Local Food


Local Foods Support Health

Categories // Local Food

Last fall, I did a literature review to address the notion that locally-grown produce is nutritionally superior to non-local produce.  The results were compelling: I learned that levels of vitamins and other nutrients are often lost with non-local foods and that the microbial make-up is significantly different between organic and conventional foods.


Maybe you’d rather not think about the microbes on your salad, but there are a variety of beneficial bacteria that enter our bodies when we eat. The soil-based microbes provide immune system functions and important chemical interactions in the gut. These microbes are responsible not only for proper nutrients to be absorbed, like iron. The healthy microbes also manufacture important vitamins, like B5, pantothenic acid, that are essential for healthy adrenal and stress response.


In a small-scale local organic farm, typical production methods improve the health of the soil (such as cover crops and compost for fertilizer). According to a recent study published in Science Daily, organically-farmed soils in strawberry fields had higher microbial biomass, activity and diversity than conventional soils. Higher microbial diversity and activity generally correlate with lower disease and pathogen outbreaks. This means the organic foods will provide more benefits to our bodies.  A local organic practice is likely to enhance that benefit because the microbes of a farm close by in theory would be more in sync with what our bodies need because the local microbes experience similar climatic and pathogenic stresses.


A CSA share is a great way to access local foods and get optimal nutrition. We are highlighting Kings Hill Farm this year as a vegetable provider to the Madison and Chicago communities. The farm is managed by my friend and fellow Kundalini yogi, Jai Kellum.


Eat Local Challenge, Weeks 2 & 3, Obstacles to eating locally

Categories // Local Food

September 1, 2010

My favorite local recipe in the past week has been Woody's chili: horto beans or ground beef, red & green bell peppers, fresh roma tomatoes, garlic, onions, beer and spices.  Actually, no, my most favorite recipe was a local lamb stir fry with a yogurt sauce and mint from our garden that my mom whipped together for us with green beans, kales, and peppers Monday night after work. I didn't know you needed to stew the lamb meat a long time until it was tender. I used the mint sauce leftovers to marinade my extra horto beans for lunch the past two days.

This challenge is raising a few questions in our minds. Woody and I are wondering: Why are there no local grains, especially gluten-free grains like millet, available? The beans and carrots provide some starch but it's not the same as the wholesome support of a regular whole grain in the diet. We really like to have rice or quinoa or millet as a regular hot breakfast, or make a quick lunch with veggies and a vinaigrette on the grain.

Also, what are the obstacles for our local food coop in providing a local fresh vegetable juice option, or a local option at the hot deli bar? We thought of all places in Madison, we might be able to go there for a meal, but found it more difficult. In fact, to eat local means to eat REALLY local, as in, our own kitchen and that's about it (except of course the community potlucks that we haven't made it to, yet). I can understand that maybe a food service like the Coop needs to be able to depend on a larger supply of foods to offer a local option. Is this really true? They certainly offer lots of local produce options to shoppers. This is what sold me on becoming a frequent shopper and member at the coop several years ago. The produce is often as good as the farmer's market and way above any other produce department in any other store in Madison.  So, how about it: can we take the next step to produce that food into meals ready to go?



Eat Local Challenge, Days 4-5, Baked Apples with a twist

Categories // Local Food

August 19, 2010

Tomorrow is Day 6, and we're almost through the first week of the challenge. I am still just as excited about this now as when we started. Yesterday was a long day at work followed by giving a lecture at the Willy Street Coop so Woody made dinner and surprised us with home-made meatballs that he made on the grill and then added an onion sauce at the end from the stove.  It was  a good end to a day that started with what I think is the perfect food for late summer/fall:  baked apples, for breakfast. I used raspberries instead of lemon and it worked like a charm:

Baked apples

5 tart apples, chopped
1 handful fresh raspberries
a little water for the bottom of the dish
optional cinnamon to taste

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

This was the first time I ever gave baked apples to our daughter and she loved them! Like mother like daughter, I guess.

Today, I had more time to cook. We already ate all the beans I made on Monday so I made a huge batch of October Harvest beans today and made half of them into a pesto bean veggie soup for dinner and the other half I'll add to salads and meals later in the week. I also made an eggplant curry from the white eggplants I bought at Tuesday's market. And so curry? what's local about that? Well, here's where we get picky about what rules we are going to eat buy.

