Eat Fresh, Eat Local

There is a song that had been performed by Jerry Garcia (and others) that has some lyrics that described a staple part of the diet for Midwesterners for many years. From the song "Shady Grove" comes the following: Peaches in the summertime, apples in the fall. Fifty years ago, that made perfect sense since we didn't have the ability to transfer food around the globe.

What would have been considered exotic foods just a generation ago, today we can now find 365 days of the year: bananas, oranges, pomegranates, etc. Back in the day, those foods just weren't available with any regularity. We mostly ate what was in season, hence peaches in the summertime and apples in the fall. Today, we can find these foods every single day in the grocery store. Somewhere in the world, that food is growing at any time of the year. Food production has grown from local to global.

Having the opportunity to consume tomatoes any day of the year is great. But it comes with some sacrifice. Many folks really have no idea of what a tomato SHOULD taste like because they've never eating a fresh one. Unless you've eaten a garden ripe tomato, you've no idea of how delicious and totally different the taste is compared to a store bought tomato (or peach, or sweet corn or just about any other fruit or vegetable). There is really no comparison as the store bought tomato has no taste. Again, not that many people realize that food can taste so different because they've never had an opportunity to try fresh, local food.

To ensure that we have that selection of just about any fruit or vegetable any time of the year we desire, we have to accept that we lose some benefit. And taste is one of those benefits. You could also perhaps add nutritional value. Fruits and vegetables that are available at the grocery have to be picked before they are ripe so that they can be transported. For instance, you can't successfully move a ripe strawberry from California to central IL and expect it to survive. So you pick it green, place in a truck, and while in transport gas it with ethylene to "ripen" it. It is picked a week before it's ripe. That's why it tastes like the plastic container it's stored in. So the produce can't accumulate all the nutrients they could nor do the fruits accumulate the sugars necessary for sweetness because they have to be picked before they're ripe.

What is the alternative? Well, for many folks, growing your own or purchasing local is the alternative. But you'll be sacrificing choices. We just can't grow some of these products in our environment. If space prevents you from gardening, consider one of the community gardens in our area.

And what do we do during the winter months when just about any local fruit or vegetable becomes impossible to grow? I'm at the age when I remember helping my mom and grandma preserve food. We had a huge garden and much of what we ate was grown by us and frozen or canned to eat during the winter.

Today my family and I preserve a little of what we grow. It just makes sense if you want to eat healthy. We consume as much local as we can because we enjoy good tasting food and because every dollar you spend on local products means you're supporting our local economy. We would rather pay my neighbor to grow our steak that was butchered in Adams County than pay a plant in Nebraska to slaughter a steer from Colorado and ship it to central IL. Likewise we'll freeze tomatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, asparagus and other crops. We still have some squash and pumpkins stored in the basement that we're eating. We've been harvesting spinach all winter (and you could too) that has a higher sugar content due to the cold which is so much sweeter than what you can buy in the store.

It doesn't take a lot of planning or extra work to ensure you and your family could eat local, improve your diet and support your local community. The following link provides access to a local food directory which lists growers in the area who sell product directly to consumers. It also lists all the Farmers' Markets in the area.

Why not consider taking advantage of the opportunities for local food in 2015? You and your family will be able to enjoy the taste of real food again.