Well, it’s the last day of the Locavore Challenge! Like many of you I aim to eat local as much as possible year round but having never participated in a Locavore Challenge before I am proud to have spent these fourteen days feasting only on the bounty of the Midwest. It’s been a delicious educational experience.
Those who have not yet delved into the world of local eating are often impressed or nervous at the idea of subsisting on such a seemingly limited menu. The dirty little secret is that it’s not actually that hard. Here in Chicago we are blessed with an abundance of local produce with a climate that lends itself to the production of a vast array of foods for a large part of the year. Of course not all Chicagoans have easy access to this fresh fare and there are many dedicated organizations and individuals working tirelessly to address that disparity. I count myself very lucky to have Green City Market and a host of other excellent markets and food outlets at my door.
As the Locavore Challenge wraps up I’ll continue to include local foods in my diet as much as possible. The timing of the program is no accident – falling at a period when the best of our summer produce is hitting the table and fall crops are starting to pop up for harvest. However despite our freezing winter, with only a little extra effort we can easily enjoy local produce right through the year.
Of course the market vendors will continue to supply us with wonderful root vegetables, meats, eggs, sprouts, breads, apples, cheeses, mushrooms, pies, pastas, winter crops and more right through the cold months. Fellow market goers will know that there is still plenty to fill your shopping bags in mid-winter. Add those items to produce that has been canned, stored, fermented and frozen during the year and you have yourself a veritable cornucopia of local foods.
I’ve dabbled modestly in fermenting and canning and love to support those who do it well by buying their wares. I’m trying to be a good country mouse by stocking up on jars of items I use regularly. Buying bulk from your favorite market vendors is a great way to cut costs and stock up for winter. My 12 jars of Tomato Mountain roasted tomatoes will have my household set until next years batch arrives. Of course buying the produce itself in bulk and canning it yourself is wonderfully rewarding and even more economical. I hope to try my hand at canning more next year.
In the middle of January your freezer can also be a busy locavore’s best friend. If you buy a little extra of your favorite freezables during the year you can smarten up your meals with locally produced warm weather ingredients. Or simply freeze an extra portion of that pasta sauce, dessert or casserole made with local warm-weather produce. A bag of blueberries or peach slices tucked into the freezer in August will have you enjoying a summer fruit smoothie in January. The extra box of spring peas I froze early this year will taste extra sweet in a warming December soup. It’s a nice indulgence to enjoy these local flavors while the snow is piling up outside and needles to say it cheaper, tastier and kinder to the earth than importing the same ingredients from warmer climes.
I hope you all enjoy the last day of the program and will join me in continuing to savor local flavors beyond the challenge. Happy eating!