The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. It is picked unripe, then gassed to ripen it. Or it is processed using preservatives or irradiation. Scientists are experimenting with genetically modified foods to extend the shelf life, but what about the unknown long-term effects? Local food is usually transported only 100 – 200 miles, has fewer pesticides and can be picked when ripe, making it fresher, more flavorful and more nutritious.
You want to eat seasonally as much as possible – lettuce, asparagus, new potatoes in the spring, peaches, plums, summer squash, peppers, berries, melon in the summer, apples in the fall, root vegetables in winter, citrus fruits in the winter, etc. In other words, don’t buy strawberries in the dead of winter. You know they have been shipped from thousands of miles away.
The New England growing season is short, so how do you eat locally the rest of the year? It’s a challenge, but summer’s bounty can be canned, preserved or placed in cold storage. Early fall is a great time to buy local food for preserving – farmer’s markets, farm stands and even supermarkets have an abundance of just picked produce. It’s important to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, so off-season, “local” might mean the East Coast.