“When far-flung families get together for Thanksgiving dinners next week, much of their food will have logged more miles than their relatives and friends around the table, finds a new study by the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental and social policy research organization based in Washington, D.C. In the United States, food now travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to table, as much as 25 percent farther than two decades ago,” say experts at the World Watch Institute.
"We are spending far more energy to get food to the table than the energy we get from eating the food. A head of lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley of California and shipped nearly 3,000 miles to Washington, D.C., requires about 36 times as much fossil fuel energy in transport as it provides in food energy when it arrives," says Worldwatch Research Associate Brian Halweil, author of Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market.
Problems with non local food
Our reliance on food picked long ago and far away undermines local economies, creates numerous opportunities for contamination, and increases fuel use, contributing to global warming. It also reduces the nutritional value of our food. Fresh vegetables and fruits can lose 50 percent of their carotene (pro-vitamin A) content and 60 percent of their vitamin C within three days of being harvested. A week after harvest, these nutrients can be completely lost. Rarely is fresh produce in the consumers’ mouths within a day of harvest when the nutritional value is greatest (assuming the produce was allowed to ripen fully).
Eating more locally grown food reduces fuel use
The solution is to base your holiday meal and the other 1094 meals a year on increasing amounts of locally grown food. According to some surveys, a typical meal comprised of locally grown ingredients may require four to 17 times less petroleum to transport than the same meal bought from conventional food chains.
How to choose more locally grown food
Picture a bulls-eye (dart board). We’re in the middle. That's your target! The next circle out consists of the rest of our state. The next represents neighboring states, our region, then our bio region. What you want to do is buy more food from the inner circles, the ones closer to home.
If you live in Arizona that means you’d make Arizona grown apples your first choice, California and Washington apples your second choice, apples from the Midwest your third choice, and those from the East coast your fourth choice. You’d stop buying apples from New Zealand. This is most important for the most perishable products and those you use in the largest amounts (vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs, seafood, and dairy products vs. dried herbs and spices). It also means you’d eat more apples and fewer bananas if you live in the U.S.
Going local---aim for progress, not perfection
While you may not be able to do this for everything you buy, you can make a positive impact on your local and national economy, world-wide ecology, and your health by increasing the amount of locally grown food you consume now and throughout the year. Don’t fret if you still buy some out of season, out of region foods. I do.
In some cases your budget or time constraints may limit your options. Think of it as a process––not an all or nothing proposition. Every local purchase counts as progress. Start by frequenting your local farmers’ markets. You may be surprised at how many foods grow in your state. Check the origin labels in stores and choose more foods grown in your state and in the U.S. rather than other countries. Let's give thanks for our local bounty.
You can make this recipe for Mashed Sweet Potato with Lime using locally grown red garnet, jewel, or beauregard yams, which are actually sweet potatoes but we're not going the get people to change their names now. Recipe below.
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What’s on your menu for Thanksgiving? Try this delicious recipe for the holidays and beyond.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Lime
Prep: 15 to 20 minutes/ Cooking: 1 to 1 1/2 hours/ Yield: 6 to 8 servings
This family-friendly recipe has been popular with children and adults. It’s easy on the cook and it reheats and freezes well. It also works well served at room temperature in a pack lunch.
Thoroughly baked sweet potatoes can taste delicious without sugar, syrup, or marshmallows if you get good ones. Look for small to medium-size sweet sweet potatoes with firm, smooth, unblemished skin (no mold). Avoid buying jumbo tubers because they usually taste tough and have a mealy texture. Bake them (don’t boil, steam or microwave) until soft and squishy. Note: White/beige sweet potatoes have a drier texture and do not work well in this recipe; they're great just not in this recipe.
6 medium to large sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds total):
red garnet or jewel yams, or Beauregard sweet potatoes
1 lime, rinsed and patted dry
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoonsunrefined coconut oil or organic butter or 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts, pecans, almonds, or pistachios for garnish
Finely chopped scallions for garnish, optional
1. Zest (finely grate) the colored part of the lime skin using a microplane grater or the smallest holes of a box grater. Halve and juice the lime and set aside.
2. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400˚ F. Scrub and rinse sweet potatoes. Pat dry but do not peel. Remove soft or black spots. Arrange in a shallow baking pan with sides. For ease of cleanup, line pan with unbleached parchment. Do not cover. Do not add water.
3. Bake small to medium (6 to 10 ounce) tubers for about 1 hour or until soft and juicy; larger ones may take 1 1/2 hours. If possible, turn them over halfway through cooking.
4. When cool, slip off and discard skins. Mash with half the lime juice, optional zest, and pepper. Taste and adjust with more juice and zest if desired. Spoon into an oiled heat-proof dish. Warm in a preheated 300˚ F-oven or toaster oven for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
5. Top individual portions with oil, butter, or nuts at the table. Garnish with chopped scallions if desired. Freeze what you don’t plan to consume within 3 days, refrigerating the rest. Reheat in a toaster oven for energy efficiency and maximum flavor
1 serving w/out oil or nuts: 183 calories, 3 g protein, 42 g carbohydrate (5 g fiber), 48 mg calcium, 17 mg sodium
* Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Orange or Tangerine & Ginger: Replace lime zest and juice with 1 orange or tangerine. Omit pepper; add 2 to 3 teaspoons juice from peeled, finely grated and squeezed ginger root.
© Copyright 2004, Rachel Albert-Matesz & Don Matesz from The Garden of Eating: A Produce Dominated Diet & Cookbook