Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What Counts as "Local"?

With the growing popularity of eating locally produced and sourced food, this has become an increasingly important question: what is "local"?

If you look up the word “locavore” in the Merriam Webster dictionary, the definition reads “one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible.” This doesn’t actually give a clear meaning of the maximum (or minimum) distance needed to be "local", however. The locavore movement started in San Francisco based on an idea of a 100-mile diet, meaning that the food they eat is within a 100 mile radius of where they live. Other people define local a little more loosely, though, and think it means anything that they can drive a reasonable distance to get. What is "‘reasonable" is also up for debate.

I found my favorite description in the book “The Locavore Way” by Amy Cotler. She defines local this way: “as close to home (or wherever you are) as possible, the closer the better". This really struck me as the most unpretentious and easily accessible definition of local that I’ve come across.

My personal definition of local fits along the same lines as Cotler’s. I really try to eat locally, but I eat seasonally as well. During the summer months in the Boston area, I constantly buy my fruit and vegetables from the farmer’s markets around the city. I also harvest from my own garden and, starting this year, will have a CSA share. However, eating this way is not completely possible during the winter when the markets have stopped and most produce is not in season here.

When I can’t get produce locally, I buy it from places that are as close as possible and where the food is in season. More and more, supermarkets (even big chains) are labeling where food is actually from. Whether products are from Vermont, California, or Mexico, it's nice to see their origins noted and be able to make an informed decision about where I'm getting my food.

Certain foods, however, can be hard or nearly impossible to get from a local source, such as coffee. Coffee beans will not grow in New England, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a bit of a local touch. There are a few places in Boston, such as Flat Back Coffee Company, which roast their coffee beans in house. This keeps the beans fresher for a longer period of time.

The bottom line when it comes to the meaning of local is that it is up to you! Don’t be intimidated by the “100-mile” locavore definition, or think that if you don’t get it from your region that it can’t be considered local. Make your own rules, don’t be confined to one "definition", and enjoy eating good, fresh food, wherever local means to you!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring Has Sprung...

At least for a few days! I know Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so we're supposed to have more winter. And yes, spring doesn't officially start for another 2 weeks, but with high 40's predicted for the next week or so (and the girl switching to sandals), I'm declaring that spring is here!

It was a wonderful weekend in the city - low to mid 50's, lots of sun, and a beautiful blue sky. The girl and I decided to spend the afternoon at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain. Though I'd never been there (even though I live about 15 minutes from it), I have to say, it was nice to see a big green space in the middle of the city. While there weren't too many things in bloom yet, it was still a great afternoon. You barely knew you were in the city!

Hamamelis × intermedia 'Arnold Promise'

Strolling through the Arboretum, we saw snowdrops, pussy willows, and a few different types of witch hazel. We wandered the different paths for a couple hours, past the lilac bushes, the rose garden, and the magnolia trees by the Visitor's Center. I really can't wait to go back when everything is in bloom!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fruit Find: Ugli Fruit

I'm always on the lookout at the grocery store for new and/or interesting fruits and vegetables. Well, I found a great one recently! It's called Ugli fruit (or Uniq fruit), and is a tangelo from Jamaica. It's a combination of a grapefruit, an orange, and a tangerine. As you can see, it certainly lives up to its name.

While it isn't the best-looking fruit I've ever seen, the flavor is absolutely amazing. It's sweet and sour at the same time, and not bitter at all - think sweet lemon. They are really juicy, and the juice actually tastes sweeter than the flesh.

If you see these at your local grocery store or specialty food store, I suggest you try one - don't let the look of it scare you!

(You can also purchase online at Melissa's Produce)
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