Thursday, April 9, 2009

Local Living Tip #1

I am not claiming to be perfect at this... but I do have a few tips up my sleeve. :) In April, I have to say, it is close to the hardest time of year to live locally. Around here right now, the apples and pears are grainy and hard to eat when not cooked, the root veggies are starting to be questionable, and all other foods haven't quite grown to harvestable yet. We ARE getting some great salad mixes and braising mixes from the local farms, but for the most part, everything we are eating is from last year... or from far away.

The amazing thing about this time of year though is how fast things start coming to market. One week someone will have braising mix of really tough kale, tiny spinach, and mustard greens... and then the next week they have fresh salad mix, fresh herbs, and snow peas. The trick is to be there when that happens.

My routine is to go to the family farm store first. I actually go on Tuesday, when my menu is made and I have a fresh shopping list in my hand for the week. Before I go, I 'shop' from my own freezer and get the best of last years harvest into our meals as much as possible. Then comes the farm. I get everything I can from them. Currently, I am getting onions, shallots, red, white and even russet potatoes, apples, pears, leeks, yams, mixed braising greens, rutabaga, parsnips, beets, and fresh eggs. Last week they added cilantro, salad greens, and spinach. This added some great stuff to the menu! When I pay attention, I can make most of my meals from what they have, with a few exceptions for varieties sake, just by knowing what they have and what is coming into season. This gets even easier as the year goes on... but it isn't hard now. It just takes planning.

My next stop is Trader Joe's. Something akin to Whole Foods Market. Decent food, with decent ethics, sold by people who are paid a decent wage. Not all of it is organic... but I stick to the organics... and the sauces. This time of year, a good sauce can mean the difference between a bland and boring menu, and a culinary delight that your kids ask for over and over. This is also where I currently get my meat. I have lost the last of my contacts for local meats when we moved. Trader Joe's has 'no feedlot' beef and organic, free range chicken. They are large scale, which I would love to do without... but for now, I feel good about the meat we eat coming from there.

The last stop on my trip is Fred Meyers. I can, of course, drive to the co-op if I am feeling especially green... but even then, I think that the cost of the 30 miles of petrol probably off-sets whatever I am burning buying through a chain store. So Fred Meyers it is (it is about a mile from my house). It is surprising how much local produce is sold through chain stores. But because I get my local stuff through the farm, the main reason I go to Freddies is for organic dry goods. They have brown rice, organic whole wheat and spelt flours, unsulfered apricots and raisins, and many other things that I buy in bulk and fill my gallon jars when they need it.

The strategy of living locally first is one that I think would save a lot of our environmental grief. I don't personally believe that trade between states or countries is bad. I mean really, we have been trading grains for centuries. The spice trade dates back thousands of years. We were not damaging our planet by trading... what is damaging our planet is that many of us are unknowingly buying foods from 2000 miles away... foods that we could get from our own backyards.

For tonight's menu...

Roasted rutabaga, garnet yam, white baby potatoes, and chioggia beets (pic above)
fried tofu over braised winter greens and onions
slathered all over with red curry sauce and coconut milk



Sarah said...

Yum, really really YUM!

Nessa said...

Wow, what a delicious looking meal! Would love the recipe.

Mouth is watering over here...

:o) Nessa

Nessa said...


Oh, and thanks for your comment on my rant. I do need to be reminded that it is all about balance. I should also remember to maybe wait before writing. My emotions get the best of me before the calm sets in.

I will use your advice on the snacks and do my best to just do the right thing (to me) and let others be as they are.

Thanks again,


Val in the Rose Garden said...

I certianly didn't think you were wrong, Nessa. I agree with everything you said 100%. Like you say, it is all about balance. :)


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