The Locavore Way

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I support local farmers and gardening. In earlier posts (here and  here), I offered suggestions for planting vegetables with kids (A reader recently told me she planted lettuce in a window box after reading my post. I hadn't thought of that. Great idea!) I also shared stories about our garden successes (here, here and here ). Joining CSA's or visiting farmer's markets has also been discussed on this blog by me and others.

By patronizing farmer's markets, you can meet the people who grow your food, meet your neighbors, and support local agriculture and the economy. By bringing your children to the market, you help them learn that produce does not come with stickers on it or in plastic bags. If you and your children interact with the farmers and other vendors, they can learn about life cycles, farming in general, and economics, to name a few subjects. Many times, the farmers at farmer's markets will welcome you to visit their farms and some encourage volunteer work in exchange for fresh produce. This is "Mucking about and meeting the locals" at its best.

Just this week at the ORR Farmer's Market, I talked to Zack from Lucky Field Organics who encouraged me to try kohlrabi. He suggested several ways to prepare it before sending me on my way with my purchase. I took mine home, peeled it, sliced it thin, and cooked it in a cast iron skillet in a little olive oil. The only seasoning was a little salt and pepper. Even though I need to perfect my cooking technique, my son still loved it! Next week I'll buy another one and use it in an Asian style slaw also featuring a lovely savoy cabbage from our garden. If Zack had not suggested kohlrabi and offered cooking tips, I would not have bought it. This is the kind of service and interaction you can expect from a farmer's market.

For those of you who are new to the idea of being a "locavore" (someone who seeks out and savors locally grown and raised food), I recommend The Locavore Way by Amy Cotler as a great place to learn more about this endeavor. She offers practical tips for getting started, including a point I've made here: start small and add a little bit at a time. If you can attend one farmer's market this year and purchase produce for one great meal, that's terrific. If you belong to a CSA or have a small garden, great. But don't think you need to be like Barbara Kingsolver and become a complete locavore (Her book about a year of eating locally, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life is a great adult read). As much as I strive to eat locally, the truth is I'm not a "full-time" locavore.  Being a locavore in the Northeast is hard during the winter and spring. And then there are the things I'm not willing to give up such as coffee, or chocolate, or even the occasional mango). I eat more locally than some but not as much as others and that's Ok. Find the amount that's right for you right now and keep looking for ways to support your local farmers, bakers, beekeepers, etc. It's good for your family's health, the planet's health, and the local economy.

Here's a  quick recipe for this time of year.
(If you're fairly skilled in the kitchen, it truly takes 30 minutes from start to finish. If you involve your kids in the cooking, as I suggest, it will take longer!)

Fresh Tomato Sauce over Pasta
An assortment of tomatoes. This week we used cherry tomatoes and a variety of others we purchased at the farmer's market (I used one small box of cherry plus 5 larger tomatoes. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and cut the other tomatoes into bite-sized chunks.)

An onion or two, sliced thin
Chopped garlic (I used 5 cloves, but we LOVE garlic)
fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped (I used roughly a cup, maybe more)
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil to saute the onions
grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (optional)
your favorite pasta

With fresh ingredients, it's almost impossible to mess this up, so don't worry about exact measurements.
  1. Put the pasta water on to boil.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. When the oil shimmers, add the onions. Saute them until nearly soft. Then add the garlic.
  3. Cook the garlic for 2-3 minutes, then add the tomatoes.
  4. About this time, put the pasta into the boiling water.
  5. Simmer the tomatoes, onion, and garlic over medium-low heat until the tomatoes are soft (roughly 10-15 minutes), adding half the basil about 5 minutes in and the rest at the end.
  6. Salt and pepper to taste (likely very little, if any will be needed)
  7. Drain the pasta. Serve the pasta with the sauce and a sprinkling of grated cheese, if desired.
Add a nice green salad or maybe a focaccia from your local baker and you've got a delicious meal.

Are you a locavore? If so, what region or country do you live in? Are there times when eating locally is harder for you (such as winters here)? If you're not a locavore, would you consider trying to eat more locally? What roadblocks might you face? How might you work through them?