Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How To Eat Local

5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables

I assume you have signed up for the Green City Market Eat Local Challenge. I bet you are still noodling over what you can eat that long hard week.

Chicago is smack dab in the middle of one of the richest farm zones of the world. Most of the land around us, in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana is given over to agriculture. We grow tons of corn and tons of soy. Hardly any of that goes directly into our mouths. Indirectly, of course via high fructose corn syrup and cattle feed and thousands of other products, it feeds us. (And thousands of things we don't eat like plastics and inks and brooms and what not.) Can the budding localvore, the non-Atkins localvore, meet his daily requirement of fruits and vegetables? It depends on where you shop.

Here's what nearly anyone can find, around now, if you wanted to eat local: apples, tomatoes, cucumbers (often in two sizes), green peppers, cabbage, sweet corn, zucchini and eggplant, oh and if you are lucky some melons. I spotted local peaches and blueberries at stores in the last weeks but these seem diminishing. Oddly, potatoes and onions, two stalwarts of our climate have not really shown in their local variants. These are the items that can be found at produce stores like Caputo's, local farm stands and grocery stores making the effort. With little effort this is what you can eat.

On the other hand, if you had already committed to a farm's CSA, your box last week would have looked something like this: lettuce head, baby lettuce, sweet corn, peaches, watermelon, green beans, cantaloupe, cucumber, pickles, onion, sweet chocolate peppers, mustard greens, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, and carrots. A little more full your diet would be.

To get the full range of the season, you really need to visit a farmer's market. Now, you would find several types of peppers in all ranges of colors and Scovilles, fresh beans like limas, okra, beets, a wide range of potatoes, not quite as wide of range, but a range of onions; things to make your vegetables taste better, garlic and herbs; beyond apples and peaches there would still be raspberries and blueberries, all the colors of plums coming into season now and the first grapes as well. It is a great time of year to eat local.

Your eat local week can be narrow or it can be wide. It's up to you.

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