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Archive for the ‘Organic Food’ Category

I love apple pie.  Actually, I love most pies – key lime, lemon meringue and a wonderful gem called chess pie here in the Carolinas.  My favorite pies, however, are fruit pies.  Apple, cherry, blueberry, strawberry.  I could go on and on, but I’m making myself hungry.

Last week, while sharing a slice of apple pie with a friend, I heard disturbing news that would make any fruit lover shudder.  Apparently the early spring that the entire Northeast has enjoyed is causing a shortage of …. apples.  And not just apples, but also cherries, blueberries and other fruit crops.  The reason for this shortage?  Well, fruit trees do not generally follow an internal calendar and instead rely on the warmth of the sun to determine when to sprout leaves and flowers that will eventually turn into the fruit that we all love.

Ordinarily, the natural ebb and flow of the seasons yield fruit crops that we all can enjoy.  But this year, spring came early.  The warmth in March caused fruit trees in orchards from Virginia to Michigan to stretch their limbs out and bloom early.  Which would have been wonderful for everyone except for the heavy frost that hit in April.  And killed the crops.  Literally.

Here’s one thing you don’t think of when you think of global climate change – apples.  Or cherries, or blueberries or even oranges.  We expect our fruit to follow the normal seasonal schedule and arrive in our grocery stores (or produce boxes!) on time and as yummy as ever.  But when nature does not follow the “normal” schedule, even the trees and plants become confused.  And unfortunately that means less tasty fruit for you and me. And even worse, less revenue for the fruit farmers.

I do not claim to be a climate change expert, but I do know that the rising amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere can (and do) cause disruptions to the natural rhythm of the seasons.  While the early spring encourages us to throw on our shorts and flip flops and enjoy the warm weather, it is easy to forget how the early warmth may be harming other parts of the ecosystem.  Other parts that we depend on for food, water and yes, even apples.

So what did I do after I learned the news about the shortage of apples?  I went home and mowed my lawn with my push mower powered entirely by carbon-free me – with a little help from that yummy apple pie.

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Over the years, my husband and I have developed a running joke when we go out to eat.  Each time we see something listed on a menu as “locally sourced,” we assume that it is just a way for the restaurant to charge more – kind of a loyalty program for locals.  We roll our eyes as if to acknowledge that we are on to this marketing ploy, this “take pride in your country and buy American” type of manipulation that in the past had only been used by auto makers and flag manufacturers.  We nod conspiratorially at each other – yep, here’s another restaurant trying to take advantage of the green movement.

In reality, however, I know this is not what they are doing. All jokes aside, we generally order the local foods because they taste fresh and yummy.  When we travel, we do this because we want to taste the foods that are local to the community.  When we are home, we want to support our local farmers and our local restaurants.  As a graduate of an environmental school, I am very aware of the benefits of locally grown foods.  How a strawberry picked 25 miles away in an organic garden is much more tasty and healthy (and  not coincidentally, environmentally sustainable) than one picked in California (sorry California friends!).

But while I appreciate the tastiness of locally sourced foods at restaurants, it has only been recently that this idea of local foods has come home to my own kitchen.  Up until a year ago, I purchased my fruits and vegetables at the neighborhood grocery store. While I was picking up my usual household items, I would comb through the produce department and purchase my fruits and vegetables. If they looked fresh, I assumed they were.  Even if they just flew in from Mexico.  Mexico is local to someone, isn’t it?  While the produce didn’t always taste exceptional, my kids would eat it and I felt successful in getting my family to eat their daily requirements of fruits and vegetables.

Last year, my outlook on local foods changed. After experiencing some health issues and reading more about the harm that pesticides can do to the produce, to our land and to our bodies, I decided to focus more on organic foods.  And yes, I decided to look more closely at  locally sourced foods.

A yummy selection of fruits and vegetables from The Produce Box

Now, when I say locally sourced, I do not mean a garden in my back yard.  My thumbs are not green enough for that.  No, I am talking about my new love  – the Produce Box.  Ah, the Produce Box.  Once a week, a box of deliciously fresh and tasty fruits and vegetables arrive at my door (well, usually my cooler) just waiting to be chopped, cooked, or just popped into our mouths.  That first moment when I pull the food out of the cooler and try to think about what I will fix with it are magical.  And this is coming from someone who has never cooked bok choy in her life.  I rush to the computer and look up all sorts of crazy recipes to make with my fresh, locally sourced food. The most crazy thing about it is that my kids are eating these new (and not so exotic) vegetables too.  Kale chips anyone?

Some friends have argued that the local foods in the produce box or at stores like Whole Foods are more expensive.  I suppose this may be true – I have not done a complete breakdown of the costs.  But, I will tell you one thing.  Locally sourced food tastes better, it is better for us and it supports our community.  I’ll pay an extra 5 cents an apple for those benefits.

My box arrives tomorrow and I can’t wait.  This week I’ve chose Box ‘B’:  Blueberries, Broccoli, Red Potatoes, Beets, Kale, Sweet Onions, Tomato.  Yum … my mouth is watering already.  Anyone have a good recipe for Beets?

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