Friday, February 8, 2008

Eat Local, Eat Seasonal

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato."

The whole idea eating local foods becomes especially alluring if we think in terms of seasonal foods. Start by refusing the tasteless, bloated, and artificially dyed grocery store strawberries that have been picked far away—unripe so as to travel better—in anticipation of the mouthwatering local ones that will be ripe late June and early July. They will be especially delectable if they are organic and free of the chemical pesticides and fertilizers that concentrate in the flesh of thin-skinned fruits like strawberries. I can no longer eat any other kind of strawberry.

Diet Start

When I was young we had no option but to eat those things that were in season. We waited eagerly for the first green beans or the first brussels sprouts, vegetables that came just once a year. We couldn't grow much in the sandy soil of Bournemouth, but we did grow runner beans and some other vegetables. In the summer my grandmother Danny made gooseberry fool, rhubarb and apple pies, and blackberry and apple pies with custard, and blackcurrant jelly. Uncle Eric used to make chutney with green tomatoes—his own special secret recipe. In the autumn Danny bottled fruit and made jam. We could never lay out apples to dry because of the salt sea air of Bournemouth, but I used to taste them when I went to stay with friends. They became more and more wrinkled but sweeter as autumn gradually changed to the long, dark days of winter. Today, fewer and fewer people lay in stock for winter days—for now foods are packaged and shipped from all around the globe so that customers can buy just what they want, just when they want it. Only when we decide to return to eating more local foods shall we regain our appreciation for the gifts of the different seasons and once again live in harmony with nature's cycles. Then, even as we grieve the last, now tough and stringy runner beans, we shall be eagerly anticipating the first of autumn's plums that are soon to be ready for the picking.

Nutritionist Joan Dye Gussow, an esteemed pioneer in the local foods movement, tells the story of walking out of her front gate one snowy February day in her upstate New York home. On the ground, peeking through the snow, she saw a bright orange-red object. The color was so out of place in the winter landscape that she leaned down for a closer look. There she found a nectarine with one bite taken out of it. "I thought of how it probably came from a foreign country," she said, "and was picked unripe, then put into a refrigerated shipment, and ripened artificially as it was hauled all the way up to New York state where someone bought it at a supermarket, bit into it, and of course finding it tasteless, mushy, and disgusting, just thoughtlessly tossed it away. In that one nectarine I saw all the waste and senselessness of our travel-dependent food supply." If only that person had simply waited until local fruits ripened on the trees—there is nothing quite like biting intothe sweet flesh of a fresh, utterly ripe nectarine. So succulent that the juice is sure to run down your chin.

... andjoyohoxing