How to Eat Local During the Winter Months

Greens rule during the colder months. winui/

It's easy to eat local in the summertime. Farmers markets are stocked with salads, tomatoes, fresh fruit, greens, and just about every kind of delicacy you can imagine. But farming is a seasonal endeavor (duh!), and as the winter kicks in, the choice of crops available locally dwindles. Even items like eggs can become less abundant, as chickens lay fewer eggs in the winter unless they are kept under artificial lighting.

But never fear. It's still perfectly possible to eat a solid portion of your diet from local sources. Here are some strategies to help you do it.

Eat your greens

From cabbage to collards to mustards, many greens are some of the frost-hardiest of vegetables — and they are extremely nutritious too. Look out for what's available at your market, and don't be afraid to try something new. If you're unfamiliar with some of the more sturdy winter greens, however, you might want to ask for recipes. Collards can take a whole lot more cooking than a bunch of spinach!

Go back to your roots

Root vegetables like parsnips, turnips, carrots and rutabagas are also good throwback options in the winter. It's not just that they stand the cold better than some crops — they also store for a long time. Check out our root vegetable 101 for a primer on what to do with these under appreciated vegetables.

Preserve what you can

Canning, pickling, fermenting and otherwise preserving produce can be a great way to extend the locavore season — either with your own garden produce, or by buying a glut from the farmers market. Of course, when it's late in the season, you may not be able to DIY your way to a full larder — but many stalls at farmers markets also sell preserved goods for sale.

Join a CSA

I love local food, but I'll be the first to admit that asparagus from Peru starts to look good when I lack inspiration for hardier fare. By joining a Community Supported Agriculture scheme, you may find yourself confronted by vegetables you wouldn't otherwise opt for, and you also may get a better chance of grabbing what's available. (One stand at our market offers an "egg CSA" in the winter, providing the limited eggs they have, and to subscribers only.)

Cut yourself some slack

Locavorism should be applauded, but very few of us manage anywhere close to a 100-percent local diet. That's particularly true in the winter. So I strongly recommend cutting yourself some slack, doing what you can, and remembering to enjoy and respect your food — wherever it comes from. Whether it's local or not, it's a gift from the Earth — and that's a gift well worth celebrating.

Jenni Grover MS RD LDN is a registered dietitian in Durham, N.C. She specializes in child, maternal and prenatal nutrition, with a focus on whole foods.