Thursday, February 9, 2012

Eating Local in Ontario: Root Vegetables

Recently I joined the wonderful Evergreen team as a Farmer's Friend volunteer.  The market, open on Saturdays, is a great place to feel like you're part of a community and to learn more about eating healthy, local, organic, seasonal food.  Since starting, I've already discovered vegetables that I never knew of or considered eating before. For example, celeriac (aka celery root), something I honestly had never heard of before but now love!

Celeriac is considered a root vegetable that looks nothing like celery but smells and taste very much like it ... and it's delicious!

Celeriac (aka Celery Root) ... yep, it's that weird looking
What are root vegetables?

The term "root" clearly gives it away meaning vegetables that grow underground.  Essentially, the part that you eat is the root, like carrots, potatoes, turnips or onion.  In Ontario, many root vegetables are in season during the colder or Winter months.  So, this year I decided that I am going to try my very best to eat local, in-season food as much as possible.

What's in season for February (in Ontario)?

Here's a list what I realistically can eat (or probably will eat) during the month of February:

Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Celeriac, Garlic, Leeks, Onions, Mushrooms, Parsnips, Potatoes, Rutabaga, Sprouts, Squash, Sweet potato, Apples, Rhubarb

I am very happy to say that I can actually find all of these fine vegetables, fruit and more at Evergreen Farmer's Market.

Why is eating local so important anyway?

Perhaps first, the better question to answer is, what does eating locally mean? Eating locally simply means  buy food that is produced, grown,or raised as close to your home as possible, including fruits, vegetables and even meat, eggs, and dairy. This is why Farmer's markets are perfect because the farmers come to you,  making buying locally easier then ever.

The health benefits to eating local organic products ...
  • Local organic food is fresher and requires little to no preservatives, which makes it healthier for you because it has no added chemicals or pesticides
  •  Local organic food is more nutrient dense
  • When you focus on eating more organic whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds you will actually eat much less because the nutrient-dense food will leave you feeling more satisfied
  • People who eat rich organic whole foods reduce their risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and even lower your blood pressure and cholestoral
  • At the end of the day, it just tastes way better!

The environment benefits to eating local organic products ...
  • Reducing food miles helps reduce the amount of oil that is used up in transporting foods from afar.  This in turn reduces your own carbon footprint in a big way
  • You help reduce wasteful plastic, paper and other non-recyclable materials that go into food processing and packaging
  • Most local or smaller farms don't use chemicals and grow organic produce. When shopping at the market be sure to ask what their process is

How the farmers and community benefit when you buy local organic products ...
  • By buying direct from farmers you cut out the middleman (i.e. food manufacturers)
  • Money goes directly to farmers and back into the land, which supports the local economy
  • You help endangered species from being harmed or killed from dangerous pesticides 

Tips to help get you started on eating local, organic food:
  1. Do your research and learn what fruits and vegetables are in season in your area.
  2. Visit your local farmers' markets as often as you can to get as much fresh food as you can.
  3. Buy in season and try canning your food yourself to enjoy out of season food when you want it.
  4. Find great healthy recipes online to help get you cooking more at home.
  5. When buying your food always read the labels, all labels to know where it's coming from and to know exactly what's in it.
  6. When shopping, ask yourself, can I find this locally? If you can, buy local to support your local farmers, growers and culinary craftsmen.
  7. Start by replacing just a couple of meals a week or one meal a day made with local, fresh products
  8. If possible, start your own vegetable garden.  There is nothing more rewarding then growing, picking, washing, and cooking your own food
  9. Can't grow your own? Can't make it to the market? Try joining your a local CSA program and get fresh, seasonal food delivered right to your door
  10. Eating local, organic food is one of the healthiest ways to live and helps the environment in a big way! 

The root vegetable for this week: Celeriac (aka Celery Root)

Braised Celery Root with Chickpeas and Saffron

Recipe from Vegetarian Times

Grated Carrot & Celery Root Salad with Hemp Seeds 

 Original recipe from Vegetarian Times

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup celery root, peeled and grated
  • 1 leek, chopped (about 1/4 - 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup shelled hemp seed
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. wine vinegar
  • 4 tsp. hemp seed or sesame oil
1. Mix the carrots, celery root and leeks together in a medium bowl.  Add the hemp seeds, mixing well.

2. Whisk together the mustard, vinegar and oil in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

3. Add dressing to the mixture and toss to coat.



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