I recently took a class called "Living as a Locavore". And what you ask is a Locavore?
A Locavore is any person committed to eating, and learning about food grown and produced in their local community. Local is generally considered to be anything grown or produced with products from within a 100 mile radius of "home." The class led me to buy and read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. It is a true account of one family who committed to eating only locally produced or grown food for one year.
Only 20 pages into the book it is literally changing the way I look at food. And I look at food a lot. I feel about grocery stores and farmers markets and food stands the way a senior girl feels about prom dresses.
I LOVE to food shop. One of my favorite things to do is visit food stores, road side stands and markets while on vacation. I love to peruse aisles and vegetable bins, meat racks and fruit stands. Weird huh?
The one question I never seriously asked myself though is where is this food coming from? Good question, and the answer is shocking. It comes from everywhere. Literally, everywhere. And it comes at a cost. A high cost.
Some basic food facts:
1. On average, a standard grocery store food item travels over 1,500 miles before makings is way to you table.
2. Almost 96% of the commercial vegetable varieties that were in existence in 1903 are now extinct or nearing extinction.
3. 91 cents of each dollar spent on vegetables in a typical grocery store go to producers, processors, midddlemen and commercial agencies - leaving only 9 cents on the dollar for farmers.
4. A standard 400 calorie meal sourced from a major grocery store uses over 2800 calories of fossil fuel energy in transport.
5. On average, Americans spend only 10% of their food budget on locally sourced products.
6. According to chamber of commerce statistics, 43 cents of every dollar spent in local community stores stays in that community. In comparison, only 13 cents of every dollar remains that is spent in chain or major retailer stores.
7. The food industry burns nearly 1/5 of the petroleum consumed in the US, and only 1/5 of that total energy is spent on farms - the remainder is in processing and transportation.
8. Although Americans now spend nearly 1/4 of their food dollars on "organic" products, nearly 3/4 of those dollars are spend at large commercial chains.
9. Shipping 1 strawberry from California to New York requires 435 calories of fossil fuel but only provides 5 calories of nutrition.
10. The word "organic" has changed definitions. I personally worked for Rodale Inc, Robert Rodale having coined the word organic back in the 60's. Since then, major commercial operations have spent millions lobbying Washington to change the criteria for "organic". Today's "organic" food is NOT grown without the use of certain fertilizers and pesticides.
Phew - I'm getting dizzy up here on my soap box. Can you stand just one more, this from "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" (page 5)
"...... If every US citizen ate just one meal a week [any meal, breakfast, lunch or dinner] composed of locally and orgainically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That's not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast."
Okay - so here's my challenge to you, my readers. It is the growing season right now in many parts of the country. Here in the Northeast we are blessed with some of the most fertile farm lands in the country. They don't call New Jersey "The Garden State" for nothing. Can you join me in having just one meal a week that is totally locally sourced?
For some help in finding locally produced fruits, vegetables, poultry, eggs and more, check out these websites:
www.localharvest.org (this is good nationwide)
www.eatwellguide.org (US & Canada)
Think about it. I'm not asking you to give up your daily banana from South America, or your New Zealand Kiwi - I'm not even asking you (or me - guilty as charged) to never buy a strawberry from California. Just commit to one meal a week and see what happens. Your tastebuds, your wallet and your local farmer will thank you.
YES! Fiddleheads are out, but only for a week or two. If you've ever seen these tasty little fern shoots in the store or farmer's market and had no idea what to do with them, this recipe is for you. They are local (they just can't be shipped) and they are a taste between a fresh young green bean and new asparagus.
Buy bright green, tightly curled heads.
In a saute pan place 1 part unsalted butter and 1 part olive oil. Heat till almost smoking.
Add washed fiddleheads and 2 smashed garlic cloves.
Saute quickly - just two or three minutes
Sprinkle with a pinch of Kosher Salt and a Grind of fresh black pepper.
Note: The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommend boiling fiddleheads for 10 minutes before consuming.
ps. If you find a vegetable or fruit at your local farm stand or CSA (community supported agriculture) and don't know what to do with it, give me a shout at email@example.com and I will shoot you back a recipe or two within 24 hours. I promise!