Sunday, January 25, 2009

Local = Seasonal

I was at a gathering of the Lady Rogue Business Network recently and I was spouting off as usual about growing food, local food systems, etc. During a break, one of the other members told me that she is considering joining a CSA and that she was interested in eating more seasonal food but she had know idea what foods were available in any particular season. I was a bit taken aback by this at first but, as i thought about it, i realized that since most people have no experience with farms or even gardens there is really no way for them to know unless they do some research. My first thought was that to help her i could make her a list of local fruits and vegetables in each season but i quickly saw the flaw in this. 
Here it is. Suppose she looked at my list and saw that apples are in season now. She decides to get some apples and bake an apple pie. She goes to the grocery store and buys some apples, some agave nectar, some cinnamon and a pie crust and goes home and makes a delicious pie. She invites some friends over, serves the pie and proudly tells them that they are eating a pie made with seasonal fruit. Well what she didn't know was that the apples she used were much more likely to have been grown in Washington, or New York or New Zealand than Georgia. Some stores are now labeling their produce with the location in which it was grown but you still have to make the connection between local and seasonal.
I think that most people use "seasonal" as a synonym for "local" but as we saw in the example above that may not be the case. I think that the term "seasonal" has become part of the lexicon mainly through "foodie culture" (i hate that word by the way). It sounds cooler to say "seasonal" and is used as a marketing tool by chefs and restaurants. Any vegetable or fruit that is available is in season wherever it was grown. The issue is the amount of energy required to transport the food over long distances. On average food travels 1500 miles from the place it is grown to the place where it is consumed. So, i have concluded that the term seasonal is irrelevant and muddies the water for those who are not immersed in food culture. We need to be sure our words clearly convey the meaning we intend them to. 
Local = seasonal but seasonal does not always equal local.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

12º in the Morning

I asked some horticulture friends of mine yesterday if they could remember the last time the temperature dropped to 12º in Atlanta. None of us could but we figured it had to be at least 15 years ago. We are not used to this any more. We are used to being able to have fresh greens growing in the ground all winter long with minimal or no protection. Earlier in December we had some lows in the low 20's. I covered most of the greens with frost cloth. Some were left with out any cover. Both the covered and uncovered plants came through just fine. Just before Christmas the temperature plummeted to 18º. I got lazy and didn't cover anything. I paid the price. The greens took a beating, the broccoli was ruined and the lettuce wiped out.
In the morning it will be around 12-15º. It is not expected to get much above freezing for a couple of days. I learned my lesson. I covered the recovering greens with frost cloth yesterday while the air, and the soil was still relatively warm. Today it will not get over about 35º. My theory is that by covering yesterday i am trapping as much soil warmth as possible to help protect the plants over the next few days. Do i think my efforts will save the greens? I'm doubtful but Monday we will see.
Will we have to start buying greens and other vegetables from the coop or grocery store? Nope. We have carrots growing. They are covered and will be fine. In our cold frame we have been growing mixed asian greens, lettuce, pea shoots and perennial onions in pots.(these i moved into the basement yesterday afternoon where they will remain until this spate of cold passes on). We have vegetables frozen and canned just for such a occasion.
Tomorrow i'll be working in the basement planting seeds for our early spring crops.