I can drive to Hood River or the coast and at the end of the drive feel as perky as when I began the trip. I can drive to Klamath Falls - about 275 miles from Portland - and I'll arrive a bit bleary-eyed and rubber-legged.
I can drive to San Diego - 1,000-plus miles from here - and I by the time I get there I am crabby, far from fresh and not much good for anything but sleeping by a pool for a few days.
How do you think a 1,000-mile trip would affect a head of lettuce?
According to the Web site of the Chefs Collaborative on Sustainable Food, food in the United States travels an average of 1,300 miles before it gets to the grocery store. The farther our food travels from the field to the dinner table, the more deterioration occurs, resulting in compromised nutritional value and flavor. I see it weekly: I can barely tuck a head of lush green fresh-from-the-farm lettuce into a produce bag, but can easily fit two heads of lettuce in the same size bag at the grocery store.
Eating 'locally' is easy to do in the summer. We have enjoyed eating from my husband Mark's garden and supplementing what he grows with purchases from the farmers' market. It always breaks my heart to have to buy tomatoes in the stores after we've finished his crop. But this year, I have a plan.
Mark and I are committed to cooking seasonally and will try to not buy out-of-season foods. We have discussed joining a CSA or buying from farmer's markets during the winter months. John Martinson, Jr. of Birds and Bees Community Farm encouraged Mark to start growing winter vegetables, as there is a range of vegetables that will thrive in our area.
We will get our fresh tomato 'fix' by eating our home-canned tomato sauce. We will spend a few days this fall canning applesauce, pears and plums, freezing green beans and peaches and anything else that inspires us.
That means we will eat lots of kale, squash, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and other winter vegetables. We will probably discover some foods we didn't know existed, too.
Why are we undertaking this adventure? Picture that less-than-lovely lettuce after the 1,000-mile road trip. I used to accept that as 'lettuce.' That's not what I am willing to feed my family.
We have a number of friends who are farmers and artisan food craftsmen whom we wish to support financially. If we don't learn to eat locally, the products we love to eat may not be available for our sons' families.
And of course, it boils down to simple dollars and cents. According to the Eat Local Web site, the vegetable farmer gets only 21 cents out of every dollar spent at the grocery store. When you buy direct from the local farmers, your dollar stays in the community; the farmer gets more than 90 cents of every dollar spent at his market stand.
Remember when we had to concentrate on making recycling a habit? We trained ourselves to separate bottles, flatten cans and cardboard. Oregonians are very uncomfortable tossing the recycling in with the trash - we just can't do it - recycling is that important. We can be leaders in eating locally, too.
EcoTrust has released the second Eat Local Challenge. I think you will find it interesting, fun and simple. You can participate by:
1. For one week, commit to the following:
n Spend 10 percent of your grocery budget on local food - grown within a 100-mile radius of Portland.
n Try one new fruit or vegetable each day.
n Preserve food to enjoy later in the year.
2. Track your progress using the Eat Local Challenge scorecard (download from the Web site)
3. Send Ecotrust your completed scorecard or submit your story about eating locally.
4. Send your story to me at the Review and Tidings offices, too; we want to share in your success.
Will you visit a few Web sites to learn more? For more information on the Eat Local Challenge got to www.eatlocal.net/challenge.html. See also www.localharvest.org, which lists area farms, CSAs, restaurants, etc. committed to sustainable and organic foods.
If you are interested in expanding your garden with winter crops, you might read Binda Colebrook's book 'Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest.'
Here's another fresh from the garden recipe - perfect for late summer al fresco dining.
Fresh Corn, Green Onion and Potato Frittata
Makes 4 light entrée servings
1 bunch green onions, white and green parts slices separately
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium sized new potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cups corn kernels, cut from 4 ears of corn
4 large eggs
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook white part of the onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over moderate heat, stirring until softened, about 2 minutes. Add potato and cook over moderately low heat, stirring until tender, about 10 minutes. Add corn and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, about 3 minutes.
Preheat broiler. Adjust rack so pan will be about 3 inches from element.
Whisk together eggs, mozzarella and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in potato mixture and green onions.
Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in cleaned skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Then cook frittata without stirring, shaking skillet once or twice to loosen frittata, until underside is golden but top is still wet, about six minutes. Remove from heat.
Broil frittata until top is just set and golden, about two minutes. Place a large serving plate on top of the skillet, invert skillet so frittata falls onto serving plate. Cool slightly or serve at room temperature.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, August, 2000