Local Growing, Local Eating

| 10/6/2016 10:01:00 AM

Tags: local foods, menu planning, food preservation, Charlyn Ellis, Pacific Northwest, Oregon,

“I bet there’s a zucchini in there somewhere,” Mark commented as I slipped a calzone covered in chopped tomatoes in front of him last week. “Why would you think that?” I replied. Just because we have eaten a zucchini in some form  every day for the last two weeks does not mean one is hidden under the crust — although he was right. It was good, too.

In the past eight years, we have shifted our diet to encompass seasonal, fresh, local produce as well as locally raised beans and grains, milk and eggs. It was a gradual change brought on by our increasing abilities in the backyard garden as well as our connections to local farms. It nudged me out of a serious cooking rut and set new challenges, like how many different meals can we eat from a huge head of cabbage in February and what to do with a cucumber glut in August. (Think pickles.) It is a logical development for even an urban homestead. Local growing means local eating.

Menu Planning for Local Eating

Planning all-local meals can be difficult, as most cookbooks are not considering whether red peppers and winter squash are ripe and available at the same time. Some of my favorite old cookbooks have slipped to lower shelves because of this. To speed up the process, I divided the year into eight sections based upon the British Cross Quarter days as well as the equinoxes and solstices. I then rummaged through all of my cookbooks, dividing the recipes up into seasons and listing them on note cards.

I developed a good eye for soups and salads that fit the seasonal calendar and made alterations in old favorites that did not. After all, who really wants a red pepper, anyways? I then did some serious research in the public library, bringing home stacks of cookbooks that focused more on seasonal cuisine. Many were based in Northern California, which is not radically different from the Willamette Valley. For months, I copied out recipes onto more notecards, filing them away in the eight  sections.

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