With Earth Day A-Comin’, Why Not Commit to Eating Local

April 20, 2015 at 3:37 pm

It’s Time

Asparagus Photo: Organic Gardening

Photo: Organic Gardening

This Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day. On Earth Day, I have the privilege of sitting in on WBEZ’s Morning Shift (sometime between 9 AM and 10 AM) to brainstorm with my friend, Monica Eng, and host, Tony Sarabia, on ways to live more sustainably. Until Earth Day, I have the privilege of this web space, where I want to encourage you to make one of the most significant and satisfying changes to your lifestyle. Starting Earth Day 2015, become a locavore. From Wednesday all the way until Earth Day 2016, try to eat as much of your food from local sources. After a year, if you like it, keep on going.

I can think of four good reason off the top of my head for you to eat local:

  1. It’s more eco-friendly
  2. It tastes better
  3. It builds community and a prosperous area economy
  4. There is reward and meaning to eating with the seasons and eating with a sense of place.

I would be happy to expand on any of these, and perhaps over the next several days, I will.  I am sure on Wednesday, on air, I will go off a bit on these, especially on reason one.  Thing is, you do not need to buy into all the reasons to commit to eating local, nor do you even need to ascribe to any of those reasons.  When I started this path, it was mostly because I loved buying at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market.  I said back then in interviews, that it was my hobby.  Here’s the thing, the more I did it, the less it became a hobby, and for better or worse, the more it became a cause.  You do not need proselytize like me, but it would not surprise me that the more you do it, the more reasons you’ll find for eating local.

I’m telling you to start on Earth Day for a reason.  It’s Earth Day and a reason to pay a little more heed to how you do things and how you affect things.  I’m also telling you to start now because it’s a reasonable time to start eating local.  What if I told you to do this a month ago.  Would you want your first fully locavore meal to be sprouts n’ eggs?   It’s, how shall I say, a little more satisfying? enjoyable? to eat local now.  Look what’s out there now.  Friend of Beet, Kelly Hewitt reported that she found asparagus at Green City Market the other day.  Beet Sponsor Vera Chicago features spring onions, sorrel, and green garlic, from Green Acres Farms, amongst other local things on their current menu.  Cassie showed on Facebook  the local ramps and morels she had in stock at Green Grocer Chicago.  My Tomato Mountain CSA promises me French breakfast radishes this week.  Our pals Irv and Shelly can even hook you up with a great deal on local blue potatoes this week on Fresh Picks.  All of this stuff will hook you to the pleasures of eating local.

So, kick off your enterprise with these early risers.  For instance, green garlic makes an outstanding pasta, as you get, like, both garlic for base and a herb to garnish as you use the whole plant.  Move into asparagus, which can be enjoyed 50 ways to Sunday–which my wife once made us try to do.  Before you know it, the markets will start filling in with more fun things to eat.  Sugar snaps and salad turnips, yielding to summer squash, eggplants, and way after you’re ready, those real, actual tomatoes.   You’ll have to wait just a tad longer for the first local fruits of the season, but an red on the inside strawberry will be a revelation.  The fruit season moves to cherries, berries, and peaches around the same time as the vegetables get to the tomatoes.  Fall brings the most robust of markets.  Peppers in all colors, melons, and all the other things that took time to prosper, yet with them will come all the fruits and vegetables of the late season, potatoes, onions, hard squash, beans.  There will be second crops of berries and more types of apples than you ever imagined.  As the days get shorter, the supplies diminish.  Eventually, your local produce will consist of storage crops and indoor grown crops.  It will also be what you put away.  It will be plenty good.  Commit to that whole year of eating local, so you always think not just what to eat today but what will I eat later.  Pickle some of those ramps you find.  Make strawberry jam.  Vegetables like peas, corn, and beans freeze very well.  Your diet come January does not have to be drab.   You will be so far a long, you won’t mind at all.

There is always local meat, dairy, eggs, grains to fill your diet.  No one says you need to eat everything local to be a locavore.  When we started as a local family, we did not get all of our meat from local sources because it seem so expensive.  We later learned to solve that by buying in bulk and mostly be eating way less (to some of us no) meat.  Find what works for you, your budget, your lifestyle.  Know also that our clique accommodates all.  We will not shun you for cooking with olive oil, waking up with coffee or obtaining your regular dose of anti-oxidants from dark chocolate (we swear that’s why we eat it).   Work what you can into each meal.  As we said above, we bet the more you do it, the more you will be working in to your meals.

There are many things you can think about this Earth Day.  Many changes, both big and small you may hear us talk about Wednesday.  Take it all in.  Take a big, deep breath, and decide this is also the year you commit to eating local too.