Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Going (Leafy) Green
Last week I had the pleasure of hanging out with a number of long-time co-op users, including two local organic farmers who seemed to know pretty much everything under the sun. They were currently living mostly off nettles, because they were out and growing on their property. I was there basically for the free meal and the company, but I guess you could say I was useful because I represented the "bottom line" voice: people who will even shop (shhh, don't tell, but it IS the major place to buy things in my town of 16,000) at Walmart sometimes for the lowest price. But they got me thinking.
When it comes to food, I feel like opposite pressures of pocket-friendliness and environmental friendliness are winging me back and forth. I go to the co-op so I can refill my old containers with spices, oatmeal, nuts, pasta, dish soap, etc. Cutting down on waste, that's a good thing. But I don't even look at their beautiful produce section, where it seems like everything is at least a dollar more, even if it is probably higher quality. Likewise, I don't like most of Walmart's practices--bullying producers, shutting out other stores, paying their workers too little--but we are on an extremely tight budget, and saving $10 a week on groceries is huge. And then of course there's the thought of just what kind of carbon footprint we're making, trucking all this food all over the place. Frozen foods are the worst as they have to be shipped frozen, which costs more energy. I say that, but is there a frozen pizza in my freezer? You bet. For those times when I work long days or have simply run out of fresh food and need to make something for dinner.
cost vs. health vs. time vs. shipping costs...(back, forth)
I'd say this all comes down to when I think about myself vs. when I think about the earth, or in Christian terms, being a good steward in how I spend my money, but it's not quite that easy. I know several people who just plain can't afford to buy anything other than the cheapest food possible, along with supplements from the food shelf. I'd like to introduce them to the co-op people who only eat organic (since when did kinder-to-the-earth become elite? that's another story). Some of them would get along beautifully. Some of them live on different planets. I"m grateful to know both, don't get me wrong. I guess you could say I'm floating in the space somewhere in between.
What to do?
We're almost in June, and I figure that the least I can do is to buy local produce during the next 4 months, when everything's growing and available at the local farmer's market. I know what to do in August and September, when everywhere you look there are fresh local bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, egg plant, zucchini, basil, bok choy, etc., but what about now? What is growing now? I've heard whispers of broccoli and asparagus, but I hardly know anything about these things. What comes up in June other than strawberries?
The lovely French foodie blog Chocolate and Zucchini was talking the other day about using radish leaves to make pesto, arguing that pesto is basically green leaves, hard cheese, and olive oil ground up. Intriguing, though I haven't spotted radishes with or without leaves during my grocery store forays to pick up, I confess, stuff for the next cookout. The chocolate cake posted for today also has my attention.
I'll keep my eyes out. This matters. I'd love suggestions.