of zucchinis, big bag of onions, and a big bag of heirloom tomatoes for $67.50.

Here is their corn growing right outside the market.

So if you live in Santa Rosa I highly recommend that you shop at Imwalle Gardens for your produce.  Some great super local produce, lots of California produce, reasonable prices, and all the staff is super nice.  Imwalle’s is my new favorite place in Santa Rosa.

Imwalle Gardens

685 West 3rd Street

Santa Rosa, CA 95401

(707) 546-0279

Vegan versus Local and Spring Cleaning

I’ve been thinking a lot about plant based diets versus mostly local diets lately.  I am interested, as I’ve mentioned before, in experimenting more with vegan cooking.  I can’t see myself becoming vegan but I would like to eat a lot less animal based food.  This is a serious challenge for me because cheese exists.  One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of vegan cooking is that it uses a lot more tropical ingredients than I use in my cooking.  Great sauces can be made using cashews.  I LOVE cashews.  I haven’t had a cashew in years because they only come from places like India.  No one in the states grows them.  (If I’m wrong, please correct me!).  Coconut is huge in vegan cooking (also in other cooking, it’s just huge).  My one consistent tropical splurge is avocados.  I can’t live without them unless I’m forced to.  A less frequent treat is coconut milk for curries and soups.  I never use mangoes (cause I don’t like ’em) or dried coconut or dates or bananas or pineapple.  What bothers me is that most of the really enticing looking vegan dishes call for things I can’t get locally.  I love a lot of those things (besides mangoes and papayas) but to me it’s important to eat as locally as I can without being fanatical.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about that.  My mom is talking about wanting to go vegan for a year.  I thought about joining her in this challenge.  Except that I don’t believe in giving up honey and I can’t see myself insisting on eating vegan out or at friends’ houses where they aren’t also vegan.  So right off the bat I’d be doing a bastardization of a vegan challenge.  I haven’t decided how I feel about it.  I plan to check out some vegan cookbooks for inspiration and to help make up my mind.

In other news around the farm house…spring cleaning took a break for the dread tax season.  We’ve  been done with taxes for two weeks but had to recover from the horrible discovery that we both need part time second jobs to pay our taxes off.  Nice.  But now that it’s well into April it’s time to pick up momentum in the spring cleaning department.  I should probably get some actual cleaning done too.  I’ve been concentrating on getting rid of stuff.  I’m about 15 boxes lighter of stuff than I was in February when this all began.  Not bad.  It’s time for the next sweep.

What to focus on:

  • The scary garage.  We’ve got office stuff out there, tools, junk with no name, junk I’m too embarrassed to name, old bottles of garden sprays probably 3 years past expiration, and random crap.  The garage is the one place I haven’t made a first pass at yet.  I’m scared.  May require beer.
  • Second sweep through my closet.  I got rid of two boxes of stuff but I think I can fill one more box before I’m done with it.
  • Magazines.  I have a few to get rid of.  I don’t buy mags much these days but I have accumulated a number of them.
  • Plastics in the kitchen.  We have been slowly accumulating all glass containers for left overs and lunches.  I haven’t yet cleaned out the plastics no longer in use.
  • Random other kitchen stuff.  There are some baking dishes I just never use.  Some utensils and various other random things.  Parts to equipment I no longer have.  An old salad spinner without a lid.  I know these things are in there.  Why are they still in there?

Anyone else doing some spring cleaning?  What are you clearing out?  Any thoughts on vegan versus local eating?  Please share!

McMinnville Saturday Market: Late Fall

This is Tara from Denison Farms weighing my ENORMOUS sweet potatos.

I go to the McMinnville Saturday Market every weekend to buy my produce for the week.  There are two produce vendors there: Growing Wild Farm and Denison Farms.  Growing Wild sells out early so I often don’t get much from them.  I have a horrible tendency to sleep in on Saturdays.  Between the two farms (both certified organic) I manage to buy about 90% of the produce I use each week.  When I talk to people about eating locally and seasonally people ask about both the expense of it and the difficulty of cooking with so few ingredients.  Few ingredients?!  Check out what I find just at Denison Farms alone!

Please do not buy out of season tomatoes.  Look at all the other amazing things they have to offer that ARE in season!

