Bits and Pieces: A New Series on Local Readers’ Perspectives on (Local) Food

Today’s guest: Me (Stephanie)!  Because if you need a guinea pig for a new series, best to try it out on yourself first instead.

what does local food mean to you?

I find that its so easy for my food purchasing and consumption to be thoughtless;  thinking about local means more thinking period. It means trying to be more thoughtful about where the food I buy comes from, about what it takes to grow and get it to us, and how we use it. By learning more about our local farms, their growing seasons and some of their growing methods and challenges, getting to know their produce, adds something that feels more important to me than just eating tastier food. I recently ate a lovely small watermelon, thinking about all the rain that farms didn’t get this summer, knowing that they had to irrigate to produce this waterbomb. They have to pay for water, and I’d rather be on the side of helping them continue to irrigate if they need to, rather than relying on some bigger operation in the tropics. I have a hard time believing that just because we can turn food production into something that’s automated and divorced from the land, that we should.

what do you love most about local food?

I love the surprise of it, that nothing’s ever quite the same. Sometimes that means getting something that spoils faster than you expected it to, or finding that the weather interfered with a crop you were looking forward to. But much more often, it means discovering flavors that are more intense or complex than you expected, or getting your picky-eater nephew to eat a blackberry because he helped you pick them and he got into finding the blackest ones because his auntie told him that those were the sweetest, and that made him curious about how they tasted.

what do you use most often, and where does it come from?

Onions, tomatoes, potatoes. I grow a lot of tomatoes, but I buy the varieties I don’t grow well from the market, mostly PrairiErth Farm. It’s the larger ones, like Kellogg’s breakfast that I don’t grow; we have too many garden critters that like them, so ours don’t make it to ripening!

do you preserve any of your local food?

Yes, when I find time to plan ahead. Buying the quantity, clearing a weekend, deciding what to make and making room for it.

if so, what are some of the things that you preserve, and how?

Freezing: Marinara from tomatoes and garlic; applesauce; soups (red pepper, butternut squash, tomato); pestos and herbs frozen in ice cubes or olive oil.
Canning: Pickled Beets, Jam (berries and peaches), sometimes pickled okra or green beans; occasionally salsas.

is there anything you’ve wanted to preserve, but haven’t yet?

Dehydrating anything; I haven’t done any, really. And I’d like to find more pickled/relish things that I like.

do you grow any herbs or veg at home?

Always kale and tomatoes, basil and cilantro, usually parsley, usually beets and chard

if so, how do you incorporate that into your cooking / meals?

I often forget about the kale, but come fall I use it often. The tomatoes generally get roasted and frozen, the kale quickly sauteed or steamed with fish or meat. Cilantro and Basil gets used in pesto more often than fresh.

what’s your favorite season of local food?

Fall!! I love root veggies! Parsnips, beets, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes! Everything gets sweeter after a frost, and even sweeter in the oven.

what are some of the challenges of using local food / cooking / meals?

Keeping up with the harvest! and buying enough but not too much on Saturday at the market, so that you can use it all before it spoils. doing the right kind of prep over the weekend to be able to incorporate things into our weekly meals. Prep is definitely the thing I have the most trouble with. I like to cook, so I have to keep telling myself to cook meals rather than more jam.

what do you think you do really well around cooking/meals, and how do you do it?

I’m pretty good with making large quantities of soups and sauces and freezing them; it’s a bunch of work all at once, that pays off throughout the winter/spring. And it’s a great thing to be able to quickly defrost and take to a sick friend.

what do you want to learn more about?

Dehydrating! And other meal-prep strategies for making full use of summer produce.

if you could have one fruit or vegetable growing in your backyard right now, what would it be?

A lemon tree!