The days are getting shorter, the temperatures a little chillier. Outdoor farmers markets are wrapping up for the season and over the course of the next few months, the type of local produce that’s available changes dramatically. In fact, if you take a look at the availability guide over on the Foodland Ontario website, you’ll notice there’s so much less local produce available from November through March. If you’re committed to eating local, that can all of a sudden get pretty boring. So why am I (as much as possible) challenging myself to choose Ontario produce only in my Front Door Organics Fresh Box over the next few months? Apart from that it’s good for the local economy and the environment?
Eating local over the winter sparks creativity in the kitchen!
It’s true! Faced with much less choice, you’ll learn to get creative with what you’ve got! As someone who loves to cook, I personally love the challenge this offers me. We have the “Small Fry” FDO Fresh Box delivered so we never really have a huge amount of anything to “deal” with – I find this make it much more approachable and doable (i.e. you won’t be eating one ingredient for days or weeks on end so if you don’t like it or you don’t like the preparation, it’s not going to last too long!). And hey, Front Door Organics always includes recipes using the week’s produce in their boxes and newsletters if you’re stuck!
Case in point: I had broccoli, leeks, green onions, zucchini and bok choy in my box the other week. Not enough to make a whole meal out of but enough to put them all together to come up with a fabulous winter greens soup:
Get the recipe for winter greens soup here.
Eating local over the winter encourages you to eat your greens
That’s right – it’s the time of year when you’ll most likely have great access to all sorts of good-for-you greens! Kale, cabbage, collard greens – these nutrient-dense veggies stand up particularly well to long cooking which is perfect for winter comfort foods. Collard greens and cabbage are fabulous braised or in stir-fries, while kale is wonderful raw (in smoothies, salads and pesto).
How about this Kale, apple, cherry and goat cheese salad with toasted almonds to brighten up a chilly fall day? You can find the recipe here.
Eating local over the winter gives neglected (root) vegetables a little love!
Yes, we’re heading into the season when some of the less popular vegetables can really have a chance to shine. Parsnips and rutabaga get their chance to shine over the next few months and of course there’s always leeks and potatoes! I find myself Googling some of the vegetables that appear in my Fresh Boxes each week to see exactly what the possibilities are, then I spend some time with my cookbook collection marking recipes to try. Choosing local over the winter months challenges you as a cook in the kitchen and personally, I love figuring out what to do with new-to-me or less-common vegetables. I mean 30 years ago, people didn’t have access to as many (non local) fruits and vegetables as we do today and hey, they survived. It might be a little less interesting than cooking is in the summer months but you can change that by getting creative!
Check out the recipe for this leek and potato soup (equally good hot or cold!) here.
It’s important also to…
Cut yourself a little slack sometimes
As a recipe developer and food writer, it’s not always going to be possible for me to choose local produce only over the winter months as I sometimes work on recipes a fair bit of time in advance. Also, there’s never going to be any local bananas here in Ontario and they are SO good in smoothies so I’m trying not to be be strict to the point of restrictive here. As I often say about many things in life, small changes often instead of big changes on a one-off basis are the way to go. Every week when I customise my delivery, I try to choose 1. Local and 2. Ingredients I know I will need for upcoming recipe development. Even if they are not super local (so, pears from BC, for example), they ARE organic. And not from the other side of the world. And yes, over the winter you will see some non-local ingredients featured in recipe. But hey, it won’t the be the majority of ingredients. And that’s the point. Try your best to eat local/ seasonal but don’t beat yourself up if you need those raspberries from California once in a while for a special dessert….
What about you – how local do you go in terms of choosing produce in the winter?
Disclosure: I have been compensated in kind by Front Door Organics in exchange for a monthly post and for sharing my weekly deliveries on social media (which, quite frankly, I do anyway!). I have not received financial compensation for these posts and they have not been reviewed by Front Door Organics prior to publication. All opinions are my own (and, well, I’ve been using the delivery service since around 2007 so I can vouch for it!).