This week I spent $43 dollars and this is what I got: 4 enormous sweet potatoes, 2 giant leeks, 2 heads of cauliflower, big bag of potatoes, 2 bags of prewashed lettuce mix, 1 bunch cilantro, 4 heads of garlic, 2 bunches of collards, 1 bunch of celery, and 2 yellow onions.  That will get us through a week of excellent vegetable eating.  When I got home I made potato leek soup and a pan of roasted sweet potatoes, fennel (from last week’s purchase), garlic, tofu, and potatoes.  That was dinner and it was amazing!

How I shop: most people I know decide what food they’re going to make and then go to the store to buy the things they need.  When you shop farmer’s markets you need to do the opposite; go to the market to see what’s available that looks good to you and then figure out what you will do with it.  You don’t need to know the exact amounts needed for recipes ahead of time.  Generally speaking you won’t need more than one head of cauliflower per cauliflower recipe.  One bunch of collards is generally enough for anything it’s going into.

If you’re not used to shopping this way it may take a little getting used to, but I’m the queen of anxiety (I have trouble with changes in routine and I get very set in my way of doing things) and even I hardly needed to adjust to this.  It’s actually a much more pleasant way of shopping and planning meals.  It’s also the way people have been doing it for thousands of years up until after World War ll.  You cooked what what was available and in season or in your pantry – no one decided ahead of time what they would be cooking because they didn’t have access to whatever they wanted all year long in a store.  Food stores were a lot less stable.

Please consider getting one of these gorgeous cutting boards from Growing Wild Farm!  I have two of them and they are well made by farmer Andre from white oak fallen on his own property as well as walnut and other woods from his friends.  The rustic board in this picture is new and Andre says it’s not suitable as a cutting board but is meant to be a serving board for things like cheeses.  I covet it!

There are a lot of other things at our Saturday Market: duck eggs, chicken eggs, meat, teas, spices, some packaged spreads, honey, bread and pastries, sometimes wild mushroom vendors, chocolates, hand made soaps, used books, art, crafts, vintage clothes, jewelry, knitted goods, sometimes flowers and hand carved spoons.  It’s becoming better and better all the time and I want my community to support it more strongly.  It’s such a pleasant way to do some of your food shopping every week.  It goes all year round and has made my town so much better.

If you have a similar market, especially one that goes all year round, be sure to support it.  Even if you can’t afford to buy all your produce, meat, and eggs from local sources, set aside a small portion of your budget to spend on at the local market.  Every dollar you spend locally makes your community economy stronger, your local food security stronger, and you are directly supporting your neighbors.

Most of my readers here at Stitch and Boots already support their local food producers as much as they can.  I am writing these things because if there’s even one person who comes along who doesn’t already shop their local farmer’s market that can be inspired to?  WIN.  Coming up soon – I’ve got a couple of recipes and will start costing out some of them to show what the food I eat actually costs.

Have a lovely weekend!

Fill Your Pantry Event: making local grains available

A few weeks ago my friend Nicole and I went to an event called “Fill Your Pantry” in Shedd, Oregon, hosted by  Greenwillow Grains and Willamette Seed and Grain.  The event brings local farmers together directly with buyers to strengthen our region’s foodshed.   The event especially highlights the availability of grains grown in Oregon which it’s difficult for consumers to buy directly from farmers.  In fact, the majority of grain grown in Oregon is soft wheat which is exported.  People who want local sources for soft wheat, hard wheat, rye, barley, and oats don’t often have access to such products in retail outlets.  Like most events in Oregon it was earthy, funky (held in an old restored church), full of vibrant people, and fiddle music filled the air.  I couldn’t have been more at home.  A building full of bulk grains, legumes in brown bags, garlic, pressed cider, and a truck full of winter squash for 19¢ a pound?  Count me in!  I was in food heaven.  The event was well attended and the energy was great.  Nicole bought a bucket of wheat berries from Lonesome Whistle Farm and I bought a small bag of milled dark rye from them.

Open Oak Farm‘s table of goods.

I bought 20 lbs of milled (organic!) hard wheat from Greenwillow Grains for $15 which is an amazing price.  I bought several winter squash (I’m sorry to say I didn’t note the farm that was selling those), a small package of fresh milled corn flour, and some apple cider.

Nicole browsing the goods at the Lonesome Whistle Farm table.

I couldn’t afford to buy any of the beans as they were much too expensive per pound for my budget but I was happy to read in an article by Spencer Masterson that there were some people there making connections between local food and low income families.  Linn County Gleaners volunteered at the event in exchange for donations from some of the venders.

