Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tired of Winter Produce Yet?

Here in Charlotte, the weather has been unseasonably warm. We've had more days of over 80 degree weather than I can count on one hand in the last two weeks. Daffodils have come and gone and tulips are almost out of here too. The poplars and pear trees are even starting to fade! 

What does that mean for the farmers markets though? Unfortunately, the answer is that we're probably still looking at a couple more weeks of the same produce options you've seen since the beginning of the year as new crops are planted and grow. Farmers' stocks of sweet potatoes, squash and greens will probably continue into mid-April or later. This means that the same things I've been serving my household and friends for months won't be changing for a month.

However, there are still exciting ways to both take advantage of the last of the winter crops and also explore some new foods. Maybe now is the time to enjoy the non-seasonal offerings at your local market. For example, I have been buying a loaf a week of Duke's Bread. I make a lot of soups this time of the year because winter produce lend themselves well to soup (butternut squash, vegetable, carrot top) and trying one of the many varieties of bread really makes a soup dinner more exciting. Of course cheese like those from the Chapel Hill Creamery (which Charlotteans can buy from Simply Local) and Cheval Farmstead can make a great soup and bread meal even better.

This may also be a great time to explore the protein options at your farmers market. Windy Hill has an amazing meat selection all year round and the 7th Street Market has a fish seller with some beautiful options regardless of the season.

So embrace the slight lack of produce variety inherent to March and early April and try something new!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reflections on a Local Food Lifestyle

I can’t believe it but it’s been over a year since my first post in 2011. Since then I have read up on food, tried some of the amazing produce that North Carolina has to offer and gotten input from others on what they can get locally in their home towns. It’s been an exciting and enlightening year and thanks to all that have taken the journey with me, submitted recipes or pointed me to new markets.

Now that I’ve been trying this local eating thing for a year, I have some reflections on getting and eating local food:
  1. It’s not hard. You may need to plan ahead a little and be familiar with your state’s produce offerings, but if you want to eat locally, you can (at least in Charlotte and every other city my guest bloggers have written about).
  2. If you eat locally, others will too. I can’t relay how many people that I’ve spoken to about my journey over the past year have become interested in and, in many cases, hooked on local food. By (gently) telling my friends, family and coworkers about the benefits of local food, many have sought out farmers markets and co-ops available in their area.
  3. Not all farmers markets sell local produce. Just because your food doesn’t come from a grocery store doesn’t mean it’s local. Many farmers markets supplement their local items with non-local produce in order to have a more complete offering and attract shoppers. This isn’t necessarily bad because often the non-local ingredients are also organic, humanely-raised or otherwise better than grocery store produce but buyers should be aware and ask vendors where their food comes from.
  4. Eating locally can inspire you to try new things. This is such an understatement. I’m not a professional or even an amateur cook, just someone that wants to feed myself and my friends healthy and delicious food. By exploring locally grown and raised offerings, I’ve been encouraged to branch out and try produce I’ve never used before.
  5. Food is more meaningful when you shake the hand that grew it. In twenty first century America, we’re very disconnected from the source of our food. When you shop at a farmers market, you often get to meet who grew your food, discuss with them how they prepare their food and generally be closer to what you eat. I find that I waste less food and take more pride in what I make when I know someone has worked hard to grow it.
  6. A local food lifestyle can very easily be a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. I’m not sure if it’s because you can grow more produce per acre than you can animals or whether regulations on raising animals for meat are just so taxing (pun intended) that it’s not as lucrative, but for whatever reason, farmers markets have more produce than protein. This means that there’s often an abundance of fruits and vegetables, often in varieties you can’t find at the grocery store, making a meat-free lifestyle easy and interesting.
Though my one year experiment is over, I will continue to post on the blog as I find recipes and other tidbits that I think would be of interest to others that are striving to live a more local lifestyle. Don’t hesitate to send me your recipes and experiences at!