There are plenty of great reasons to eat local: it’s great for the environment, as it cuts down on the amount of fuel needed for transport; it’s great for your health, because you don't need heavy chemicals or preservatives to keep them good before they get to your kitchen; and above all, it’s great for the community, which relies on dollars that stay in the area to thrive and grow!
So venture out into your backyard or neighbourhood and discover some homegrown flavor. You probably know that in Ontario, you don't have to stray far for great local tastes, but here are some tips to help you make the most of your surroundings!
1. Grow produce yourself!
If you can’t go to the farmer, become the farmer! There is nothing more local than your own backyard, balcony, or windowsill. Whether it’s simple herbs or larger watermelons, the most sustainable option is growing fruits and vegetable yourself.
Of course, it’s also the most challenging option, so if you need a little help, we’ve got some great pointers!
2. Know what’s growing locally and when.
Try to use ingredients you know are in season in your area. This way, you’re not relying on costly imports or strawberries from 3,000 kilometers away when they’re in season right around the corner.
If you need a quick summary, Foodland Ontario has a great chart on which you can rely!
3. Eat at locally-owned restaurants...
Avoid fast food or chain restaurants and seek out places that make it a point of using local ingredients. You'll get a more wholesome meal, support local producers, and not have to make a meal yourself. Win-win-win!
4. ... but also cook your own food!
In some places, though, finding a restaurant committed to using local ingredients can be challenging and/or expensive. The best way to guarantee your meals will be made with locally-sourced ingredients is to make them at home!
This doesn't just restrict itself to going out to eat; try to make more meals from scratch, rather than buying prepared foods that are frozen, freeze-dried, or canned. You'll be able to ensure all the ingredients you use are non-GMO, organic, or preservative free, with no nasty additives like sugar (which gets in everything, even when you least suspect it). You can even plan ahead and freeze meals, so you'll have something delicious and wholesome on hand! Speaking of which...
5. Preserve, preserve, preserve.
Ontario can seem inhospitable to a lot of fruits and veggies, but luckily, we have greenhouses. Greenhouses make a lot of produce available to consumers year-round, so one doesn't have to go very long without staples like mushrooms, cucumber, lettuce, and tomato.
But as the old proverb goes, "Man cannot live off salads and BLTs alone." The best way to get a variety of fruits and vegetables in the winter months is to jar or can them when they're in season. Sauces, jams, jellies, and preserves are great ways to lengthen those amazing tastes well into spring!