Local food is the next big trend in sustainable living. Eating locally has many benefits: it supports your immediate community; it helps reduce the use of fossil fuels; it cuts down on the need for extra packaging; and it even helps you ensure the safety of your food. Knowing where your food comes from is very useful in the event of E. coli or salmonella outbreaks.
However, there is one major drawback to eating locally. Foods that are not in season in your region become unavailable. This is particularly notable for foods with shorter growing seasons like strawberries and tomatoes. For many people, the idea of going without such seasonal treats for most of the year is unfathomable. With some effort, though, it is possible to reconcile such spoiled palates with the idea of eating locally and sustainably.
Fresh Food Is Better Food
One of the greatest appeals to eating locally is taste. Food that hasn’t been sealed in plastic, stored, and shipped over a period of a week or more before ending up on a local grocery shelf is fresher and tastier. An easy way to convince a stubborn family to eat only locally is to shop strategically. Buy lots of fresh berries from local farms when they’re available. For an added punch, take photographs of the ripe, succulent fruit before it’s devoured. When the season changes and local berries are no longer available, compare the quality of the local berries to imported berries, which are often picked before fully ripe in order to reduce bruising and have to be stored for longer periods of time before consumption. Imported fruit cannot compete with local fruit in terms of quality.
Preserve Your Own
Learning to preserve your own food can be an immensely rewarding experience. Imagine spooning ripe strawberries over ice cream in the middle of winter, or making a homemade marinara sauce from local tomatoes. Self-preservation is also a great method for saving money the rest of the year, since produce prices go up due to shipping costs and increased demand when the plant in question is not in season locally.
Freezing works well, even for fragile berries. When thawed, the berries can be used to make a variety of delicious sauces. Tomatoes are even easier and can simply be placed on a tray or cardboard sheet and thrown in the freezer whole. The skins of frozen tomatoes wash off easily with hot water, making them perfect for making salsa or spaghetti sauce. Some pie fillings also freeze well, meaning that a fresh apple pie can be had any time of the year.
Canning, though more labor-intensive, also helps provide variety throughout the year. A huge variety of foods can be easily canned and preserved, and many guides are available for free online. Methods range from simply canning fruit in a homemade light syrup to processing jams and jellies. Pickling or canning fresh vegetables is another great way to preserve local food for the off-season. Making preserves at home also means avoiding the artificial preservatives and sweeteners used in many commercially canned foods.
Eating locally does not necessarily mean going without favorite treats most of the year. A touch of old-school thriftiness means that even the pickiest family can eat good, wholesome, local foods all year long.
Byline: Aaron Gormley is a proponent of sustainable living and tasty food, which is why he writes this article on behalf of Pizzadelivery.org.