Gas costs a lot. Refrigeration costs a lot. Loading and unloading do, too. So it makes a lot of sense – even in just financial terms – to eat food that is grown locally. A lot of people are beginning to question our desire for out of season foods – why eat strawberries in January in Seattle when they’ll be fresh in May? Especially if they’ll have to be shipped from South America? How good can they taste after travelling for weeks?
I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She and her family set out to prove to themselves that they could eat from within 100 miles of home – with only a few exceptions. (Olive oil and flour for example) They grew a huge garden, raised chickens and turkeys, and bought the rest of their meat from local farmers. No more asparagus in winter for them!
I love buying produce here. But I am struggling to figure out what the seasons are for produce. Mangos and avocados I know – I see the trees around here and can watch the fruit ripening.
Being in a new climate has raised hell with my preconceptions of seasons. When are Mexican strawberries locally available? How can I do my part in buying locally grown produce without the basic schedule in my new environment? I haven’t had any luck Googling, so I will need to talk to the fruteria owners and read whatever labels I can find. Even in our mercado you will see apples with stickers from Washington State!
I know Mexico values the US market for their produce, but the whole transporation issue means that it won’t be the last time tomatoes or jalapenos or cilantro are suspected when illness strikes.
When food is being transported a long way, varieties are selected based on how well the produce travels and how uniform its shape is. This isn’t a new concept. I remember that my father (a food consultant) was interviewed in 1974 lamenting the loss of taste in tomatoes which were being bred for their square shape and thick skins.
In the US, the Slow Food movement, the Locavore movement, and the proliferation of farmer’s markets and organic produce create a support network for people who would like to eat good, tasty food that grew nearby. Heirloom varieties are sought after for their taste and their seeds that grow true to the parent.
Here in Mexico, we can buy from our local fruteria or mercado whenever possible. I occasionally see organic produce in the supermarket, but unfortunately it usually looks pretty unappetizing. Until I figure out the harvest schedule in our area Paul and I plan on driving into the countryside occasionally where you’ll see heaps of watermelons or other produce being sold from a stand or back of a truck.
How else can we buy the best produce? How can we understand the use of pesticides in an individual crop? Is there a movement here brewing that will reduce the use of pesticides and even maybe embrace organic growing? Do any readers have sources they can share with information that would help me sort this out?