I once planted a row of carrots. It was only a short row. They sprouted and grew beautiful green tops that smelled wonderfully of earth and promise. I tended them as well as I knew how. As harvest came closer, I started having visions of carrot and shaved almond salads, carrot and tofu scramble, carrot cake, and other orange-coloured delicacies. It was with the greatest anticipation that I went out on the appointed day and dug up my carrots.
My harvest was one pinky-sized carrot.
To this day, I'm still in the dark about what went wrong, exactly. As I am in the dark about what went wrong with all my other vegetable gardening experiments. I mention carrots because it is one of those cold weather crops that I could plant right now and harvest in November (perhaps with a bit of protection).Reduced Footprints blog, on its Change The World Wednesday block, features my challenge to make a plan to keep eating locally even in winter time when CSA farms and farmers' markets tend to close down. The challenge arose from my ruminations after writing a post on "Freeing our Food from Fossil Fuels". Eating locally is an obvious part of the solution, and in summer it is easy. But what to do in the winter months?
Initially I was glad that the challenge was featured in Reduced Footprints' blog now, in August, now that there is still time to prepare a garden bed and sow seeds for cabbages, carrots, brussels sprouts, kale, and other cold-hardy crops.
Then I remembered about my carrot.
Time to admit that I've no talents that are useful in the backyard. There goes my zero-foodmiles ambition. But there must be other things that I can do. I'm already passing up on crops that come from the other hemisphere, like raspberries sent to American grocery shelves from Argentina. I've been cutting back on Thai mangoes and such.
So here is my bid for eating locally, at least as locally as I reasonably can, for this winter:
Freeze the summer bounty
My CSA share is giving me huge quantities of vegetables right now, and I freeze what we can't eat immediately. Nothing like breaking open the sunshine tucked into the home-made pasta sauce, in January! At the end of the season, "my" farmer invites all the CSA members to help clean out the fields (and donate part to a local food bank). That party is good for up to 40lbs of broccoli, kale, cabbage, and yes, carrots, and other crops that can be kept for a long time. Still, my freezer is not large enough to contain our food for the entire winter.
I'm going to ask my CSA farmer, who has been mumbling about extending a winter farm share, whether he plans to start this year. If he wants to run a pilot, I'd sign up for that.
I'm keeping my ears open for a winter opening of the local farm market, which has many organic stands. Another farm market stays open throughout the winter, albeit with reduced hours, but most of their stands don't offer organic produce. I'd have to think about that.
Buy local from the store
I'm going to research what crops are grown locally in wintertime (or stored from the fall harvest) and buy those from the neighbourhood health food store (who tend to offer local crops anyway, and label them as such). And yes, this means field-grown produce, nothing out of a greenhouse.
Here is an added benefit: with any of these approaches, I can get my produce without cellophane, plastic bags, styrofoam or other packaging. Because I'm also working to reduce my household waste, and trying to get away from everything plastic.
One last thing: I am determined not to sweat this. For this first winter, I will be mindful, and I will do what I can to source the bulk of my produce locally, but I'm not going to get uptight about it. I can't: I'm still learning how to cook gluten-free and now also largely meat-free. I'll still serve buckwheat, rice and other grains grown far away. I'll still buy oranges and grapefruits from far away. I'll still put cumin, cinnamon and sea salt into the cabbage soup. This is a first step, and hopefully I'll learn enough this winter to take further steps next winter.