Eating Locally: the View from February

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Summer in a Jar!

Dinner last night was homemade pizza, featuring homegrown basil pesto, tomatoes from my garden, and red peppers, picked from the garden and roasted till the skins fell off. Dessert was a cobbler of farmer's market Colorado peaches, and blackberries from my incredibly prolific vines. No, you're not in a time warp, it is most definitely February in Colorado!

How did I manage such a local feast, with its welcome taste of warmer weather? Last summer, I set out to see how close to home I could eat. I figured anything would help, and decided not to be hard on myself for "exotics" that I love--bananas, mango, pineapple--or staples that would likely be impossible or expensive to find a local source for--grains like pasta, rice and flour, nuts, dairy, and so on. I wanted eating more locally to fit into my relatively normal life.

My normal life definitely includes gardening; even in my bungalow garden I can grow quite a lot. Then there is "putting up"--freezing, drying, canning--which I enjoy but which happens more or less all at once, making my August and September crazy-busy. And finally come long winter months of minestrone soups with Colorado corn and my green beans and tomatoes, applesauce cake, spaghetti sauce with my canned tomatoes and homegrown garlic, snacks of dried apricots and peaches, breakfasts of toast with strawberry, blackberry, peach, or apricot jam and yogurt with canned peaches or rhubarb, even lemon bars with the harvest of my indoor/outdoor lemon tree...

I find that, with the sole goal of using up the pantry goods and making space in the freezer, I have eaten something local every day this winter; most days, every meal features at least one and often several Colorado-grown ingredients. My grocery bills are under control, and perhaps I have contributed to keeping a bit more carbon out of the atmosphere. Mostly, I feel in touch with the seasons and connected to my food and my region, and sympathetic to our pioneer predecessors who knew what it meant to live off the land!

Comments

James Mann
I like it, I like it a lot. I am afraid if we did that we would go hungry but we are learning and adding more to our backyard garden. We have only eaten fresh from the garden and shared with our friends, mostly because I have never preserved or canned anything yet. I think I will give it a try this year. I think the first thing I will try is rhubarb and strawberry jam. I grew up eating this as a kid and love it. Once I have done this I think I will feel more like a gardener. :)
Ellen Hertzman
James-- Strawberry-rhubarb jam sounds like a great start! Canning fruits and tomatoes is pretty simple, actually. I stay away from canning veggies because of the need to pressure cook them or otherwise deal with higher risk factors, but most of my veggies (green beans, beets, corn) freeze easily. For your jam, try the grocery store pectin and follow the directions carefully as to amount of sweetener. If, later on, you want to make low- or no-sugar jams, there are special pectins you can order. At the Gardens, we offer lots of classes on preserving your harvest. If you are local, keep an eye out for those in the summer and fall.
cesia
Wow! This is quite a feat! (A delicious one.) - Cesia.
Kellyn
This is very impressive, Ellen. It makes me excited to start growing my own food this summer. Now I know who to come to with questions! Great job!

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