Wondering how to get started down the path towards a ‘Local Lifestyle?
Stacey Fokas’ freshalicious® cookbook is the ultimate kitchen sidekick. It’s a storehouse of information about sourcing local and cooking in-season, sourcing food as close to home as possible and a big advocate of local and organic! A glimpse of what’s in the cookbook – here’s Stacey’s 5-point Guide.
1. Whenever your buying food, think fresh and in-season.
Plan ahead…before going to your favourite grocery store, refer to my Ontario Listing of Seasonal Produce keeping in mind the season you’re in. Look for signs that identify with your home base. For example, Foodland Ontario issues all kinds of banners, signs and logos that indicate and support Ontario Farmers. Look for Country of Origin, and always support as close to home as possible.
Fresher produce, allowed to ripen more fully, and always maintains a higher nutritional value. A reader suggests taking my cookbook to the store as a handy tool to inspire you for what you may want to cook over the next week. Think “eat local”…what a great way to think about our food! Local and in-season go hand-in-hand. You will be eating the freshest most nutritious foods available that are at their best when it comes to their flavour.
Start looking around to discover which stores are supporting “local farmers” and which ones are not. Is there a possibility that we are looking and feeling like the food we eat these days? Are we processed? Are we taking away the healthy years ahead of us? Take action…think about it. We are designed to eat foods in their natural state: raw, blanched, broiled, baked, sautéed, steamed, fried, boiled, broiled at home. Foods that are processed, torn apart, re-engineered and recreated though – they are risky and eating too much of them may result in diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and an increased chance of heart attack and cancers.
2. Try… choosing foods that are GMO-free.
Especially if you have little ones with food sensitivities, skin conditions or food allergies. If you can afford to eat local organic this is ultimately the best way to eat. It is important to know that if you eat foods treated with pesticides, you will probably have pesticides within you. Save our bees that pollinate our food by choosing to eat local organic foods.
When reading food labels, look for products that are using organic ingredients, and are non-GMO (no genetically modified ingredients). There are no studies done that I can find that says they are a healthier choice, so they can be easily avoided by sourcing products not using them. Here in my local community we have the Organic Council of Ontario that is helping promote Organic Growers and their products. This is part of our Foodland Ontario program that helps consumers identify with locally grown produce. Both links are provided on my home page.
3. Start reading the labels on the food you buy. Educate yourself about what’s going on your plate.
It matters what is in the food you buy. Take the time to learn about food ingredients and if they actually are good for you. Food that’s able to stay on the shelf for a long time before it goes bad means preservatives. That, in and of itself, should motivate you to look for honest labels; healthy, natural, whole ingredients, and avoid things like fructose, glucose, fillers, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavours, dyes (food colours) artificial sweeteners and foods that have no fat. All those foods with ingredients on the label that you can’t understand – just leave them on the shelf.
How is it that we are willing to spend our money on brand name clothes as well as take the time to read the specs on the vehicles and smartphones we buy, yet we don’t have the time to investigate the very food we put into our bodies and are largely unwilling to pay that little bit extra to buy local? It’s crazy.
Get reading those food labels, and make sure you ask about Country of Origin for all food products. You’ll be amazed at how a thing so simple as reading food labels changes the way you eat altogether.
4. Support local grocery stores, country markets and farmers markets.
Many of us are fortunate to have Farmers’ Markets and local farmers in our communities. This is a great way to reconnect with whole food and where it comes from. Some of us do not and instead rely on our local grocery store of choice.
Try looking for beef, chicken, pork and fish that is sourced locally, and ideally grain-fed and pastured. Animals that see the light of day are much healthier animals. Many large and small Canadian grocery stores are now carrying these products because discriminating consumers are increasingly asking for them.
A good example of what I’m talking about: we should have locally-produced garlic available all year long in Canada. Yet it disappeared for a while, replaced by Chinese garlic, and I’m not liking it. The Chinese do not have the same growing practices and are using techniques for farming that would scare the pants off you! Here are some details of the most current soil/pollution issues in China. What may lay in soil, and fall from the sky will always find its way into food and water. We are right to distrust food that is the result of unethical practices. And we are right to distrust food that is grown in areas of the world where there are few checks on water quality and air pollution.
Food grown in soil close to home, watered by local clouds – this is the food I trust.
If you have the time and the inclination, I whole heartily recommend little day trips to your local farms and food producers. Pack a lunch, hop in the car, and meet the excellent people who farm and produce right here in Southern Ontario.
5. Growing your own food is not only rewarding but fun for the whole family!
We have backyards of all shapes and sizes. Some can accommodate a small garden or a very large garden. However many of us are living in large cities and suburban areas where space is at a premium.
Follow me this spring as we talk about how many different ways you can grow gardens, whether planting in planters, on roof tops, replacing ornamental plants with vegetables, or digging up a large space!
You can start your garden by growing some seeds indoors – like Swiss chard, peppers, tomatoes, and some simple herbs like dill, thyme and oregano. Herbs do very well in planters as well as in the garden. If you’re too busy to start your garden like this, no worries! Garden centers will have everything ready for planting this spring on May 24th, always after the last frost.
