Thursday, December 10, 2009

On Locavores, Or How Bananas May Be Destroying the Earth

A new catchphrase has arisen in the past decade, the result of books such as Michael Pollen’s "The Omnivore’s Dilemma" and Barbara Kingsolver’s "Animal Vegetable Miracle". The word is locavore, meaning someone who eats locally grown food, generally within a 100 mile radius of their home. The reasons for doing so are:

1) Superior taste. When it comes to most fruits, vegetables, eggs, and meats, the fresher the food, the better the taste. Asparagus tastes better freshly picked and eaten 2 days later than it does when flown in from Chile and eaten 10 days later by an American in Arizona.

2) Environmental conscientiousness. Food that is flown or shipped in from other countries has a negative effect on the environment. Take for example, bananas. I will venture to say that every grocery store in America that carries produce sells bananas, nearly all of which are flown here from Latin America. Think of all the fossil fuel used in shipping that many bananas to us, not to mention the gas emissions by the planes or boats that bring them.

3) It’s economically savvy. Buying locally grown food supports local farmers and the overall local economy. It may be cheaper as well, as the price you pay does not include the cost of shipping that product from another country.

Even with this knowledge, at times it’s hard to be a strict locavore when you’re standing in the grocery store in December (after the farmer’s markets have closed until the spring), so I think of it more as a stop light. If I see something was grown locally, it’s a green light - I try to build my meals around such foods. If it was grown in the US, it’s a yellow light - I buy it if I need it. If I see it was shipped here from New Zealand, it’s a red light - I only buy it if I really need to.

Eating locally may be particularly difficult in the winter, when the options tend to be less plentiful than during the summer. Barbara Kingsolver suggests that this is the purpose of canning and freezing the bountiful foods in the summer, to sustain one through the time of cold. It is also helpful to know what is available in the wintertime, so here is a list of foods that are seasonal in the month of December:

broccoli broccolini brussels sprouts butternut squash cauliflower celery root collards fennel leeks mache potatoes (maincrop) pumpkin rutabaga salsify sweet potatoes sunchoke turnips

chestnuts cranberries kiwi fruit oranges persimmon pomegranate tamarillo tangerines

duck goose partridge pheasant quail rabbit venison

clams crab mussels oysters scallops

Also check out the web site Eat the Seasons for monthly lists of seasonal food and recipes!

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