Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle!

No pictures this time, just some thoughts on the book I'm reading (devouring): Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (Poisonwood Bible, anyone?). I powered through about half of it yesterday when I had some quiet time. The author and her family are living off the land for a year. All of their food except spices, olive oil, and coffee are sourced from their gardens or county. The book offers practical advice on planting crops and raising livestock as well as some pretty frightening facts about the stuff most of us eat. She makes it sound like a lot of work but not totally impossible. Her daughter contributes some delicious sounding recipes and insight into the younger generation's perspective.

I think we could really make some positive environmental changes in our country if everyone lent a hand to supporting their local farmers and growers. I have been aware of the benefits of trying to eat local to minimize my carbon footprint. This is easy in the summer when produce is available at my neighborhood farmers market. This year I'd like to make a point of preserving this local bounty for the rest of the year. The book gives instructions on canning and preserving summer's harvest for year round civic duty. Buying while the goods are fresh and local gives the small scale farmer a better chance of making their ends meet throughout the rest of the year. Tomatoes ripen in August but there are still bills to pay in January.

Seasonality is another point that hit me pretty hard. I usually only enjoy cherries when they are in the stores for $1.99/lb in July but a couple of weeks ago I bought some for a treat. I regret making that choice. They probably came from thousands of miles away and honestly they looked and tasted like they did. Bruised and mildly flavorful, they were nothing like the cherries that are available in July. My point is that most of the fruits and veggies we buy in the winter and early spring are totally out of season, from very far away, and usually bland. Why do I buy nectarines in spring from Argentina? Why not wait until Jersey growers have them tree ripe in September? Is it possible to eat seasonally and wait to taste the produce at its peak? This year I'd like to make a point of really appreciating the fruits and vegetables as they locally come into season. I may even try preserving some of these seasonal treats for enjoyment later in the year.

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