I’m painfully aware of how many people have yet to understand how important it is to support your local food producers to create a sustainable and solid food system.  People in our country have become so used to the convenience and luxury of buying whatever food they need whenever they want from all over the world.  It’s been a long time since this country has had a war on its own shore.  It’s been a long time since you had to depend on your local growers to supply your most basic pantry needs.  I know that many people can’t imagine anything preventing them from continuing on exactly as they are.

All over the world people understand the importance of maintaining a strong connection with their local growers and producers because they have longer memories than we do and because they have had more wars and natural disasters to teach them this lesson.  I read about the shortage of produce in the areas of Japan directly affected by the earthquake of 2011 and it reminded me of the Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco.  The San San francisco earthquake was obviously minor in comparison with the Tohoku quake of earlier this year but I was reminded of the most surreal and profound experience during that disaster: grocery shopping.  My apartment was a wreckage of broken cabinet glass, broken everything, no water for at least a day, spotty phone line access, and two freaked out kittens.  I lived on 27th and Geary right across the street from a Cala Foods grocery store.  I didn’t have much food in my pantry so I ventured to the grocery store the day after the quake and discovered shelves stripped nearly bare of canned foods and bottled water.  I knew I wasn’t in grave danger of starving but it struck me, for the first time in my young adult life, that even in cosmopolitan cities absolutely full of giant grocery stores things other than poverty can happen to disconnect people from sources of food and water.  I remember all the news stories about the fires, the power outages, the destroyed roads with trapped people, the downtown looting, and the fears that food supplies might be cut off from the city for several days and what that would mean.

The farther your food has to travel to get to you and the fewer resources you have in your own back yard the more vulnerable your community is to starvation during natural disasters and human disasters like war.

Nicole, who started the Yamhill County Slow Food Chapter, is as passionate as I am about supporting as many local food growers and producers as we can.  This event was fun and it was productive.  If your own community doesn’t have anything like this, consider starting your own Fill Your Pantry event.

8 Benefits of Eating Locally

I think it’s funny that this is a conversation people need to have.  (And we do need to have it)  In all of human history people ate mostly locally because that’s what was available to them.  With some things reaching them from far-flung exotic places, like spices and other dried goods, there was certainly some access to imported goods but this wasn’t something people indulged in on a daily basis.  Of course, in the earliest days we were more nomadic and sometimes traveled to our food rather than it traveling to us.  Even so, we burned our own fat doing it, we built muscles hunting for our food and relocating on foot.  If we had to do that now there would be no obesity.

Here we are now.  We have become so used to everything in the world coming to our home town without the least inconvenience we actually have to work hard to figure out what is being grown and produced in our own regions.  I think it’s fantastic that people are rediscovering their local industries and economies but it’s surreal that those who do so are sometimes considered extreme or hoity toity for wanting to only eat apples grown locally.  I’ve heard the local eating movement spoken of derisively as though it’s some precious elitist activism and to me that’s really twisted.

There are a lot of reasons to eat what you want when you want it wherever it comes from.  It often costs less, it’s right in front of your face – so why not?  You want what you want and all your life there’s been no shame in eating tomatoes in the winter so why are people getting up in your face about it now?

What’s less apparent to people are the reasons why they should go out of their way to seek only locally produced foods.  If it’s more expensive and they actually have to work to find stuff and also not eat things that aren’t grown in their region what possible motive could they have for doing it?

  • The colossal use (and waste) of fossil fuels in the transportation of food across the world.

It’s a big reason to reduce the miles between you and your source of food.  A huge reason.  A reason with layers.  First of all, our unrelenting use of fossil fuels is polluting the planet.  Plain and simple.  I know some people still don’t believe in global warming or environmental pollution (I can only assume they’re being intentionally blind to smog and landfills and the plumes of exhaust being released in the air even from well regulated trucks on the road) but the fact of the matter is that our use of gasoline to ship produce and packaged goods creates a lot of pollution.  The more we truck food across the globe the more packaging we require and most of that packaging is either made from petroleum or uses a lot of it to fuel the factories that produce the packaging (factories that produce paper products usually run on fossil fuel).

