It’s August, and with all the rain we’ve had this summer my garden is looking lush, if a bit unruly.
Last August my year-long challenge of eating food raised within 250 miles of my apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn officially ended. Before this August comes to an end, I want to share what has changed–and what hasn’t–since The 250.
First, confession time. These are the non-local foods that have crept back into my diet since The 250 ended:
Crackers. During The 250, I made them, but I haven’t done so since. I’ve started buying them from Hot Bread Kitchen, but although they are locally made (and delicious!), they aren’t made with flours from locally grown grains.
Commercial yeast. I’m still baking bread with local grains and flours, but while I was away from NYC earlier this year I forgot to put my sourdough starter into the freezer and it died. That starter was the leavening for every loaf of bread I baked during The 250. Since it died, I’ve been using commercial yeast instead. I do plan to get another batch of starter going this fall.
An occasional beer. There are locally brewed beers, but there are no commercial beers made with local grains or malts.
Pasta. I still make my own from local flour and eggs sometimes…but sometimes I don’t. This should be lumped with the store-bought crackers into the sheer laziness category.
Fresh ginger. I love my native Northeastern wild ginger (Asarum canadense) for flavor, but it is too stringy to use fresh and really needs to be dried and ground. A bit of fresh ginger, the commonly sold Indonesian stuff (Zingiber officinale), has found its way into some of my chutneys and Asian-style dinners this year.
An occasional non-local wine. I’d guesstimate that about one out every ten bottles of wine that passes through my door these days isn’t local, although I do still try to go for organic when that is the case.
An occasional lemon or lime.
Nuts. There are black walnuts, butternuts, and other nuts out there growing wild in our region, but none offered commercially. I like walnuts on my salads. I missed them.
Raisins. I keep hoping these will show up at the farmers’ markets, since we’ve got plenty of grapes. I tried drying my own in the dehydrator but instead of turning into raisins they kept their round shape and developed a texture something like Cheerios. Interesting, but not very good.
That’s it. I still haven’t bothered restocking black pepper or sugar because I really haven’t missed them at all. I gorged on avocados while I was out in California last month, but haven’t felt an urge to splurge on one since I got back. No particular lust for pineapples, mangos, or other tropical fruit, either.
Okay, enough with the confessional part of this post. Here is a big change I’ve noticed since The 250 ended a year ago: it would be much, much easier to do if I was starting now than it was when I began the project back in 2007.
Those locally grown dry beans that took me four months to track down? They’re now available from Cayuga Pure Organics at the Union Square market in Manhattan every Wednesday and the Grand Army Plaza market in Brooklyn every Saturday. Local butter? No need to wait for farmers’ market days because my neighborhood supermarket now carries Ronnybrook’s. And on and on…the locavorian life has definitely gotten easier in New York City during the past year.
The implications of that fact make me grin. May it continue to get even easier for people to find local ingredients! Please vote with your fork and keep the momentum behind the sustainable food system movement growing.
On a different note, here’s a post about the foraging class I gave last weekend on Soilicious, an excellent blog for urban gardeners interested in growing food: You Can Eat THAT? Urban Foraging with Leda Meredith
Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith