These days it seems that almost nothing is “Canadian” and almost everything is “made in China.” Even the food we eat often comes from tens of thousands of kilometers away, and because of this, Canadians are able to eat exotic fruits and vegetables year-round.
While importing foreign food is beneficial for the world economy, it is also important to buy locally-produced food.
And eating local is easy, even in the winter.
According to Foodlink Waterloo Region, “you can eat local food at every meal on any given day of the year. It’s just a matter of being prepared.”
Even with cold temperatures fast approaching and markets closing down for the season, there are countless foods that are available, and even harvested, throughout the winter months and year-round.
Potatoes, for example, are generally harvested until Nov. 15, but are always available. Carrots, garlic, leeks, pears, soybeans, squash, sweet potatoes and turnips are also available locally until late winter.
And don’t forget about meat, eggs and dairy, which are all produced and available from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
For those foods that are only available throughout the summer and fall months, Foodlink Waterloo Region suggests loading up on fresh fruits and vegetables “as they become available in the summer, and either freeze or preserve the excess for winter consumption.”
Not only does eating as locally as possible benefit our farmers, it is also gives buyers a more environmentally friendly option.
“Transportation and fuel is an issue,” said Tim Beirnes, owner of TJ’s Farm Fresh in Cambridge, adding that eating local is a “green idea.”
Locally grown produce is also healthier.
“Canada is not under the same rules,” said Beirnes. “Pesticides in South America or China wouldn’t be legal or available in Canada.”
And according to Bill Stevens from Thames River Melons in Innerkip, locally-produced food is fresher.
“If the food is fresher, it is therefore healthier,” said Stevens, adding that locally-produced food is not nutritionally depleted in transport.
In a Jan. 18, 2012 CBC column on eating local food in winter, Sarah Elton gives even more options for keeping meals as local as possible during those cold months.
“There are greenhouses that produce vegetables all year- round,” she said, “including lettuce, greens, sprouts and cucumbers. Ontario greenhouse tomatoes and peppers will start growing in March.”
If you are interested in eating more locally-produced food, there are many options available including farms, markets and even restaurants in Waterloo Region such as Borealis Grillhouse & Pub in Kitchener.
For more information, pick up a “Buy Local! Buy Fresh!” map from your local farmers’ market, or contact the Region of Waterloo. You can also visit Foodlink Waterloo Region’s website, www.foodlink.ca, to find out where you can buy specific items and at what time of year. There are also recipes and information about food storage and nutrition.