Our incredible hunger for convenience, packaged goods, tomatoes in winter, and treats from around the world is so great that we are burning through crude oil as though we will never run out.  But whether we do it in our lifetime or the next doesn’t matter in the debate.  We will run out.  When we do, without much expense or effort going into alternative sources of safe power- where are you or your children or their children going to get your food when that happens?  Every time you buy apples that came from New Zealand you keep it from the pockets of local growers.  If enough local growers stop growing because they can’t compete in the global food economy, who’s going to feed you when the global food economy crashes and you have to eat what you can find around you?  It’s big, it’s important, and I know a lot of people sleep well at night believing it’s never going to happen in their lifetime.  But we don’t actually know when it will happen.  Only that it will.  So a really important reason to reduce the miles between yourself and as much of the food you eat as possible is because we need to reduce the rate at which we consume crude oil as a nation and we need to make sure that we build very strong food security close to where we live so that if a day comes when getting olive oil from Italy is no longer possible, we’ll know where to get fats to saute our food in.

  • Strengthening your local food security.

If your community is ever cut off from shipments of food from other places, what are you going to be left with?  Does your community have a good source of potable water?  Does anyone in your region grow grains?  Can you even get your hands on them or are they all being exported to other communities?  Oregon produces a tremendous quantity of beet sugar but we export most of it.  This means it’s actually more likely  that you can buy sugar that was produced in Oregon on the East Coast and in Russia.  Does your community have a grain mill?  Do you have a solid quantity of farmers growing a decent variety of produce?  And if so- how well supported are they by their own community?  Are YOU supporting them?  A strong community is one that is self supporting.  The basics of being self supporting (in any context) is being able to provide yourself with your basic needs for survival.  Food, water, shelter, and coffee*.

  • It tastes better!!

When it comes to produce this is unequivocally true.  When you stop eating non-local produce you will almost automatically be eating more seasonally.  You won’t be eating apples from New Zealand in spring and summer.  You won’t, most likely, be eating apples after winter because even good (local) storage apples begin to decline sharply in quality by spring.  Just ask my son who is an extreme picky eater- texture is hugely important to him and there’s not an apple that can last until spring and still be good quality.  Eating seasonally means you’re going to taste produce at it’s peak.  This sounds like a smug little sentiment.  It reeks of cozy cliches but I promise it’s true.  Not only does food eaten in season taste better, a lot of farmers who are growing for their local community don’t have to grow varieties specifically best for shipping long distances which means there is a resurgence of produce amongst farmers that is grown specifically for taste.  If you’re eating local produce it also doesn’t have to be picked early – if you’re buying from farmer’s markets and the produce is actually grown on a local farm it has often been picked that same day you bought it.

  • You get more in touch with the seasons.

So eating more seasonally will also get you in sync with your seasons in a way you may never have experienced before.  If you don’t eat fresh tomatoes that aren’t local, you’ll only be eating them as long as your local farmers (or you!) have them available in the fields.  Fall is marked by the end of the tomatoes, and for some of us it is marked by the frantic canning of as many of them as we can get our hands on.  There will be no more for months.  At first this seems like a  huge deprivation.  No tomatoes on salads for nine months.  No tomatoes on sandwiches for nine months.  Sometimes longer.  That’s hard if you love tomatoes like I do.  The first year it seems like a sacrifice.  However, when the next tomato season rolls around you will look forward to and appreciate those fresh tomatoes in a way you have never done so before.  Your late summers will be more poignant for what you’ve been looking forward to eating and have missed.  All your seasons will be punctuated by different foods.  No longer will you eat all the same foods all year.  Every season will bring special delights.  Late spring brings asparagus and the season is very short.  You will notice the blessings of each season more and you will have more to look forward to with each season.  It may seem, if you haven’t experienced this for yourself, such a small matter that there’s no way it can really change your life.  But it will.  For the better.

  • It will make you a better and more resourceful cook.

The average person shops on whim.  If they want sauteed summer squash they put it on the grocery list and buy it.  Doesn’t matter if it’s mid-winter.  If they see a recipe in a cookbook and they want to try it right now, they go and buy what they need and make it.  If you’re eating locally then you’re eating more seasonally and you’re not going to be able to make whatever recipe you see in your cookbooks until those things become available locally.  So you have to learn to cook with what’s in season.  In some ways this brings things more into balance in your diet.  Foods that grow together go together.  You know what I’ll never see on a plate together in my house?  Asparagus and fresh tomatoes.  Which is fine because when I’m eating fresh asparagus I don’t crave tomatoes anyway.  Different regions will have some big differences in what comes into season when so in the south you might be getting your first tomatoes in at the same time you get local asparagus (if your region even grows asparagus).  I don’t live in the south so they’ll never appear on the same plate in my house.  Maybe this sounds limiting but being limited can spark a lot of creativity.  The produce I eat in the winter is definitely much more limited in variety than what I eat in the summer but I don’t feel limited.  I get more creative with what I’ve got on hand.  If you’re not used to cooking seasonally then you may want to check out some seasonal cookbooks from the library for some guidance.  More and more seasonally arranged cookbooks are being published.

