How Committed is Your State to Local Foods?

By Michael Fenster, MD, FACC, FSCA&I, PEMBA

Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire, respectively, claimed the top three spots in the 2014 Locavore Index, a ranking of each state’s—and the District of Columbia’s—commitment to promoting and providing locally grown foods.

At the bottom of the heap are Arizona, Nevada, and Texas. The Lone Star State was dead last despite the fact that, according to the US Department of Agriculture, it’s the nation’s No. 1 cattle producer and ranks No. 3 for crops receipts—pre-harvest documents that represent a farmer’s obligation to deliver a certain amount of goods using future crops as collateral.

There are many reasons to eat locally produced foods, but the first among them is that they’re good for us. There’s a direct relationship between our food, environment, genetics, and health. Eating locally grown foods arguably gives us our most nutritious and most flavorful meals. Few choices have as many personal ramifications as that which we decide to stuff into our gob.

Here are four more reasons—the tip of the iceberg lettuce, so to speak—to go localvore.

Money

Eating organically, eating fresh, and finding the seasonal local foodstuffs can be expensive—if you do all your shopping at the supermarket. Finding healthful produce at venues such as a local farmers’ market can result in prices that are at least comparable, if not substantially less than, those at the popular grocery chains, which have the additional costs of shipping from foreign regions.

Likewise, visiting a local fishmonger can result in tasty bargains compared with flash-frozen fish. Shopping for what is bountifully in season, and thus locally overstocked, can mean big savings.

Finally, by purchasing items produced locally, your money strengthens the local economy and helps sustain the people producing the types of foodstuffs upon which you also wish to sustain yourself. That is the smiley face circle of life.

Freshness

In some ways, it’s amazing we’re alive considering all the food we eat that’s dead. Almost 60 percent of the modern Western diet is prepackaged, preserved, and processed.

Anytime we manipulate our comestibles in such a fashion, we add compounds that are not naturally found in them or remove parts that are. Those pre-cut vegetables in the supermarket may be convenient, but they started losing nutritional value and flavor as soon as they were sliced and diced.

Because local growers don’t have to add preservatives, or pick produce weeks early to ensure their produce will keep during shipping, local foods can be consumed at the peak of freshness and ripeness, which is when they taste their very best.

Rhythms

Our great hairy ancestors have always been omnivores.

There is ample evidence that the reason humans, as a species, became the smartest kids on the block is because we took advantage of a varied diet. This hardwired drive for diversity in dining is also one reason why restrictive diets that seek to severely limit what we consume almost always ultimately fail.

By leveraging the seasonal and cyclic variations that naturally occur, your palate will never become dull and monochromatic. A pleasant dining experience directly lights up our primal happy place, an experience that contributes directly to overall well-being.

Sustainability

All the reasons for purchasing high-quality local ingredients ultimately circle back and rest upon the concept of sustainability. Knowing where your food comes from, and being able to ascertain what it contains and what it does not contain, means you take a proactive step in determining your own health and wellness.

By focusing on procuring the best for you and those who depend upon you, you act to sustain yourself and your family. By affecting such a posture, you deliver local impact.

With enough people acting locally, the impact becomes regional; and if enough people demand control over their foodstuffs, then—like a crazy cat video gone viral—it can have a global effect.

 

Michael Fenster, MD, FACC, FSCA&I, PEMBA, is a board-certified interventional cardiologist and is the author of Eating Well, Living Better: The Grassroots Gourmet Guide to Good Health and Great Food. He combines his culinary talents and Asian philosophy with medical expertise, creating winning recipes for healthy eating. Visit him at whatscookingwithdoc.com

 

GET FARMERS’ MARKET FRESH

Have you already indulged in your local farmers’ market this summer? Try these recipes that will work—and taste—best with fresh, organic, and locally grown ingredients.

Kale Chips

1 to 2 bunches of Kale

¼ to 1/3 cup olive oil or avocado oil

Fleur de sel or sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Tear the kale leaves from the thick stems and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Wash kale, thoroughly dry with a salad spinner or kitchen towel, and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle kale with olive oil and toss well or gently rub to thoroughly coat leaves with oil. Spread kale in a single layer on a baking sheet; some slight overlapping is okay. Sprinkle with fleur de sel or sea salt to taste.

Bake until the edges are brown but not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can dehydrate the chips for at least 24 hours.

Leftover kale keeps in an unsealed container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Source: Thrive Energy Cookbook by Brendan Brazier

 

Carrot Apple Slaw With Cranberries

¼ cup unsweetened, dried cranberries

¼ cup very thinly sliced red onion

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

8 ounces carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into  ¼-inch strips

1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced into ¼-inch strips

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon slivered almonds, toasted

Put cranberries, onion, 1 tablespoon of orange juice, and the lemon juice in a small bowl and stir to combine. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the juices to penetrate the cranberries and onion. Put the cranberry mixture and remaining 2 tablespoons of orange juice in a large bowl with carrots, apple, mint, and salt and toss gently to combine. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss again. Scatter the almonds on the top. Source: Reprinted with permission from The Longevity Kitchen by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson (Ten Speed Press, © 2013).

 

Grilled Zucchini

1 to 2 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise in ¼ -inch thick slices on a mandoline

2 tablespoons grape seed oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat grill to high. In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with oil and salt and pepper to taste. Grill zucchini, turning once, until grill marks can be seen and zucchini is slightly limp but not overcooked, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and let cool. Cut in half, if desired, so they fit inside sandwiches. Source: Thrive Energy Cookbook by Brendan Braziee