There is a balance between conscious consumption and a varied diet. Eating local is very trendy, but it’s also very smart. There are countless advantages to a diet based on fresh, locally produced food. First of all, food is fresher and requires less transportation to get to your table, and less transportation means less pollution. Some people who love the concept go so far as to adopt the 100-mile diet, sometimes known as “going local”. This means exclusively eating food grown or produced within a 160km radius. Before deciding to go local, here are a few things to consider.
A comprehensive approach to locavore eating
Locavores value not just geographic proximity, but a close relationship with those who produce their food. They regularly visit farmers’ markets, artisan food stalls and even farms, to meet the farmers. Some locavores get involved more directly and organize basket delivery services for local, and often organic, fruits, vegetables and meat. There are also locavore groups to join. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, many different options are available for those who want to embark on this lifestyle.
In Canada, urban locavores are in the midst of starting a veritable food revolution. Vegetable gardens on the roof of Montreal’s Palais des congrès, chicken coops in Vancouver and busy beehives dripping with honey on top of Toronto’s Royal York Hotel, are all helping to broach the divide between country and city. We love seeing the greening of our urban landscapes with plant-covered walls and balcony gardens. And needless to say, there’s nothing like biting into a tomato we’ve lovingly grown ourselves!
Not the easiest rules to follow
Few will be surprised to learn that the locavore movement was developed by a chef in San Francisco. If there’s a corner of the planet particularly blessed with diverse fruits and vegetables, it’s California! However, the closer you get to the poles, the harder it gets to strictly eat local; sometimes, it’s also less tasty. Imagine winters here in Canada without fruits and veggies from southern climates. Potatoes, turnips, winter squash, carrots, cabbage and onions boiled every single day! And don’t forget that our country isn’t exactly known for its rice, coffee or chocolate. Try imagining your life without them!
It is possible to preserve seasonal fruits and vegetables. Some locavores have become experts at freezing fresh food and making delicious preserves in Mason jars. Greenhouse cultivation has improved immeasurably; we can now enjoy a 100% locally produced tomato, mozzarella and basil pizza in the middle of winter. In terms of seasoning, we have to replace olive oil with sunflower oil, but it does the trick.
Unless our pantries and freezers are enormous, it isn’t exactly easy for Canadians to have access to a variety of fresh, locally grown produce. Giving up Florida oranges, Moroccan clementines, California strawberries and Chilean grapes is a hard sell. And what about all those exotic fruits now available on the shelves at our corner grocery store? Not to mention never again eating Asian, Indian or North African cuisine. The mere idea is painful!
When it comes to going local, as with many things, maybe it’s best in moderation. Knowing what’s produced locally and choosing food that’s grown nearby whenever possible, but never losing our taste and curiosity for exotic cuisine, seems like the best recipe for a healthy and eco-conscious diet.