Local food and seasonal eating do go hand in hand, but you would be surprised to find that locally we have access almost year round to many of the foods produced in our region.
Local food does not have to be a dream in February, something to look forward to after the thaw, but actually is pretty attainable right now.
I am not promoting a complete shift to a local diet but maybe a little celebration of local food when it seems like the only thing we are growing locally are icicles.
I am hoping people who are not already committed to local foods might try just one meal featuring a local food in the next week or two. You can even just have one food at your meal that is local.
This could be as easy as raiding your freezer for those strawberries your froze, looking carefully for some products that are made in New York at the grocery store, or better yet, visiting the indoor farmers market at the Plattsburgh City gym, held on the second Saturday of the month, to see what the producers themselves have to offer.
You can also contact many growers directly through websites and email, or an old-fashioned phone call, to see what they have available.
Do not worry that not every food on your table is locally sourced — though big bonus points if you manage that. The idea behind celebrating local food, especially in northern New York in the winter, is really just to recognize what our neighbors and land do produce.
Working at Cornell Cooperative Extension, I have been able to see some impressive innovations on local farms and think it would surprise most people to learn just how long the growing season has become and the variety of goods being produced.
Some simple ideas for adding local food to our meal are:
▶ Raid your freezer and cupboard and incorporate any food you may have put away in the fall. Don’t let all that hard work sit around for too long.
▶ Purchase local apples from the grocery store and bake them with some pork or chicken (which you can buy from local sources) and then use more of the apples in a dessert.
▶ Stop by the farmer’s market and pick up some root vegetables to roast as a delicious side to any dish. Try adding a little local wine or cider to the roasting pan toward the end of cooking to add flavor.
▶ Use locally roasted coffee beans in a rub for some local, grass-fed beef steaks.
▶ Pick up some locally grown salad greens for a very fresh side (yes, even now) and top it with a dressing that uses local wine or cider.
▶ Have a potluck and ask your friends and family to bring a locally themed dish (be ready to give some tips).
There are many ways to celebrate local food throughout the year, but I think having a local food dinner when there is still snow on the ground will be a lot of fun.
For more ways to celebrate local food, check out the Cornell Cooperative Extension website http://blogs.cornell.edu/cceclintoncounty/and read North Country Gardening for some upcoming events, including a “Meet the Farmer” event in early March and future local food dinners.
Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.