In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
December, 2011
Regional Report

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This kale is lovely in the early winter garden and you can eat it too!

Eat as Local as Possible

I suppose now that the gardening season is coming to a close, it's only natural to yearn a bit for the fresh vegetables that were so abundant during summer. But we don't have to give up fresh, local food. We simply need to change our attitude a bit, as well as make a few changes in food preparation, meal planning, and shopping. If we want to continue to eat locally, we will need to make the changes gradual, including helping our families change their tastes and open their minds.

Watch Labels
One of the first steps to eating locally is to invest a bit of time at the grocery store. Look at labels to see where produce comes from, and try to pick produce grown as close to home as possible. This may mean that you have to do a little research and talk to your grocer. If you don't find local foods, ask about them. You may be able to convince your grocer to buy closer to home.

Connect to Local Producers
Become connected to the people who produce food locally. Visit the farmers' markets and talk to the farmers. Many towns have good summer markets and there are also many that are beginning to have indoor winter markets as well.

Buying Local Helps Economy
Be conscious of the fact that buying locally grown food can benefit the local economy. Local fresh produce may sometimes be a bit more expensive than peppers flown in from Mexico, but give a thought as to how this works. How can food that is flown thousands of miles cost less that food that is grown here? Makes me wonder about the quality.

Making a commitment to buying locally can keep your principles alive, not to mention benefiting local farmers. And if you buy organic produce, you know the food has been produced without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

Try New Winter Vegetable Recipes
It may take a bit more creativity to cook with local produce in late fall and through winter, but with a little ingenuity and web crawling for recipes, you may find that you and your family fall in love with winter squash, leeks, apples, beets, potatoes, and onions. And even if you didn't can your own tomatoes, farmers' markets and some local stores often carry home-canned produce.

Some Suggestions for Local Products
Try baking with local honey or maple syrup rather than cane sugar, which is either grown in the southern states or brought in from abroad. Grow sprouts and grate beets and turnips for a wonderful salad that doesn't use California lettuce. Also, stay away from convenience foods. They are seldom locally grown or produced, and cooking from scratch can save you calories, additives, and a dose of ecological sabotage with the packaging.

Local Restaurants and Local Food
Encourage local restaurants to use local foods as well. Ask when you go out to eat and you may be surprised at how many chefs do focus on local, in-season foods for their menus. Best of all, feel good about what you eat -- think about it.

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