Wednesday, April 8, 2009

As you may know, the Rockford Register Star has a "Go Green" Blog with weekly posts on local eating in Northern Illinois (did you know that?). It can be found at here. I have my usual gripes with something like this... most "green" articles, blogs, TV segments, etc. tell you all about the latest and greatest "green" product that you need to BUY. Um, am I the only one who sees a problem with buying something new just because it's green?

Anyway, off that soap box... Here is my first submission to the blog which gives some basic information on getting started at adding local foods to your weekly table. Enjoy!

Eating Locally in Northern Illinois: A Beginner’s Guide

March 26th, 2009 04:36pm Lenae Weichel

You may have read about people across the country who are choosing to buy only foods grown and produced within 100 miles of their homes. Although this is fun and interesting, not to mention a great challenge, this all-or-nothing approach can be a bit daunting. You can easily begin to incorporate local food items into your everyday life by making small substitutions and changes to your weekly routines. The key point to remember is that every change you make, no matter how small it may seem, can have an impact in our community, to your health, to your pocketbook, and especially to your taste buds!

Here are a few things to consider both now and in a few short weeks when the local farmers’ markets open once again:

  • Seek out local foods now (yes, there are some available now, even in early spring!). Check out the Local Foods Directory to find what you are looking for. Items available now include eggs, cheeses and other dairy products, meats, grains, and some storage vegetables (potatoes, onions, garlic, dry beans, etc.).
  • Visit a local grocery store. There are several in the area (including The 320 Store and Choices Natural Market) but the best one for year-round availability of local food has got to be Bushel and Peck’s Local Market in Beloit. They have a variety of fresh, frozen, and raw ingredients (as well as processed foodstuffs) from the area in addition to great regional foods (and other non-local items).
  • Make a farmers’ market or farm stand visit part of your weekly routine – and go before your weekly grocery store trip. This will allow you to select the freshest produce to inspire your menus. If you have children, let each child choose one item and have them help you make a meal around that item; it’s a great way to involve them.
  • Read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan; it’s an interesting look at just where our food comes from and how it gets to our tables.
  • Plant something – it could be a full garden but consider starting smaller if gardening for food is new to you. Plant some herbs and grape tomatoes or bell peppers in pots and place them in a sunny spot outside. Water them well and enjoy their production all summer long. If you have a sunny window or two, start your seeds indoors (right in the pots) now to begin your harvest all the sooner!
  • Don’t limit yourself to the point of frustration – regional foods are great for all the same reasons as those from within 100 miles. There is wonderful produce grown in southern Illinois and throughout the Upper Midwest and it’s still better to buy from someone in the region than from thousands of miles away.
  • Wait to enjoy produce as it comes into season here – it tastes better and you’ll appreciate it all the more. Here is a general list of when produce typically ripens in our area.

Enjoy finding ways to add local foods to your own table and please comment if you have other ideas or recommendations!

And here is my added comment when I realized a mistake:

I can’t believe I failed to mention Eickman’s Meats in Seward (south of IL-20 on Pecatonica Rd.) in my list of local grocery stores! I think I was just thinking general markets as opposed to specialty stores. But still, I'm sad I forgot it. I was just out there again last week and they have a large selection of local meats (and eggs and sometimes cheese) of all types. Not everything in the shop is local but you can ask an employee to help you identify the local things.

I bought some bacon with no added nitrites, some bison steaks, and some whole hog sausage as well as a dozen eggs. Everything was great!

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