Some of these things are not exclusively local, i.e., you could get them in other areas, but the key thing is that to best take advantage of these things, you have to eat local.
- Fresh lima beans - One of the last crops to come into season is the fresh or shelling beans. It is easy to walk in to the typical grocery and find dried, canned and frozen lima beans, but if you ever want to know why people started eating limas in the first place, try fresh. Need to know how to make real succotash, see here.
- Concord grapes - Can you deal with a pit. Spit a seed. If so, you can stand the immense difference in taste between Concord grapes and supermarket Thompson seedless. It continues to amaze me that something so complex in flavor as the Concord makes such awful wine. In fact any cooking of the grape, like jelly, seems to reduce the Willy Wonka-ishness of this fruit. So go for them raw or freeze them to make quasi-sorbet.
- Holland Family Farm's "Marieke Gouda" - I'm the kinda guy who's favorite cheese is often the last one tried, but right now this farmstead cheese from Wisconsin is my favorite. I am sure I could find something this good in Holland, but I have never tasted a Gouda even close to this. It is aged on wooden boards so it is much harder and more intense than typical Gouda, at least the ones I know. It is also far from one dimensional, the result, I know of using raw milk. Track this one down.
- Perch - It was just yesterday that I was reminding you that your local meals could include fish. Here's the thing, not only can your local meals include fish, but you can have fish not available to those locavores you envy in California. I am talking about Great Lakes perch. I've been known to throw perch out as one of my top ten favorite foods. Iron Chef-testant Paul Virant knows too, he has perch on his menu now, and I can specifically vouch for this dish having had it last Friday. It truly tastes different than ocean fish.
- Black walnuts - Nuts seem to remain a conundrum for area locavores. The problem with black walnuts is, the crop is prevalent but their appearance in markets is rare. This is partially due to the ridiculously hard time it takes to crack and shell black walnuts--driving your car over them is one suggested methods. The taste, however, is exquisite, with a grapey must that you do not find in "regular" walnuts.
The eat local challenges tend to focus people on things they cannot have. After all, the first thing you do is lay out your exceptions. The second is ruminate on what you appear to be missing. It's like while I fast for Yom Kippur all I think about is eating. Instead of praying for slab of salmon or the out-of-season asparagus, think about the products that are there waiting for you just because you eat local.