Having just wrapped up my 30 Days of Sustainability project, I have now embarked on 30 Days of Eating Local & Organic. They sort of go hand in hand, except of course this 30 Day project will be completely focused on food.
I love food. I love healthy & natural. I love Austin and the cool people we have here. I love shopping for food and I really, really love cooking food. So all of these things combine to make me a perfect locavore. What is that, you might ask? It is a person committed to buying and eating local, organically grown food in an effort to be healthier, support your local economy and farmers, and have a lower impact on the planet.
As I discovered, to a far greater degree than I had already known, while doing my research and intense investigation into sustainable living practices for my last experiment – it is absolutely appalling how many chemicals, pesticides, preservatives and other nasty things go into a whole, whole lot of the food we are eating. Especially anything that is processed and mass produced. It really makes you not want to buy anything processed and in plastic or a can. The nutritional value of organic food is typically higher than non-organic – by over 20% for most vitamins and minerals. You can use the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce – and stay away from the Dirty Dozen: ALWAYS eat organic with these foods.
Not only is eating whole foods that are locally and organically grown much healthier for us, they also just quite simply taste a whole lot better. Like living sustainably, it’s not new or trendy or hippie – it is extremely old fashioned. We have, as a society, become completely disassociated from where our food comes from, how it is produced, and what is done to it before it goes into our bodies.
“Organic food increases nutrient intake, and alters consumption patterns away from less healthy choices. Organic food isn’t a luxury. It’s how food is supposed to be and a valuable part of any regimen intended to maintain, improve or restore health.” ~Dr Vaidehi Nawathe
I have always loved going to farmers markets, and fortunately I live in a place where being a locavore is relatively easy. Austin has a lot of farmers markets, and I live within 3 miles of five urban farms – two of which are right down the street from me and have market stands twice a week. There are even locally-based blogs such as Austin Locavores and Texas Locavore. We also enjoy a pretty decent number of restaurants that are committed to sourcing local, organic ingredients as much as possible; I wrote an article on the Top 10 Eateries where Local really means Local for AOL.
I started my Locavore Experiment on Saturday, June 25, by going to the downtown farmers market with my sweetie. We had a great time strolling around the dog and family friendly market, picking out delicious food as well as grabbing some Thai food for lunch. All in all, this is what we included in our haul:
1o pounds of tomatoes from Johnson’s Backyard Garden. Yes, you read that right – everyone is knee-deep in tomatoes these days and Johnson’s was having a fire sale at $1.40/pound. Keith ordered a 10-pound box ahead of time and we picked them up at the market.
- A bushel of okra, carrots and a sugar baby watermelon from Urban Roots. I can’t wait to try out this small, very sweet watermelon. I love watermelons but most of them are way too big and end up wasting a lot.
- A poblano pepper, three Asian eggplants, a bunch of garlic and some really cool bi-colored (yellow and green) squash.
- Free-range chicken from Smith and Smith Farms.
- Two quiches from Cake & Spoon.
- Pad Thai with tofu from Thai Fresh, a lovely market and kitchen that also offers cooking classes. I took one of Jam’s classes last year and became a whiz at one of my favorite foods in the world, Tom Kha soup.
- A fresh canteloupe/rosemary lemonade to wash it all down on the hot Texas summer day.
We brought it back and immediately got to work on the tomatoes, making fresh salsa with poblano and serrano peppers, garlic and cilantro; and marinara sauce by simmering with onions and garlic for hours. After all that hard work, we ended the night by concocting a bubbly cocktail: Prosecco, fresh pureed strawberries, crushed mint leaves from my herb garden, and a dash of peach brandy. Mmmmmmmm…
In other “eating local” news for the weekend, I had a meal at Kerbey Lane Cafe with my daughter. Kerbey Lane is a longtime Austin favorite and known for its use of organic, healthy, local ingredients. They have a wide range of vegetarian and vegan options, and I had a delicious grilled panini with mozzarella, tomatoes, caramelized onions and a red pepper pesto. Oh, it was accompanied by one of my all-time faves, sweet potato fries (I gotta start making those myself!). As the Kerbey Lane website states:
Our preference for local and fresh ingredients actually shaped our menu, versus our menu dictating the ingredients we used. High quality, homegrown produce and meats are at the cornerstone of our success.
More to come soon on this journey – I will be sharing recipes and interviews with some of the local farmers. If you have any tips or ideas for me, please feel free to include them in comments below or send them my way via the contact page. And below is a handy little reference guide for the Dirty Dozen – the worst produce for pesticides that you should ALWAYS buy organic – as well as the Clean 15. (Click the image to bring up a full size jpg version you can print!)