Eat Real, Eat Local

Charmian-Logo-New-transparent

27 May Eat Real, Eat Local

DSC06426.jpg

Local food is important to me. Remember my conniption fit over Chinese garlic? Or the tears when my butcher announced his retirement? While I’m not a die-hard locavore who shuns coffee and gives friends grief over buying lychees, I think it’s criminal to import zucchini from another continent when it’s growing right here.

Sure, I quiz store managers about their suppliers and support local producers, visiting the small shops I trust. But sometimes an eleventh-hour need means a mad dash to a grocery store giant. While I look for food marked, “Product of Canada”, that’s not always possible.

And just how local is “Canada” when the True North stretches across five time zones and approximately 6,000 kms? What’s in season in BC isn’t necessarily in sync with Newfoundland, and provinces like Ontario can have different growing seasons depending on whether you live in the Niagara region or Thunder Bay. Since few of us grow our own vegetables (and I’m trying) it’s hard to know what’s in season and what’s not. Eating local isn’t as easy as it sounds.

That’s why I spent my weekend in Toronto at an information session hosted by Hellmann’s. Despite my aversion to mayonnaise, they invited me and seven other food bloggers from across Canada — flown in from BC to Nova Scotia — to take part in a discussion about local food. Yes, we were transported, fed and put up in a lovely downtown hotel, but they weren’t trying to sell me mayonnaise (which would have been futile anyway). They were asking for our input on local food.

In the past, Hellmann’s have been involved with urban gardens. This year, they’re not only supporting community gardens in big cities, they’ve created a website to help Canadians across the country eat more local food. Eat Real, Eat Local has a province-by-province break down of the fruits, vegetables, meats/poultry and “other” foods (grains, oils, lentils and seeds) that are in season. They also have one-click pledge forms and hundreds of seasonal recipes by Hellmann’s and Canadian Living. Yes, these recipes are mayo-centric, but you can alter them with ease.

When you visit for the first time, don’t skip the intro. It’s less than a minute long and contains some shocking statistics. The site is Flash heavy so it might take a while to load, but the information is handy. Within each province, you can learn what’s in season spring, summer, fall, winter and year round. As of today, BC has cherries and pears, while New Brunswick’s picking rhubarb and strawberries. By clicking about, I learned that Quebec grows quinoa while Manitoba has chickpeas.

If you feel inclined, you can sign a pledge to eat locally, send a shout out to your grocery store chain demanding more local food, or create your own locavore recipes. For each of these “actions”, Hellmann’s will donate 25¢ to Evergreen, a non-profit organization that makes urban communities more livable.

I still don’t like mayonnaise, but I love what this mayonnaise company is doing to support local food.

Regardless of where you live, do you make an effort to eat locally? If so, what are your stumbling blocks? What confuses you? Let me know and I’ll pass your comments along to Hellmann’s.

Related Post

Tags:
No Comments
  • Bellini Valli
    Posted at 09:23h, 27 May Reply

    If it is not local I at least try for Canadian whenever possible.

  • One of the Woodside Joneses
    Posted at 10:47h, 27 May Reply

    Just a quick vent before I run to the ‘local but we stock imported groceries’ market.

    My two latest pet peeves…ok make that three:

    1. chinese garlic bulbs

    2. trays of imported strawberries sitting next to local strawberries. I will never understand why someone would choose the imports. And why bother stocking both? Ditto for corn.

    3. now no hand slapping here from you foodies — but I have a child and yes, when out of season, I have been known to buy tinned fruit for the lunch box. My last purchase? Name branded peaches, packed on this continent, but produced in China. Chinese peaches? Ew. Last time for those. So horrible, I tossed ’em. Silly me. I thought living here so close to Niagara the manufacturers would figure out a way to CAN LOCAL FRUIT.

    ok. I’m done. For now anyway…

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 12:25h, 27 May Reply

    I try to eat local as much as possible … though its not always as easy as it should be. In one case, if I choose to shop at my smaller market, the produce may not be labeled at all. I just do the best I can and try not to eat wildly out of season.

    That said, I don’t always want to wait until the end of August for a tomato, you know? So I do buy some California produce.

    I’d say my greatest difficult is just that … living in an Eastern climate, but wanting/needed access to year-round vegetables.

    Anyhoo, what a great idea for the local eating site. Bravo to Hellman’s! I wonder if they have an American version?

    Lastly, I share your mayo disdain, Charmian!

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 12:25h, 27 May Reply

    I try to eat local as much as possible … though its not always as easy as it should be. In one case, if I choose to shop at my smaller market, the produce may not be labeled at all. I just do the best I can and try not to eat wildly out of season.

    That said, I don’t always want to wait until the end of August for a tomato, you know? So I do buy some California produce.

    I’d say my greatest difficult is just that … living in an Eastern climate, but wanting/needed access to year-round vegetables.

    Anyhoo, what a great idea for the local eating site. Bravo to Hellman’s! I wonder if they have an American version?

    Lastly, I share your mayo disdain, Charmian!

  • danamccauley
    Posted at 16:13h, 27 May Reply

    In summer and autumn I eat almost exclusively local. In the winter and early spring it’s so much harder here in Canada but I still do what I can.

    I have found some good organic ontario garlic One of the Woodside Joneses:

    http://danamccauley.wordpress.com/2009/03/19/garlic-news/

  • cheryl
    Posted at 18:36h, 27 May Reply

    I definitely try to eat locally as much as possible, but every time I pass up a cantaloupe or bunch of grapes at the supermarket because they’re from Mexico or Chile, and then go to someone’s house where they’ve got this vast array of (non-local) fruit, I think: wow, their kids are getting a much wider variety of fruit than mine. It’s, unfortunately, a really complex issue… more so in the “off” season, obviously, than now.

