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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Eating Well -- Local Food Challenge

I eat locally! I purchase locally!

I recently took this challenge, to eat locally for one month following these guidelines:

Guidelines for Eating Well

If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then Organic. This is one of the most readily available alternatives in the market and making this choice protects the environment and your body from harsh chemicals and hormones.

If not ORGANIC, then Family farm. When faced with Kraft or Cabot cheeses, Cabot, a dairy co-op in Vermont, is the better choice. Supporting family farms helps to keep food processing decisions out of the hands of corporate conglomeration.

If not FAMILY FARM, then Local business. Basics like coffee and bread make buying local difficult. Try a local coffee shop or bakery to keep your food dollar close to home.

If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then Terroir, which means 'taste of the Earth'. Purchase foods famous for the region they are grown in and support the agriculture that produces your favorite non-local foods such as Brie cheese from Brie, France or parmesan cheese from Parma, Italy.

Hit the farmers' market before the supermarket. Plan your meal around local ingredients you find at the market.

Branch out. Maybe your usual food repertoire could use some fresh ideas. The farmers' market provides a perfect chance to try a new ingredient when it's in season, and lets you talk to its grower to find out the best way to prepare your new food. Flirt with your food producer!

Feed the freezer. Can't cook every night? Worried about your fresh produce going bad? It's easy. Make lasagna with local tomatoes or a soup packed with fresh veggies and freeze it! You can also make personal size meals for a brown bag lunch.

Go out! Many area restaurants emphasize local foods in their dishes. Ask around, you might be surprised how many options you find that serve up local flavor.


My Report:

I loved this challenge! It inspired me to try new foods, and use more variety, paradoxically, since the limitations of eating seasonally require more resourcefulness than the usual rotation of a dozen favorite meals that we were doing before. I have been cooking from scratch more, and I like the way it feels to serve my family home-cooked foods that are also home-grown.

Having a small urban garden helps, too. I went to the Farmer's market on a regular schedule and got favorite recipes and suggestions right from the farmers themselves.

This year my goal is to visit farms we buy from and try picking our own fruits and vegetables.

I am doubling the size of my small garden and growing more herbs this summer.

I want to plant everything that tends to be costly in the store: raspberries, blueberries, shallots, garlic, fresh herbs and flowers for cutting.

I am also inadvertently growing a good share of dandelions, which we have actually been eating and taste good as long as you are sure not to spray your lawn with chemicals. Our house rabbit, Webster, loves them. This is a good incentive to get out and dig them up weekly.

Recipe for cooking Dandelions:
Wash the leaves, slice them thinly and saute in some organic olive oil or grapeseed oil, sprinkle with some fresh organic lemon juice, sea salt and pepper.
Sautee with a diced clove of fresh garlic or shallots, optional.

My Motto:
If you are going to obsess about food, why not obsess about how it is made, where it is grown, and the quality of it? You can actually loose weight when you know more about where your food comes from and what it takes to get it into your mouth...

I want to use this moment to celebrate an exceptional local food producer who is also changing the community he serves and his efforts are now being nationally recognized:

Growing Power Urban Farm, Founder: Will Allen

Growing Power's produce can be found at Outpost Natural Foods, where I shop.

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