localvores/importvores/foragevores

There has been a lot of controversy lately around food source. With the 100 mile diet hitting mainstream, the concept of buying locally-grown fruits, vegetables, and meat, and even further into locally-crafted cheese, breads, etc., is being met with some opposition. In one corner: localvores and just your average green folk trying to do their best to consider the environment, are arguing that the food tastes better, travels significantly less to reach our gullets, supports local economy, and in the case of farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs you can even get to know and have a relationship with the person that grows your food.

On the flip side, these practical and logical cases for buying local have found their devil’s advocate. Researchers studying sheep being raised and bought in the U.K. versus sheep being raised in New Zealand and imported into the U.K. create a much larger carbon footprint with the former. The lush, fertile lands of New Zealand are a more natural host to the animals than the U.K., where the growing conditions have to be forced, simulated, and are just not a sustainable host to sheep. Read the article here.

I will write more about food miles and eating local in later posts. But for this one, I wanted to touch on a little-discussed aspect of eating locally. Foraging within our surrounding environments is something our grandparents and maybe even some of our parents did, and they are a good source of knowledge, but the availability and convenience of foods on shelves of grocery stores has meant that this practice is all but dying out. In Calgary, a forager in the know can load up on saskatoon berries, the succulent and gourmet-friendly morel mushroom, alley raspberries, dandelion greens (great in rice dishes, salads, and green smoothies), your neighbour’s apples (ask first), wild rose petals (a good source of vitamin C- and pretty tasty), nanking cherries, other edible flowers… If you are aware of other available edibles, make sure to post your comment!

The greatest thing about foraging is the connection to the food it allows. Aside from the fact that we were able to walk about 3km from our house and pick a bounty of saskatoons, enjoyed on cereal and in smoothies for days, it was so satisfying knowing we picked it with our own hands, with appreciation, and outside in the setting summer sun. Our food had a story and a history that we know very well. In the same area earlier in the year, with some guidance from a seasoned mushroom-hunter friend, we found our first ever morels. As Rob and I stood, massaging our necks from having our eyes fixated to the ground, and discussed how we didn’t even totally know if we would recognize a morel if we saw one, I looked down again and realized I was standing on one and they were all around us. It was a thrill to gather up these strange, brainy-looking fungi and take them home to fry in garlic and olive oil.

As the growing season ends, have a look in your neighbourhood and see who is picking their apples, or other fruits and who is letting them fall to the ground to rot. Think about how much carbon emission could be saved by eating those apples instead of the ones from New Zealand. Check out this non-profit in Victoria who says, eat them! or give them to us to donate to people that will. Or buy a dehydrator and sustain yourself over the winter with the fruit you collected in the fall (be like the squirrel).

Watch for Conscious Home’s mushroom-forays in the spring!

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