Welcome Chicago Tribune Readers

May 12, 2010 at 8:09 am

Rob Gardner

“Don’t I look reasonable,” I said reading my family the quoted passages of me in today’s Chicago Tribune locavore article.

“You do, and that’s not something people often say about you,” my daughter retorted. 

Well, I may be a ranter, but as demonstrated in today’s feature, I am a ranter for moderation.  The Local Beet is your premier resource for local eating in the Chicago area.  We are fanatic in our belief in local food, but we are also fanatic in our believe that eating local should not make you nuts.  To keep you on an even keel, we provide a variety of regular features and resources online.

Start each week with our Local Calendar where you can find out what’s in season and where to find it.  You will also find a variety of events of interest.

For instance, you may think that you cannot drink local wine while you eat local food.  We think not.  Our wine expert Wendy Aeschlimann Makes the Case for Local Wine.  She recently checked in on the 2009 vintage.

Of course the case for local beer has been more apparent, and our beer guy Tom Keith continues to find what is most interesting about area beers.   Here, Tom indulges some local triumphalism.

Eat seasonal food.  In the winter, there are stores of local apples, but we are fine if you also get some oranges, tangerines and grapefruits.  Now, however, relish what is most bountiful.  This is the time for asparagus.  While you may find asparagus at your globo-supermarket year round, it really only matters when it is local.  Asparagus needs to be eaten fresh.  Try doing that when it comes from far away.  You may want to challenge yourself to eat as much asparagus as possible during its limited season.

Eat what is seasonal.  Also, set aside your bounty to enjoy later.  Melissa Graham, the Sustainable Cook, finds time to preserve her ramps.  Still, think twice about freezing your asparagus as Michael Morowitz learned.  More advice on preserving the seasons can be found here.

Want to make your own cheese.  With her regular Cheesy Conversations, Keighty Alvarez demonstrates easy to achieve items.  In her latest installment, she makes cream cheese.  When you need other local cheeses, she’s given you a good place to start your board.

Want to garden.  Cannot get more local than your own yard.  Brad Moldofsky has been our Backyard Farmer (although other commitments will keep his fingers dirt free this summer).  He has five solid tips for you to start your own garden.

Interested in planting something a bit bigger than a garden.  Local farmer Vera Videnovich reports from her Michigan farm and area markets where she vends.  She took time recently to report on planting deadlines.

Come join us.  We are looking for Beet Reporters to share their market experiences, CSA subscriptions and locavore lives.  We also want to know how your garden growsDavid Mendoza shared why he chose a CSA, and Mary Ciesluk added a nice collage of thoughts, picture too, on her new Genesis Growers CSA.  We have many more Beet reports to post.

Get out and shop now.  Use our market locator to find what is near you.  Robin Schirmer’s Market Watch keeps you abreast on all the latest, including the markets rolling out now.

For all the naysayers, we still believe in the huge impacts resulting from eating local.  It does not just taste better.

Five Ways Eating Local is Green:

  1. All the studies and percentages fail to convince us that Food Miles matter; if not every time, on every item of food, then most of the time.  Reduce the distance it takes your for your food to arrive.  The less your food travels, the less fuel used and the less greenhouse gases emitted.
  2. Local food has Less Packaging, meaning less solid waste.  And do your part, bringing your own bags to the farmer’s markets.
  3. You pay the real costs for local meat, practically forcing you to Eat Less Meat.  Listen, we love a big juicy steak, aint tired of bacon and revel at the rush of good, new hamburger places, but we do believe that meat should be a luxury eaten less often.  Reducing meat consumption may help the world more than reducing food miles.  You do not have to eat local to eat less meat, but when meat is a luxury it should be local.  (Local meat is also produced in more humane ways,)
  4. For a host of reasons, local farmers tend to use Environmentally Friendly and Sustainable Farming Practices.  If you know your farmers, they are accountable to you.  More, when in doubt, go visit the farm.  What about the fact that many local farms are not Organic with a big O.  That is and is not an issue.  On one hand, we can cite instance after instance where large scale farms compiled with the regulations but did not produce good results.  What about all the large scale penned in dairy farms that skated by on lax rules (now being changed).   On the other hand, there are local farms that can do better, for instance trying to spray less; that is change to organic pest control methods.  If you create the demand, however, the local farmers will comply.  All in all, we believe that the farmers we think of as “local”, those at the farmer’s markets, use good agriculture practices that make a real difference.  Support them.
  5. Eating local Fosters Community and Builds Local Economies.  Local eaters know how their decisions affect those around them, including how those around them are treating the earth.  They also know their decisions provide local jobs, preserve existing infrastructures and retard the decay facing our rural areas.  It matters to keep farmland green, and this will happen when there are jobs for farmers.