In the past few years, there has been a surge in the number of people touting the benefits of eating locally and for good reason. It’s better for the environment, since it won’t be carted on semi trucks across the country. It’s good for the local economy, since you’re supporting local, small-time farmers. Some say it even tastes better. But learning how to find and use those delicious, homegrown fruits, veggies and dairy products can be tricky. Here are a few tips for cooking and eating locally.
Find your local farmers’ market
Whether it’s a weekend market in a parking lot or a full-time grocery store, most communities have a local alternative to larger, non-local retailers. LocalHarvest.org is a good place to start. There, you can type in your zip code and find your local farmers’ market where you can find those ultra-fresh veggies, eggs, honey and jams grown and cultivated by your neighbor.
Learn to use in-season produce
Sure, you might want to sprinkle a hint of orange rind on your meal, but if oranges aren’t in season, there’s likely a local alternative. Out-of-season produce is expensive and is shipped from regions where the product is likely to grow (and typically, it’s not your backyard.) Learn to use in-season produce. It will challenge you to create a great dish with a vegetable you might not be familiar with, and will open you up to new ideas in the kitchen.
Think outside the produce box
Eating locally is much more than just buying local fruits and vegetables. All around you, farmers are milking cows, harvesting honey and collecting eggs. Local honey enthusiasts claim eating the bee candy can help with seasonal allergies and ongoing nausea. Those who eat local eggs claim they taste better. Plus, they come in many different varieties, from orange to bright blue.
Join a food co-op
Food co-ops are a not-for-profit, produce-sharing community in which a participant pays a flat fee to get a basket of produce each week. Usually, you’ll have no idea what will come in the basket, which is part of the fun. Learning to use a raw, local beet for the first time can be an exciting experience. Will you turn it into a soup or a salad? That unknown is all a part of the fun. Challenge yourself to be creative, support local farmers and learn to eat healthy.