Years ago I decided to eat better. Vegetables, organically grown, seemed to be the healthiest option. As I shopped the produce aisles I was reminded that the products were often grown in the backyard garden of my childhood. I could learn how to “regrow” these foods.
My girlfriend at the time had been volunteering on McCauley Family Farm in Boulder and I would sometimes join her on those early mornings. Volunteering in exchange for an abundance of fresh produce and lunch. We would return home stocked with veg. Large cast iron pans full of whatever was growing at the time usually wrapped inside a corn tortilla became a staple.
Those early seasons working on farms led to an exploration of new foods. Do you remember the first time you had butterhead lettuce? I was in my twenties! Consuming local produce has the potential to diversify your diet and excite your palette on new culinary experiences. Many of the crops market farms grow lack the shipping ability of big box stores. I am reminded of heirloom melons too sweet to last more than a few days or thin-skinned sun ripened tomatoes. Even carrots, who can store for months, have been bred more for production rather than the heirloom favorites selected for flavor.
Once I got a handle on day-to-day food preparation I started thinking about storage. What do you eat when nothing is growing? Seasonal eating requires processing, preserving, storing, and extending the annual harvests (if not by you by the farmers). The goal has never been, nor ever will be, consuming only products I grow, rather to enjoy eating as seasonally local as possible.
Here is a sample meal from our home:
Purchased at store: rice, sesame oil, cha zing wine, fish sauce, coconut aminos, olive oil, salt, mayonnaise, green onion, ginger
Purchased from local farms: carrots, eggs
Grown at Folks Farm: Purple daikon radish, Wasabi radish, turnip, fresno hot sauce, pork sausage, onion, cilantro
The home grown ingredients mandate cold storage, fermentation, and winter growing to supplement our grocery spending.
The 2023 crop plan includes planting key ingredients for my kitchen. I can’t imagine a garden without Fresno peppers simply because that hot sauce is too damn good! I am adding other vegetables to the mix this year, like celery, to round out my own cooking habits.
The connection between us and our food orients our life in time and space and deepens the appreciation for great ingredients. When you consider the rice and radishes from this meal originated in Asia, met and combined with carrots from the Middle East, traveled west to intercept pigs in Europe, who were then carried by boat to encounter peppers and cilantro in indigenous America, humanity is displayed on the plate.
Plants and food crops have been shared, stolen, sold, and grown across the globe. Shopping at the store you are bombarded with beautiful fruits and vegetables grown thousands of miles apart, and yet we regularly consume only a few of these staples. The middle aisles are predominantly either wheat, corn, or soy derived further away from the culinary diversity gardening and local agriculture can offer.
Even in such a tough growing climate as Colorado we can enjoy an abundance of regional produce throughout the year. The practice of eating locally builds much needed relationships between us, our food, and the shared humanity throughout the world.