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Eating Local During the Dark Days of Winter
Erica Barnett, 16 Nov 07
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Here in the US, the Thanksgiving holiday is approaching. It's a time of year when Americans who are trying to eat local, slow, organic and so on become obsessed with getting a feast onto the table that isn't full of antibiotics and hormones, doesn't include a side serving of pesticides, and didn't come from 3,000 miles away. Fortunately, there are a ton of resources out there to help Thanksgiving celebrants have a sustainable and healthy holiday dinner.

A few of my favorites:


After November it only gets harder. Eating local during the lean days of winter can be difficult, especially if your local farmers market, like mine, goes into hibernation. The local food that’s available in grocery stores is often limited to a few types of produce, like root vegetables, citrus and leafy greens, as well as a monotonous range of colors: orange, brown, white, more brown. Buying into a community supported agriculture (CSA) group makes eating local food easier, because you don’t have to pore over labels or trust the word of your produce stocker. But what to do with all that starchy seasonal produce remains a challenge.

Last month, Laura of the Washington State-based Urban Hennery blog threw down a challenge of her own: make at least one meal a week from 90 percent local ingredients, which are defined in this case as raw ingredients that come from within 200 miles, or processed foods from companies located within 200 miles that are committed to using local ingredients. Let her know about it, and Laura will write you up on her blog. Dozens of participants have risen to the Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge with creative ideas that go way beyond the standard squash soup, pureed sweet potatoes, and sauteed winter greens. A few I especially can't wait to try are the Brussels sprouts tossed with bacon, garlic, thyme, cider vinegar, and honey; butternut squash and caramelized onion galette; and cheesy cauliflower casserole.

Epicurious and Slashfood are also great resources for locating seasonal recipes year-round; for a resource that's even more tailored to specific ingredients and tastebuds, I recommend Cookthink, which comes up with recipes based on ingredient, dish, cuisine, and/or mood.

But if you still find yourself craving a salad with hothouse tomatoes from across the country, refresh your eat-local determination with the lovacore pledge (slightly modified by the folks at Eat Local Challenge):

  • If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then Organic.
  • If not ORGANIC, then Family farm.
  • If not FAMILY FARM, then Local business.
  • If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then Fair Trade.
  • If all else fails, at least don’t eat at McDonald’s!

Image credit: flickr/kthread

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