Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Eating In-Season

Well, I've already added to my book list for 2010 Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingslover at the recommendation of several blog readers. And I must say, I love it! Barbara is a clever and witty writer who has landed on a topic near and dear to my heart - eating local, in-season produce. The catch: her family vowed to eat nothing else for a year!

Okay, I'm not doing that - yet. But, I am trying to eat more and more locally raised foods and stick to those things that are fresh and currently in-season. And for four good reasons:

• What better way to "be prepared" than to learn to eat what is naturally in-season?

I'm sure you're thinking I've lost my marbles. How could eating in-season possibly make one prepared? When I say this, I'm thinking of the home gardener that has learned to raise produce and animal products, for the most part, year round. It's a life skill. We need to learn it because it could prove to be a survival skill someday. Sure a crop can fail, but typically all the crops don't fail at once. And I'm not saying that we should eat exclusively in-season and local. Just a lot more than we are. We aren't in survival mode right now (at least my family is not), but if we should ever find ourselves in such a situation, gardening and eating in-season is the only long term solution that I can reasonably see most everyone doing. (For more information on year round gardening, see Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman in my Amazon store.)

• Food fresh from the ground is at it's peak, both nutritionally and aesthetically, not to mention the flavor!

You know what I'm talking about. That tomato from the grocery store doesn't even begin to taste like a home grown tomato. Once produce is picked, it starts to loose it's nutritional value. How can we possible compare the vitamins in a green bean that is eaten two hours after coming off our own vine with green beans picked and shipped for 5 - 10 days. Even in optimal storage conditions, it begins to break down. Yes, I home can some foods, but this is always second best with the exception of things like tomatoes which increase in lycopene. I'm no expert in the field of food science, but tell me... does this make sense? After driving through Oregon, I saw tons of commercial hothouses growing tomatoes, many hydroponically. They're not even using dirt, for cryin' out loud! That just ain't right. Which brings me to the third point...

• Logically, it would seem that God planned it that way for a reason.

God made us out of dirt and created us to eat food that comes from the dirt - either directly (like a carrot) or indirectly (like a cow that eats grass). That's where this all starts. In the dirt. Thirteen mineral nutrients which are necessary for plant life. I know many of us take supplements that increase our calcium intake or whatever else we are lacking, but just like I mentioned before, I feel this is always second best to eating foods that are rich in these nutrients. Scientist are always discovering something new in the natural world around us. Years ago, vitamins were the rage. Then phytochemicals were discovered and they became the new thing that was "essential". What's out there that we still don't know about? I have no clue. But you can be sure of this... if it's something we need, God put it in the food because He knew we needed it and I believe He created them to work together. Scientist are constantly learning that for certain vitamins to be properly absorbed by the body, they must work in harmony with other nutrients, minerals, or vitamins. And let's face the fact that there is no fountain of youth, but there is life sustaining food that will nourish us for the time that God wants us here. Sadly, we're squandering His gift to us because of convenience and our insatiable demand to have what we want, when we want it.

• Eating food raised close to home allows you to eat it when it is fresher, keeps local businesses and farmers in jobs, and means less cost in transportation fees as well as gasoline usage.

For a couple of years now, my family has been getting a produce box from some "semi-local" farmers in the San Joaquin Valley (Abundant Harvest Organics) as well as a very local organic source, Tangleweed Farm. Our milk comes from two sources, Organic Pastures, which is in the San Joaquin Valley, and a friend who raises goats. Our area has a lot of fruit orchards which provide apples, raspberries, ollalaberries, cherries, and such. We eat venison my dad hunts, or chicken and beef from a farm and a ranch in the San Joaquin Valley and we raise our own eggs. Now, this isn't completely local since the Valley is about 40 miles away and it stretches quite a way up the state. But it's closer to home than we were eating. And I have met several of these farmers personally and have visited with them to know their philosophy and desire to help others eat good, healthy food. If I wanted, I could meet more of them because they have names that I read every week and they are accessible. They're not part of a mega-corporation.

Please don't think I'm in sunny California feeling pretty smug and proud of myself. I am glad about the changes we've made and I'm extremely thankful to be blessed with options that allow our family to eat this way. But each region has it's own strengths and weaknesses. For example, there aren't a lot of grains grown in California like there are in the mid-west. I have to buy my grain through a co-op that ships it around first. And what about the maple syrup in the north east? Or Salmon in the northwest. Each area must be researched and investigated.

Once a friend asked me how long I had been on my food journey. Food journey? I hadn't really thought about it that way. But the more I contemplated the question, I realized she was right. I was on a food journey! A journey that would take time to create lasting changes that would become permanent and natural for our family. It has taken 11 years to reach the point where we are today. It didn't happen over night. And we certainly haven't arrived! The next step: growing almost all of our own food most of the year, raising meat chickens, and getting our own goats and bees. I can't wait!

Tell me about you're food journey and if you've considered eating in-season year round. I'd love to hear!


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