Monday, March 30, 2009

Locally Grown

In the dead of winter, have you ever thought about where the ripe orange you are eating came from? How about the banana you had for breakfast? If you don’t live in a tropical climate, chances are, your piece of fruit traveled many miles to land in your stomach.

next time you eat an orange, think of where it came from
photo by Alice Gao

Why worry about things like that? Well, oftentimes the oranges we eat are grown in the right climate for them and then picked prematurely and shipped very quickly to their destination so that when the oranges reach a local distributor (your supermarket) they are not overly ripe or rotting. Large, commercial farming also uses harsh chemicals and pesticides to produce a commercially viable quality and quantity of produce. Commercial farming enterprises are also promoting deforestation, as farmers clear forests in an effort to grow more commercially viable products.

So lets say you’re worried about your “carbon footprint” and the freshness of fruit from thousands of miles away--what are you to do? Buy local produce! Many ecologically and environmentally conscious people are doing just that, even starting their own vegetable gardens. Recently Michelle Obama started a vegetable garden at the White House. The First Lady placed emphasis on educating the youth of America about healthy eating, but she is also putting forth a very public promotion for “homegrown” produce.

One place you can see more and more locally grown produce and seasonal foods is in restaurants across the country. I was in San Francisco over spring break, and I could not go anywhere without eating a locally grown product or ordering from a seasonal menu. I even ate seasonal pizza! I mean, I think that prosciutto, its main ingredient, is pretty year-round; that’s pretty much the point of cured meats. But, the arugula scattered artistically over the locally produced goat cheese and the spicy prosciutto was very fresh. Now, I can’t unconditionally guarantee that food at a restaurant serving local and seasonal food will taste better than one that does not, but I have to say that the odds are good. The same goes for your own cooking. Fresh food simply tastes better, but you still have to use it well, obviously.

So visit your local farmers market (for Penn students, try Clark Park's, every Saturday at 43rd and Baltimore), or ask at your supermarket where their produce came from. Eat food that is grown when it is supposed to be grown and picked when it is supposed to be picked, in the right hemisphere. Be an informed consumer and eat better, with the great added side effect of being environmentally conscious.

1 comment:

  1. People who are interested in eating more responsibly should read Barbara Kingsolver's fabulous "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". I make exceptions for a few things that just don't grow locally (bananas, citrus, and for the love of god coffee) but otherwise buy only local, seasonal produce. It was tough the first year, but now I can't imagine eating a tomato in January or an apple in April.



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