  • Supporting your local economy.

I mentioned this earlier but I can’t mention it enough.  This is vitally important.  For a community to be viable it needs to be producing commodities, it needs to provide jobs for the people who live in it.  Even though it may seem like commuting to other communities for work is a great idea, it won’t be as gasoline becomes increasingly more expensive (which it will) as it becomes increasingly scarce.  You want to be buying milk from the local dairy rather than the one that’s 600 miles away because the money that goes into that dairy’s coffers will then go back into your community via paychecks for jobs in the dairy, and local taxes from their business that help pay for things the community needs, and it will flow back through local restaurants and other businesses the people running the dairy will use.  Every dollar you send out of the community stays out of the community.

  • A stronger connection to your community.

The more you know about who is growing and making your food the more connections you’ll be making to your community.  It happens slowly and it’s subtle but it’s absolute.  To eat mostly locally you will have to do some sleuthing, box checking, talk to people, and you will get to know the people who grow your food.  You will go to the farmer’s markets and you will talk to your grocers, you will probably spend more time shopping at smaller markets that buy more predominantly from local producers.  This will connect you to people.  You will get to know more people and feel more connected to what’s going on in your own community.  You will care more because you will become more dependent on the welfare of local producers and artisans.  The more you support your local producers and economy the more you will also be a value to your community.  People notice.  People care.  Nothing has made me more connected to my community than doing my ten month local eating challenge which turned into a lot of permanent changes so that I remain a strong supporter of local dairies, farmers, and craftsmen.  While I was already a firm supporter of buying from the local farmer’s market, I now put a much larger proportion of my food budget into my own community and also into my own state.

  • The more a community supports it’s local food producers the more accountable they will be to their community in their practices.

If you get to know your local food producers you can raise concerns with them, let them know what’s important to you as a consumer.  You can visit their farms and their facilities to see how clean they are or if they’re being honest about pesticide use.  When both the consumer and the producer know each other, business becomes more personal.  It’s much harder to be an anonymous irresponsible business when you’re being supported by your community.  Food producers should not be able to hide behind corporate shields from responsibility.  I personally know most of the people who grow the produce I eat.  I can raise complaints and questions and make requests and I am more likely to be heard by them than I will ever be heard or considered by a corporate farm two states or a country away from me.  Local producers will feel consumer pressure and respond to it much more quickly than international ones will.  This gives the consumer more control over the food  being produced and the practices used to produce it.  But it also gives the producers more power to create a business that’s supported and revered by the people it serves.


Eating locally isn’t a fancy food trend to amuse ourselves with.  Eating locally is a fundamentally important way to strengthen our communities and our connection with the earth that we depend on to keep us alive and healthy.  I think the habit of wild and wanton global eating was the fancy trend that’s made us forget the importance of nurturing what’s right under our own two feet.

*Haha.  That’s what I need for survival anyway.  I don’t even need much caffeine in it.  This is one of those imported goods I don’t ever want to live without.

Food Philosophy: Eating Local

I have agreed to give a talk about doing the 100 mile diet at my local library.  I did the 100 mile diet for 10 months a couple of years ago.  It changed how I eat irrevocably.  I didn’t stick to the 100 mile diet but I did stick with a strong dedication to eating mostly local produce and a determination to seek out as many pantry staples that are produced locally as I can.    Before I write up my notes on how I ate during my 100 mile diet challenge, I want to chronicle, for clarity, how I eat now.  What does eating local mean for me?

First of all, eating local is NOT a contest.  It’s not a “trend” to follow and then abandon just because too many other people are doing it and it’s stopped being cool (that’s a particular species of personality I disrespect in general).    Eating local is something all people need to re-learn to do for the sake of regional food supply security.  Eating locally means eating seasonally which means that your food will taste better and be texturally more appealing (think of out of season mealy apples).  Eating locally supports your local economy and naturally ends up supporting smaller local farms.  Eating locally will connect you to your own community in new (and good) ways.

The best reason to eat local is because it brings greater pleasure to the table.

I am not a zealot about eating locally.  I try not to be a jerk about it.  There are people so serious and dedicated to eating locally that they would definitely not think I’m doing enough.  That’s okay with me because to me this isn’t a contest to see who can eat the most locally.  My rules for eating are not severe, not difficult, yet so many people I know think I’ve taken a vow of food chastity just because I won’t buy most produce out of season.

