Are carrots and turnips getting a bit old? What to eat?! It sure is tempting to reach for artichokes and avocados instead, but out-of-season produce is an extravagance because it is so energy-intensive to transport to your kitchen.
Eating frozen fruits and vegetables and local root cellar fare is your very best bet during the winter months. While keeping foods frozen in transport is also energy-intensive, you can sidestep that issue and still get more veggie variety in the winter by eating frozen food that’s packaged yourself or from local producers.
Frozen local foods retain much of their nutritional content, in addition to cutting energy costs in transportation. Full freezers are much more energy-efficient than sparsely filled ones, so pack them full during the harvest and enjoy the produce all year.
I recently took such pleasure in making a smoothie using organic strawberries I froze myself last year from some I bought at the farmers market. I made the smoothie in the middle of a snowstorm.
If you didn’t take advantage of freezing your local produce last harvest season, plan for next year.
Here are some tips to help you buy more local foods in the winter:
- Most frozen, canned or packaged food is labeled with the processor and distributor names on their packages. Let that address be your guide to help you determine if it is “local” or not.
- Most food is frozen on the West Coast because of the longer growing season. Food is frozen immediately in local processing plants after being picked, to retain the most nutritive qualities. However, East Coast processors do exist — so once you identify a brand, look for it whenever you shop.
- Dried food is also a nutritious option, and canned food may have a lower eco-impact than imported fresh produce. But make sure the cans don’t contain BPA in their lining),
- For more information on food-processing locations, contact the American Frozen Food Institute or the Food Institute.
In the meantime, root cellar and cold storage fare include beets, cabbage, carrots, leeks, onions, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, turnips, and winter squash. Take a new look at these staples and try some new recipes and interesting ways to spice up veggies to renew your interest.