I once read a story by a prominent food writer and chef recalling a phone call from his son who wanted to know how to cook asparagus. Any pride in his son’s desire to cook was overpowered by the chef ’s sense of seasonality: “Why are you eating asparagus? It’s December!”
This anecdote stuck with me for years, and was the catalyst that helped me think critically about what I was cooking—and when I was cooking it. I now cringe when I see folks in the grocery store buying watermelons in February. Not only will that
melon taste bland, it also likely traveled a few thousand miles to get to that grocery store shelf. Just wait, I think, for summertime when the melons, so sweet and firm-fleshed, start flooding up from Green River.
So, how do we shift our habits toward buying locally and in season? Over the course of the next few months I hope to give advice – about Utah’s unique growing season, what’s ripe now, what’s coming next, and how long the season will last – that will make that shift simple and fun.
With farmers markets now open year round, finding local produce and meat should get easier. When you do shop at the grocery store, if you don’t see anything clearly marked as “local”, ask why. As the importance of eating locally and in season becomes more central to our lives, we can encourage stores to make a point of stocking and properly labeling what’s being grown and raised in Utah.
What’s local now
Potatoes, beets, carrots and garlic, all which store over winter, are still available from savvy local farmers. Some of last fall’s apples also remain. They’ve softened a bit but are delicious for fresh eating in applesauce or pie. Locally raised, grass-fed beef, lamb, and pork are available pretty much year round, as are an amazing variety of local cheeses, dairy
products and eggs.
Our unusually warm winter and many ambitious local growers are contributing to a healthy “salad season” this year. At your local farmers market, you’ll find several varieties of lettuce, spinach, kale, herbs, micro greens and sprouts. The rhubarb is up, as are collards and chard. As the weather begins to warm and our bodies crave lighter foods, it’s time to get creative with those greens.
Tear up a head of butter lettuce and toss in chopped fresh parsley or basil for extra flavor. Add some mandarin oranges and sunflower seeds for contrast and crunch. Baby or young tender kale makes a fantastic salad in place of lettuce. Turn larger, more mature kale leaves into a slaw instead.
one part acid (red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, lime juice, or lemon juice)
three parts oil (extra virgin olive oil, a nut oil, or a flavor-infused oil)
salt and black pepper to taste
large pinch of sugar or a tsp. of honey chopped fresh herbs
Dijon or brown mustard (to deepen the flavor and help emulsify the dressing)
Chopped fresh garlic or shallot
Combine ingredients in a mason jar. Shake until well mixed. Toss with greens of your choice. Refrigerate the unused
portion for up to a week.
Alison Einerson manages local farmers markets, teaches canning and food preservation classes, and spends the rest of her time in the garden, the kitchen, or the wilderness with her husband, two daughters and dogs. She is passionate about the local food movement, and works every day to make it stronger.
How far has your food traveled?
The typical American prepared meal includes foods sourced from six different countries, says the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Imported” (well-traveled) food usually means more air pollution.
September 12-19 is Eat Local Week in Utah, when people challenge themselves to eat more locally sourced foods. In preparation, we thought it would be good to get a baseline reading on how far our food typically travels.
We asked CATALYST intern Jane Lyon to track, source and report on her diet. (This is a casual compilation; method of transport, processing and packaging are not factored in.) Here’s an example of one day’s meals, and the approximate mi. traveled:
Ezekiel cereal: Corona, CA (700 mi.)
Silk Almond milk: Broomfield, CO (500 mi., + 1,300 mi. for almonds traveling to CO from CA)
Banana: Ecuador (3,500 mi.)
Blueberries: British Columbia, Canada (1,300 mi.)
Coffee: Colombia (3,300 mi.)
(10,600 mi. total)
Eggs: Bountiful, UT (15 mi.)
Avocado: La Habra Heights, CA (650 mi.)
Tomato: Snowflake, AZ (500 mi.)
Bread: Bountiful, UT (15 mi.)
(1,180 mi. total)
Triscuits: Niagara Falls, NY (1,200 mi.)
Pepper Jack Cheese: Tillamook, OR (1,000 mi.)
(2,200 mi. total)
Sweet potatoes: North Carolina (2,100 mi.)
Brussel sprouts: Santa Cruz, CA (1,000 mi.)
Couscous: Worcester, MA (2,400 mi.)
(5,500 mi. total)
Ice Cream: Tillamook, OR (1,000 mi.)
Cone: Hermitage, PA (2,000 mi.)
(3,000 mi. total)
GRAND TOTAL: 22,480
Jane was astonished to find that her rather simple, unprocessed diet still racks up the miles.
Try this experiment on yourself. We’re not trying to guilt you out of coffee or bananas, seriously. It’s just good to know these things.