Eat Local Forever

August 13, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Rob Gardner

Have you gone out and purchased a freezer?  It is easy to eat local now.  Can you eat local two months from now?  Four months from now?  All the way until the first asparagus sprout next May?  Forever?  We can eat local forever in the Chicago area through two vehicles.  We can shop for local even in the winter.  We can store away our local food.  I will cover winter shopping and winter storage more in depth soon.  In addition, the Local Beet will have some good advice on canning.  For now, I want to hit on a few key items, things that you should be stockpiling to further your eat local adventures.

The reasons for eating local do not only apply to a few food items like summer squash and tomatoes, even if the former seem omnipresent and the latter are (one of) the biggest reason to eat local.  No, eating local should apply to as much food as possible.  This includes the less glamorous parts of the repertoire like onions, garlic and potatoes.  These items form the base for many a meal.  They will be needed from now until forever.  Luckily, the farming zones near Chicago are ripe with these items.  It it is time to start stocking up on these items.

Through June or so, the local garlic was tender “green garlic”, a bit milder, you could use nearly the whole plant.  Green garlic resides in the fridge and is not meant to last the year.  The garlic you find now has been “cured” or dried and can last a good amount of time.  Start putting garlic away in your root cellar.

Onions can be categorized as fresh or keepers.  In the markets now, you will see a bit of both.  Keeper onions have dry, papery skins; fresh onions have thin, soft membrane-ish skins.  Fresh onions go in the fridge, where they will last but not that long.  Keepers go in your root cellar and last a good long time.

Like onions, potatoes can be designated keepers or not.  To be a keeper, the potato is cured, a process that firms up the skin and allows it to last many months.  Most of the potatoes around now are not keepers.  The fresh potatoes can still last a bit, just not that long.  Keep them as well in your root cellar.

OK, you have no root cellar.  Do you have a cellar, I mean basement at least?  Apartment dwellers have storage lockers.  The key for these items, more than anything, is dark.  Light will cause your potatoes to start turning green and your onions to sprout.  Keep them in the dark, and they will last, last you especially until more serious storage begins.  If you cannot find a dark room, just put them somewhere that becomes dark like a rolled up paper bag or cooler.  Onions need dry too, so do not store, say under a sink. 

While potatoes and alliums are required components to forever local, they are not good friends when too close to each other.  The gases emitted from onions can get the potatoes to spoil.  Ideally, you want your potatoes in a separate room from your onions, but that is probably not practical.  Keep them as far a part as possible.  Like I say, I’ll cover storage more as we get nearer to Fall, but for now, remember that keeper onions do not need much in the way of cool, while keeper potatoes want to be at around 40 degrees.

Do not just think about how you can eat local today.  Think about eating local forever by stocking up on onions, garlic and potatoes.