I am going to try to break it down into lists of how I eat NOW, this is NOT the 100 mile diet:

Imported foods I buy:

coffee, tea, oil, sugar, spices, limes, dry pasta, rice, some dried legumes, condiments, sometimes tofu, sometimes wine (I can’t afford local wines though we have lots of them), some nuts and seeds, food for Max, Parmesan cheese, avocados, fresh ginger, garlic (when the local farms don’t have any), flour, polenta, olives, some juices, chocolate (we consumer very little chocolate), canned tomatoes (when I run out of home canned), canned coconut milk.

I don’t consume a lot of rice, tofu, or wine.  Even though I don’t buy lemons (only on very rare occasions) I do keep limes on my constantly exempt list because I use it for seasoning in cooking a lot and there’s no good alternative.  I don’t buy any other citrus regularly.  Max food is one big exemption I’m okay making so my kid won’t starve to death.*  The list looks long and I assure you it was much shorter when I did the 100  mile diet.

Produce I never buy out of season (and buy strictly locally):

green beans, tomatoes, asparagus, all fruit (except apples for Max), eggplant, summer squash, winter squash, favas, tomatilloes, hot peppers (I don’t even eat sweet ones because they don’t agree with me), fennel, cabbage, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, lettuce**, corn, peas (fresh, though I will eat dried split peas).

Produce I will buy out of season but only from local sources (root vegetables can be eaten all year due to excellent storage quality):

beets, potatoes, carrots, onions, rutabagas.

After doing the 100 mile diet for 10 months I decided to lighten up a little on the rules so that they would be more livable for me.  Every week I go shopping I allow myself a small portion of imported produce.  On my list of exceptions I included avocados and limes.  Here’s how it works: if I want to buy bananas, I can, but I can’ t buy bananas AND avocados.  I basically have two spots available on my grocery list to buy something that doesn’t ever grow here.  The following list is of produce I rarely buy and when I do I can’t also buy avocados and/or limes the same week.  Truth is, I haven’t bought most of those items since doing my 100 mile diet challenge.  I love avocados so much it takes a strong urge for tropical fruit or imported vegetables to oust them from my weekly indulgence list.

Produce I buy only very rarely:

pineapples, kiwis, bananas, tamarind, jicima, most melons, oranges, tangerines, dates, coconuts, pomegranates.

Things I ONLY buy locally:

honey, seasonal produce, walnuts, bread, milk, butter, eggs, most cheeses, fresh herbs (I grow most of my own) and dried herbs, beer, vodka, canned corn (there is a company within 100 miles that cans local corn, I rarely buy canned corn anyway but when I do I only buy from this company whose name I will get and record for those who want to know), fruit***.

I want to note here that I do quite a lot of food preserving so I don’t buy much commercially frozen or canned produce.  I make an exception sometimes for canned tomatoes when I run out of home canned, but I really don’t do that often.  Most years I just stop making anything tomato-y until the season starts again.  I freeze a lot of eggplant and fruit.  So it’s all local even though I’ll eat those out of season from my pantry- I never buy them out of season.

I think that sums of the bulk of my food buying habits.  Enough for now.  Next I want to do a post covering what those lists looked like while I was doing the 100 mile diet.

*He is an extreme picky eater largely because of tactile issues connected to his OCD and ADD, we don’t punish him for it.  I concentrate on keeping his food free of HFCS and preservatives and making his diet as organic as I can.

**This year is the first one I’ve cheated and bought out of season non-local lettuce.  I am determined to knock that off.  It really is worth waiting for it to come back in season.

***My policy has always been to buy Max whatever produce he’s willing to eat whether it’s in season or not, local or not, because he eats so little produce and I’m desperate to get him to eat any at all.  The funny thing is that he’s been learning (without my help) that the red grapes our friend Laurie grows and shares with us are a hundred times better than the ones I have bought him from the store which he now refuses to eat.  He’s discovered that apples out of season aren’t so good either.  This year he refused the out of season carrots, cucumbers, grapes, watermelon, and apples.  That’s all the produce he ever eats.  So this winter and spring he didn’t eat any produce.  Just tater tots.  So frozen potato products was the only “produce” he ate.  On the one hand this is very stressful to me, on the other, it’s proof that once you’ve gotten used to eating truly ripe seasonal produce there’s no going back.