Local Food Part 1

posted in: Food in the city | 0

In the last 5 years, there has been a groundswell of interest in where our food comes from. I believe that this has happened as a result of the following social trends:

  • Mounting distrust of the industrial food complex
  • Explosive growth in the frequency of lifestyle diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes
  • Increased interest in cooking from scratch and other DIY food skills
  • Growing attraction to back-to-the-land lifestyles such as farming and food gardening
  • Awareness of ecological impacts of global food distribution (food miles)

All good stuff. But if you live in a city, where very little food is grown, how do we act on our desire to eat better quality food, sourced locally. Let’s face it, most of us can’t escape to the country to grow our own bacon and knit our our own sauerkraut (and I for one don’t really want to).

So my question is this: As urban dwellers, with jobs and busy lives, how can we incorporate more local food into our weekly diets, REALISTICALLY? I have come up with the following 5 options, in no particular order:

  1. Eat seasonally
  2. Support farmers markets
  3. Support your local butcher, baker and fruiterer
  4. Outsmart the supermarkets
  5. Grow some stuff

This week I will be discussing each in detail. Lets start with seasonal eating.

Eat seasonally

We have become accustomed to fresh food being available year-round, but at a local level this is not always possible. Grapes are harvested in summer and autumn and yet we can also buy them in spring. That is because they  have been air-freighted from the other side of the world where the seasons are reversed. Not only does this produce an insane number of food miles, the produce is usually picked slightly unripe for ease of transport.

In Australia, fresh produce from other countries must be labelled as such BUT be aware. I was recently caught out at a so-called ‘farmers’ market where I bought some oranges from a vendor. It was only on the way out that I noticed the ‘product of USA’ notice written in tiny type at the very bottom of the sign. Not cool!

Locally grown, in-season produce offers a few distinct advantages. Firstly, the food is fresh, as it hasn’t had to travel far. Secondly, it is at the height of quality and flavour, picked at the optimum time of year. Thirdly, the price is will be at its lowest for the year – there is a glut and we can all benefit from it. Think stone fruit in the middle of summer (January in Australia), pumpkins in autumn and zucchini in spring.

If you have the time and the skill, you can even use the local glut to produce preserves or other food products to eat throughout the year.

I would love to hear how you make the most of seasonal produce – please leave a comment below.

Next post…. Farmers Markets.