There was a time when all but the most exotic delicacies came from a very tight radius around where our ancestors lived. As the industrial revolution drew people from the countryside into urban areas, food sources began to move further and further away from the home. While there were some resurgences such as the Victory Gardens of WWII, for the most part food became something bought at grocery stores rather than grown in the backyard or down the road.
In the early 2000s, a new interest in food grown close to home began to take root in California. Coming Home to Eat by Gary Paul Nabhan was one of the defining books of this local food renaissance and it spurred a movement that has grown ever since.
In these days of global economy and with our planet on the brink of dangerous climate change there are so many reasons to eat locally. Of course one of the reasons is simply that food grown nearby is fresher, more flavorful, and helps support the local economy.
So what are some of the foods best eaten locally? Read on for five of them and tap into your local food scene today.
Here are the Top 5 Foods You Should Be Eating Locally 🌽:
1. Leafy greens
Arguably any vegetable is better when it’s grown nearby, but leafy greens are a good place to start. For one thing, these are some of the most nutrient packed options–kale and swiss chard, for example, offer up more benefits than I have room to list here. Couple that with the limited shelf life of greens and you have every reason to seek the freshest options available. After all, there is a huge difference between greens that have been harvested the same day you bring them home and ones that have traveled in plastic boxes from far away.
Here are a few of our favorite local leafy greens:
This superfood is absolutely packed with nutrition and is delicious eaten raw or cooked. Try it sauteed with some garlic and olive oil or in soup!
A spicy addition to any salad, arugula offers up heaping helpings of vitamin A and potassium.
A leafy green with a rainbow kick! Chard is an amazing source of vitamin A with 44% of your daily requirement in just one cup. Chard does best when cooked but it can be eaten raw, too.
I love these bright little greens with just a little bit of lemon juice and a dash of salt. Your immune system will love them too, they offer up 24% of the daily value of vitamin C per one cup serving.
When you go to any grocery store whether you’re in California or Maine you will find a wide variety of fruits to choose from. Sure this is lots of fun and once in a while who doesn’t want a delicious papaya or an exotic dragon fruit, but before you buy, stop and think where that fruit came from. Most of the US is not environmentally equipped to grow tropical fruit. In much of the country even oranges are shipped from far away. When you combine the energy and water needed to grow the fruit in the first place with the distance many of them have to travel before they appear in your local produce section, what you have is one whopping carbon footprint.
Choosing to eat fruit that is grown close to home when it’s in season immediately eliminates the need for long distance transport. You get sweet, fresh fruit grown by people in your own community and you help ease the burden on our already maxed out planet.
There are few flavors that better capture summertime than fresh strawberries. And each berry carries a generous helping of vitamin C to help you get ready for cold and flu season when summer fades.
Not only are these sweet little berries versatile, eat them raw, toss them in a smoothie, bake up a storm with them, they are also rich in antioxidants.
An autumn classic, the apple has roots in our food culture deeper than most other fruits. And you know what they say about an apple a day…
Corn is the biggest crop grown in the United States. It is used for all sorts of things from livestock feed to sweetener to fuel additives. Corn is a fertilizer heavy crop which means it carries with it a complex carbon footprint. While it’s fair to say that the large-scale corn crop isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, you can do something to eliminate your personal stake.
If that’s not enough to convince you, think about the last time you bit into sweet corn on the cob picked fresh that day. There is really nothing like local corn. In our house, we wait all year for that golden season when the corn is ready. There’s a lot to be said for only eating a food when it’s in season. It makes for a special meal every time.
It is well known that factory farming of livestock contributes mass amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas, to the environment. Unfortunately, inhumane practices and foodborne illness are not uncommon features of the industry. In order to prevent inevitable infections from cramped, unsanitary living conditions, factory farmed livestock are dosed with antibiotics which in turn set up the potential for resistant bacteria. Superbugs, anyone?
Local farms raising meat on a small scale typically do so in a far more humane way with smaller herds or flocks and the ability to free range their livestock. When you buy meat locally you are cutting back your own personal carbon footprint by not engaging in large-scale farming and you have the ability to see the conditions in which meat animals are raised. Small-scale livestock farming typically eliminates the need for antibiotics and allows the animals a stress-free existence overall.
Like the meat industry, large-scale egg production navigates some troubled waters when it comes to humane practices and hygiene.
On the other hand, local, small-scale egg farms raise up happy chickens and often have plenty of space for them to free-range. Studies have also shown that farm fresh eggs have more health benefits than factory eggs including lower cholesterol, higher values of omega-3 fatty acids, and increased vitamins and minerals.
The bottom line on eating local
There’s just something about eating food grown close to home that makes for an all-around more satisfying experience. You know you’re supporting a healthy local economy and you can trace your food back to its literal roots. When you opt for food grown close to home you also help limit your contribution to climate change. All in all, there are so many great reasons to eat local so skip the grocery store and seek out your nearest farmers market.