Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Eating Locally in Winter

The Star Tribune had a nice piece a few days ago about ways we northerners can continue to emphasize local food in our winter menus. Relatively local grains, including wild rice, and local meat, dairy products, eggs, beans, squash, root vegetables, cabbage, and sturdy greens like kale can carry us a long way. Apples can last quite a while if carefully kept, and cranberries are a major crop of our neighbor, Wisconsin, that are being harvested now, last a long time when refrigerated in plastic bags, and freeze well. Maple syrup and honey are often available from Minnesota sources.

Many of us freeze, can, or dry some of our local produce to get us through to the next growing season (I have one jar of strawberry jam left from my flat of Lorence's strawberries), and as the article notes, "while 'frozen' may not be the first word association match for 'local,' Sno-Pac Foods Inc. in Caledonia, Minn., has been freezing local organic fruits and vegetables since 1943." Butter Kernel canned vegetables are processed by Faribault Foods, based just down the road.

I'm not a hard-core locavore; you won't see me writing a book on "how I lived for a year on food grown within 100 miles." I see great value in supporting local food production that's a good fit for our ecosystems and in strengthening our local, sustainable farming infrastructure. I believe in being thoughtful about food choices and being aware of how much fuel is expended in transporting tons of food thousands of miles around this country every day. But I also recognize that trade has always tended to improve quality of life and I don't want the local food ethos to lead to the demise of other valuable, traditional regional economies like those that produce citrus or tropical fruit, coffee, tea, olive oil, wine, or spices.

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