Becoming A LocavoreThu 19 Apr 2012
Story by Angela McLean
Our family's journey to try and learn how to find, cook, grow, and store locally grown, sustainable food sources.
How Far Did Your Food Travel Today?
It's an important question to ask because on average each ingredient we eat has probably traveled at least 1500 miles. But this is a good thing right? Doesn't it mean we're getting lots of variation? And what would we do without our bananas in February?
This is the question that our homeschooling family has decided to ask. Where does our food come from? If it had to travel farther than the longest road trip I can possibly conceive of taking with my brood (and still hope to retain my sanity) should I be eating it? Is my Mexican tomato perhaps a little cranky after such a long car ride?
Well, maybe not cranky but probably not at its best either. Tomatoes are healthiest and tastiest when they are ripened on the vine and make it to your plate within a few days. This does not describe your average tomato and definitely not the one I had on my salad yesterday. But what is a Colorado family to do? A homegrown tomato isn't available until late summer.
The locavore movement says to wait. Don't eat the watery, unripe tomatoes. Save your palette for what is in season and available nearby. So that is what our family is going to try and do. Eat what is available seasonally within our community.
Where Does Our Food Come From?
The first answer that comes to mind for many of us is the super market or if we're really uninvolved in the process then maybe the refrigerator. My children at times have definitely been under the impression that food just appears like magic! But of course we know it didn't get to our kitchen by magic and not to the super market either. There is no magic involved in this process except perhaps the miracle that made it possible for me to survive the trip to the store with my screaming toddler!
With our current food system it is easy to become disconnected. The number of steps from the farm to our plates are too numerous to mention right now which is why today we are going to cut to the chase and shop directly from our local farmer.
How Do You Find Your Local Farmers?
The easiest way to get them all in one place is at your local farmerís market. If you've never been most communities have one. In Colorado most of them are only open from May until October. Our family is lucky this week because we are in Las Cruces, NM visiting the grandparents for spring break! Due to its temperate climate the Las Cruces Farmers market is open year round.
A visit to the farmer's market isn't just a shopping trip it is a cultural experience. In Las Cruces we got a real sampling of the Southwest. We sampled pecans from the local pecan groves, looked at the art and jewelry, and my children had a special song sung to them in Spanish by a mariachi band! At first glance there didn't seem to be much fresh produce available this time of year but a closer looked showed us local honey, whole pecans, fresh spinach and even green eggs! I was tempted to purchase one of the eight variations of basil plants available at one stand but decided it might not travel well back to Denver.
On our way out I found what I've really been wanting to try - fresh asparagus. I learned recently that asparagus is only in season for a few weeks each year, usually from April to May. This means that the asparagus available to us in the supermarket possibly came to us from halfway across the world. By the time it gets to us it has lost most of its natural flavor, many of its nutrients and probably wasn't worth the trip. We ate our fresh asparagus for an afternoon snack and it was delicious!
If you would like to visit your local farmer's market try visiting Local Harvest to find yours. Most farmersí markets open up again in May so you have a month to plan your trip!
Some tips for visiting your farmerís market
1. Save your shopping for the day you go to the farmerís market. You arenít going to want to buy the green eggs if already have a dozen eggs in the fridge at home. You probably wonít find everything you need, especially this early in the season, but you can buy the fresh foods that are available and plan your menu accordingly.
2. Visit each stall before deciding what you are going to buy. You can always come back later.
3. Ask questions! What do you want to know about your food? Does the farmer use organic practices? Why is that egg green? They will be happy to tell you all that and more.
4. Have fun! Donít miss out on the experience. This is not just a shopping trip it is a free cultural activity for you and your family.
About the author: Angela McLean is a homeschooling mom from the Denver area. She and her husband moved from New Mexico to Colorado in 2003. They have three children, ages; 7, 5, and 2.
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