I've decided the most important commitment I'd like to have is not to buy food that is not local during this time. That means that every purchase is intentionally local and the meals follow from that. However, it's amazing what accumulates in the 'fridge and cabinet, and we do own spices from other parts of the world...so, we've decided that if it's in our house, it's fair game.  Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" chronicles her family's journey through a year of eating local and they did some calculations to show that given the weight of such sundried items like spices, that the ecological footprint of these products are far less than bananas, for example. (Did I mention I'm losing a taste for bananas already? I'll have to freeze the rest of that browning bunch from last week). So, while I'm using more non-local ingredients than I originally imagined when I registered for the cleanse, I'm finding that a subtle shift in food and buying preferences is already happening.  Making this shift requires that I dedicate time to do more food preparation and cooking and so to make this a sustainable change for us, I'll need to keep planning accordingly.

Another big shift that is starting to happen for us is that our lunches are local. Lunch has been a convenience affair for us in the past. Woody is at work and usually goes out to eat with co-workers while I make a quick lunch of salad and beans that sometimes are from scratch but often are organic and canned.  We are having to purchase twice the amount of dinner food so that we can cook enough to have leftovers for lunch.  Besides having all main ingredients in our meals be local, this has been the biggest shift for us and I hope it continues.


Eat Local Challenge--Day 3, Gazpacho

Categories // Local Food

August 17, 2010

It feels good to spend a big wad of cash at the farmer's market. It's a very direct way of supporting local agriculture and the local economy; and it's fun to talk to the farmer's themselves about how the meat is processed or what variety of cucumbers is the best.  I am a big fan of eastside Madison's market and was excited to see apples there for the first time this season today. Also, I bought 8 pears and 5 pints of fresh raspberries for general enjoyment now as well as freezing for later. I was also able to purchase meat, eggs, and a stroller's worth of cucumbers, onions, green beans, salad greens, patti pan squash, peppers, dry beans, and tomatoes. All for $72.50.

Today's menu was generally enjoyable, and we only have a sample size of 3 days so far, but I notice that my energy is even better than usual eating and preparing the local ingredients from scratch. Here's the skinny on today's meals:

Breakfast: scrambled eggs, and then plain raw yogurt (sweetened with a very non-local yacon syrup; those who know me know I am rather particular about sugars in order to keep a balanced flora)

Lunch: October harvest beans blended (like a mild pinto) with 1/2 cup chicken broth, fresh garlic, sea salt, and italian seasoning. Served with arugula and bell pepper; and, I cracked and shared the two remaining gluten-free wraps smothered in the beans with Marian.

Afternoon snack: smoothie: water, raw yogurt w/strawberries, raspberries, flax and one of the bananas going bad from last week (obviously the last item is not local)

Supper: Organic beef brats from grazin' acres (delicious; even Marian liked them) with gazpacho, fresh sprouts, and leftover green beans. Here's the recipe for the gazpacho:

Tuesday Gazpacho:

1 handful cherry tomatoes
2 bell peppers
2 cucumbers
1 fat clove garlic
1 small handful basil leaves
sea salt to taste
Kimchee to taste (optional)
dried cayenne, garlic, and parsley
2 Tbls raw milk (optional)



Eat Local Challenge--Day 2, Marrowfat Beans

Categories // Local Food

August 16, 2010

Day Two shaped up to be a better day. We began the day with water and pears, followed by scrambled eggs (in butter, of course).  Lunch was a fresh vegetable salad with chicken salad (made with local kimchee--a little spicy!). Strawberry yogurt/berry/water/flax smoothie was the snack and the highlight of the day was dinner's:

Garlic Mashed Marrowfat Beans

2 cups dry marrowfat beans (soaked and prepared before hand)
4 Tbls butter
1 crushed head elephant garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
sea salt and pepper to taste
small handful chopped leftover carrots
1/4 cup chopped white onion

Melt the butter in a pan with 1/2 the garlic, and all of the following: carrots, basil, onion, sea salt, pepper.  When onions are browned, add everything else to the pot and mash. Serve a generous portion with a salad.

I selected the heirloom marrowfat beans from the Sprouting Acres stand at the Tuesday Madison East Side Market located at the Wil Mar Center. I bought two bags (each a cup) and now wish I'd bought out the entire supply! Wow, were they fantastic. Nice and creamy like a white bean but rich like bacon, almost. Definitely the best thing we've had so far.

Coming tomorrow, horto and october harvest beans.


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