  • Marta
    Posted at 12:42h, 28 May Reply

    I like mayo that I make myself with olive oil and organic eggs, anchovies, lemon juice and Dijon… that is yummy!
    It’s so hard to eat local in Canada year-round! I stock up on local stuff while it’s available, but man, it’s hard through the winter…
    You’re so lucky you got that nice experience with Hellmans!

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 01:41h, 29 May Reply

    We try, we try. it is actually quite important to us to support local businesses of all varieties. It started with going to the corner liquor store not the chain (we’ve been privatized in Alberta for a long time). Now we try to by the majority of our food local too. This past winter I became more conscious of where my fruit was coming from. Yes, I just got sick of apples, pears, and my canned fruit. But then I chose a small supplier selling tropical fruits in season instead of flavourless melons at the supermarket. But I do cave on bananas and usually grapes.

    Ultimately, it often comes down to quality in the off season. I know that strawberries in January are going to be white, no matter where they came from. Thank goodness I had some in the freezer to at least treat myself.

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 01:41h, 29 May Reply

    We try, we try. it is actually quite important to us to support local businesses of all varieties. It started with going to the corner liquor store not the chain (we’ve been privatized in Alberta for a long time). Now we try to by the majority of our food local too. This past winter I became more conscious of where my fruit was coming from. Yes, I just got sick of apples, pears, and my canned fruit. But then I chose a small supplier selling tropical fruits in season instead of flavourless melons at the supermarket. But I do cave on bananas and usually grapes.

    Ultimately, it often comes down to quality in the off season. I know that strawberries in January are going to be white, no matter where they came from. Thank goodness I had some in the freezer to at least treat myself.

  • Rachel Dickinson
    Posted at 08:21h, 29 May Reply

    Eat local is great but in the winter in upstate NY that would mean only root veggies and onions so we adapt.

    Charmian, last night I dreamt that I was following you at a book reading but you came out and sat down at a drum set, back to the crowd, and began to do free verse and play the drums. Tough act to follow.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 08:53h, 29 May Reply

    Bellini, the definition of local is a challenge here. Some US products are geographically closer so it’s often a toss up between the carbon footprint and our economy. Tough call.

    Jill, rant away. And I won’t hand slap. Often tinned fruit is a better option since it is canned in season. I loath the vagueness of labeling (Chinese peaches packaged in Canada) and would love more transparency when it comes to our food sources. I’m also with you on canning local fruit.

    Diva, not sure if there is an equivalent American campaign, but there should be!

    Dana, thanks for the link to local Ontario garlic. Our local Zehrs has found a local producer due to mounting pressure, so speaking up can help!

    Cheryl, you raise an interesting point. I’m not against the occasional off season purchase, but it’s become a lifestyle here. How do you feel about flash frozen fruit? It’s come a long way since the frozen horrors of my childhood.

    Marta, love that you make your own mayo. The in season eating is so hard here. I’m going to experiment with preserving this year. Maybe our grandmothers knew best?

    Cheryl A, you raise a good point about quality. Strawberries in January look so amazing but are always a disappointment once you bite into them. I often wonder if we’ve forgotten what fruit should taste like?

    Rachel, you gave me the laugh I so badly needed. Free verse and drums? Yup, that’s soooo me!!

    Thanks to everyone for their input into local food.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 20:39h, 29 May Reply

    We are blessed to live in southern Ontario and me-I live a 10 minute drive from the Waterloo Market-I can get a topped up bucket of asparagus tips for $4.00, free range, no drug chicken and eggs…honey, tomatoes, berries ,apples etc etc ….we head out every Saturday morning-and the wonderful young guy who plays the blues in the first aisle is just an added bonus!

  • BBS
    Posted at 22:06h, 31 May Reply

    The Essex County Federation of Agriculture recently published a Local Foods map. It’s limited in some ways as they only published those sources who paid to be included in the map. Nevertheless, it’s a good start. They published 20,000 hard copies of the map for distribution. I took the locations they had listed on the map and created an Essex County Local Food Map using Google Maps. Every location listed on the map was also invited as collaborators. Initially the map drew around 2 to 3 thousand views, which then drew the interest of the Federation. They have since included the map on their website and the views are now over 21,000.

    I’m currently working on filling out enhanced profiles for each of the locations. As well, several other local food enthusiasts have joined up and we’re planning a second free online version of the map that will include all the local food sources that we can find.

    Google Maps is a great free resource that can be utilized anywhere to create your own local food map. Hard copy maps are great, but they can be expensive and time consuming to create. This is a simple free solution that can then be shared online through blogs, websites, Facebook and other social media sites. If anyone is interested in setting up or promoting their own local map online, I’d be more than happy to help.

  • BBS
    Posted at 22:10h, 31 May Reply

    Almost forgot – here’s a quick and rough example of how you can also use Google to create your own free site to help promote your map.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 11:55h, 02 June Reply

    BBS, what a super idea!! I love this. I’m heading to a conference this week but will get in touch with you about this when I return. I LOVE this. Thanks so very much for posting the information.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 05:21h, 19 June Reply

    I am 50 in vancouver area. I remember getting apples, peaches and necturines that were so juicy and tasty. Now they sit in cold storage for??? length of time. Or some comes green to ripen in time.
    There is no way of knowing how old the "fresh fruit is". Our Interior fruit farmers are cutting down trees, and selling the land or putting in grapes. Not that I have a gripe on grapes. But it would be a sad thing to loose our fruit farmers because we were to slow in supporting them.

Post A Reply to BBS Cancel Reply

Subscribe to my newsletter.

It’s easy. It’s free. It’s informative.

 

Receive weekly tips, recipes and advanced notice of upcoming events.

Yes, please!