Recently, I was asked a very important question about beginning life as a locavore and being a more conscious eater…
What tools would you suggest are vital to this process? Christmas is coming and I want to ask for things that can help improve my life and the life/health of my family.
I thought it might be important to consolidate all the little blurbs I have given in my blogs into a nice Christmas shopping list and just personal locavore manual. So, in eating locally, I believe that there are three basic “components:” obtaining the food, eating the food, and preserving the food.
Tools for obtaining the food: Decide whether growing a garden or supporting local farmers (or a combination of both) is appropriate for your life. If you would like to grow a garden, check out local community garden plots (simply google-ing community gardens provides many resources), begin a compost bin or a worm bin (my next project), and look for local sources of fertilizer instead of synthetic (chicken manure, fish meal, etc.). If you would like to support your local farmer, find local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture which can be cheaper and more diverse, there are also CSAs now for meat and grains not just produce), if you live in the Willamette Valley pick up a copy of the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition pamphlet (this contains all the information you could ever want about local farms), go to your local farmers market and by mass quantities of what is in season (savor those flavors and preserve) and also check out U-Pick farms nearby which are often much more affordable. There are also more options for obtaining food like gleaning, which is contacting farmers and taking the left over produce after the harvest that they do not want (check out the Eugene facebook site), and foraging for things like mushrooms, blackberries, etc.
Tools for eating the food: This is a very diverse and varied part of the food cycle; vegetarian vs omnivore vs vegan, lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant. One very crucial tool, no matter your diet, is a slow cooker. The life of a locavore is slow and patient, even though life around you may be going at the fast pace technology age speed. Besides the normal pots, pans, and trays, I find it crucial to have a slow cooker/crock pot to start meals when you know you will not have time after school or work. On the same note, having a pressure cooker might entice you. Though I do not currently have one, I know you can make pulled pork in about an hour, while normally it would be a four or five hour slow cook. Another really great appliance to have is a juicer. It is nearly impossible to find local juice (Columbia Gorge juice is made in Washington, but do you think they grow the bananas and soy there?) and nothing is better with a cocktail than fresh squeezed blueberries, or better on a cold fall day than hot apple cider. Living without orange juice (if you are anywhere in the US besides Florida and California) will be much easier if you can experiment and have fresh local juice on hand. Other nice little gadgets: cherry pitters, nut crackers, loaf pans, and an immersion (wand) blender.
Tools for preserving the food:
Preserving food is an extremely critical part of being able to eat locally, unless you like potatoes and kale for every meal. So for this, there are a few tools I found to be extremely useful: a pressure canner, a giant stock pot (like 2 to 3 gallons), and a dehydrator. A pressure canner is useful for a person like me who has extremely limited freezer space but wants to keep vegetables around in the winter. And for things like jam and pickles all you need is a giant stock pot; this is also useful for sterlizing jars (especially if you do not have a dish washer like me). Another great option is dehydrating, which I find to be a much more appetizing and easy way to preserve fruit. The biggest expense I had this summer was jars (though I think I could have found them at a better price at a thrift store) and Pamona’s Pectin. Other optional things I found helpful were: old tights/nylons for storing onions outside, rubber tubs and saw dust for storing root vegetables, extra jars and containers for extra things like grain, flour, nuts, and dried produce.
Almost all of the items I mentioned I found at either at a thrift store or was passed down through my family. Remember eating locally is about community, friends, and family, as much as it is about economics and diet. So, get involved with those around you and combine tools and resources to help each other live happier healthier lives.