Local Means Nutritious, Even in Winter


Alissa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon of the 100 mile diet have been quiet lately, we think working day and night on the new book 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating that is coming out this spring. However they are not forgotten. Jeff Nield recently wrote an article on what every locavore in the north worries about at this time of year, which James MacKinnon called "the war vegetable season."- turnips, onions, potatoes, maybe cabbage. Tough foods for hard times. Well it ain't so, there is lots of good eating to be had. According to Vancouver nutritionist Paula Luther: "If we look at what's in abundance right now, we have lots of squash, carrots, things like that, which are actually beneficial at this time of year," she says. These winter foods are rich in beta-carotene, antioxidants, vitamin A — just the sort of nutrients our bodies need to fight off colds and maintain energy levels for the season.Nield goes on to give lots of reasons to eat these local veggies: "According to Andy Jones, the author of Eating Oil: Food in a Changing Climate, a typical calorie of food energy in the industrial food system will require ten calories of input energy. In an extreme example, it takes 127 calories of energy from aviation fuel alone to deliver one calorie of iceberg lettuce to the U.K. from the United States."

We quote from the article:

North Americans underestimate the variety of foods that are available locally through the winter. MacKinnon and Smith, for example, topped up their larder with the following at the December farmers' market in East Vancouver: red and orange carrots; three kinds of potatoes; sunchokes, a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes or sunroots; fennel bulbs; apples; hazelnuts; Swiss chard; various squashes; beets; parsnips; leeks; eggs; and three kinds of cheese.

And, according to Cynthia Sass of the American Dietetic Association and instructor at the University of Southern Florida, one of the most important aspects of eating with the seasons is that it leads people to consume a broader diversity of foods, and therefore of nutrients, rather than repeating the same weekly routine of meals.

And you don't have to give up summer foods, you just have to plan ahead.

While most of our grandparents, or certainly our great-grandparents, didn't think too much about nutrition, they did prepare for the coming winter. Pantries full of canning jars and root cellars were the norm. Today, the skills of food preservation are making a comeback. "When you go to the farmers' market, the people who grew [the food] are probably some of the best people to ask because, 'They grow it, they know it,'" says Sass. "But if you can take the time to make sure you have the skill and knowledge you need to fulfil your calorie requirements, then I think it's fantastic. Amazing. Even if we could just get people a little bit closer to that, it would be great." ::100 Mile Diet from the Tyee