A little water and enthusiasm make a fabulous “eat local” garden! My food tastes the best when I can go out to my backyard, pick a zucchini and some peppers, and prepare them fresh that day!
If these tiny tasks are impossible for you to start this year, I have a solution for you. Visit your local Farmers’ Markets and they will have in-season produce, fruits, meat, honey, maple syrup and so much more!
So get busy, set aside some time eat better.
On a side note, let the season dictate your next dish, it is so easy to cook up a new dish by what is in-season!
Food first- recipe second. Buying foods that are grown local and in-season is the best way to kick-start eating local! Utilizing old recipes to suit the season is one way to simplify your cooking. A really tasty soup recipe that calls for potatoes and broccoli can be turned into a butternut and apple soup by simply changing the main ingredients when butternut squash is in-season.
Seasonal cooking is not new. My grandmother spent several years teaching me how to buy and cook seasonally. It was definitely tastier and so much more affordable. Over 50 years ago, this was the only way families ate. We did not have access to foods from around the globe 365 days a year. We also did not see as much processed and packaged foods either. And fast food was at the early stages of it’s existence. Cooking at home was how families ate. Together.
Always remember. Lamb, chicken, pork and beef are all seasonal foods if grown and raised properly on a smaller scale. Eggs are always available close to home by a local farmer year round. So when thinking about tweaking recipes to suit what is in-season, think about all food groups, not just fruits and vegetables.
Having a daughter with several food allergies from birth has taught me to appreciate what we have locally in our communities. Local community farmers’ are in need of support all across Canada and the United States and with our need to eat more sustainability, organic and healthier food. We can make a difference for our future food for us and our children by choosing to support local.
Tweak those old recipes to suit your seasonal cooking!
Please use this guide I have provided to get you connected with fresh produce local that can be found in Ontario twelve months of the year!
Note: as the seasons change fruits and vegetables may be delayed two to three weeks depending on the weather conditions, we have to have patience for what tastes best!
DECEMBER • apples • pears • carrots • Asian vegetables • cucumber • garlic • leeks • mushrooms • Spanish • onions • parsnips • cabbage • turnips • onions • potatoes • squash • rutabaga • sprouts • squash • sweet potatoes • pumpkins • beets • lettuce • apples • pears •
JANUARY • pears • apples • potatoes • squash • beets • onions • cabbage • carrots • turnips • tomatoes • cucumbers • lettuce • peppers • garlic • leeks • mushrooms • parsnips • rhubarb • rutabaga • sprouts • sweet potatoes • apples •
FEBRUARY • apples • potatoes • squash • beets • onions • cabbage • carrots • turnips • cucumbers • lettuce • garlic • leeks • lettuce • mushrooms • parsnips • rhubarb • rutabaga • sprouts • sweet potatoes • peppers • apples • rhubarb •
MARCH • apples • potatoes • squash • beets • onions • cabbage • carrots • turnips • tomatoes • cucumbers • lettuce • mushrooms • parsnips • rhubarb • sprouts • sweet
potatoes • peppers • rutabaga • sweet potatoes •
APRIL • apples • beets • onions • cabbage • carrots • turnips • tomatoes • cucumbers • lettuce • mushrooms • parsnips • rhubarb • rutabaga • sprouts • sweet potatoes • peppers •
MAY • asparagus • carrots • turnips • onions • apples • spinach • cucumbers • lettuce • mushrooms • peppers • radishes • rhubarb • sprouts • sweet potatoes • tomatoes •
JUNE • strawberries • cherries • green beans • cucumbers • peas • cauliflower • broccoli • cabbage • radishes • turnips • lettuce • onions • spinach • green onions • garlic • kale • apricots • cherries • mushrooms • snow peas • peppers • radicchio • rhubarb • sprouts • sweet potatoes • tomatoes • Asian vegetables • asparagus • bok choy • cucumber (field) • field lettuce • peas • rapini • radishes • cherries • rhubarb • strawberries • Swiss Chard • fresh herbs •
JULY • apricots • broccoli • cauliflower • corn • garlic • Asian vegetables • bok choy • cucumber • peaches • plums • blueberries • raspberries • sweet corn • green beans • cucumber (field) • snow peas • cabbage • carrots • turnips • onions • radishes • beets • peppers • lettuce • spinach • celery • Swiss chard • zucchini • potatoes • blueberries • red/black currents • gooseberries • grapes • mushrooms • snow peas • peaches • peppers • radicchio • rapini • tomatoes (field) • raspberries • plums • rutabaga • radishes • sprouts • sweet potatoes • apples • cherries • strawberries • peas • snow peas • peppers • peppers (field) • tomatoes • watermelon • fresh herbs •
AUGUST • apples • apricots • peaches • plums • sweet corn • green beans • cabbage • carrots • turnips • onions • radishes • celery • Swiss chard • potatoes • gooseberries • rapini • sprouts • eggplant • plums • grapes • leeks • musk melon • nectarines • parsnips • pears • squash • Asian vegetables • artichokes • beets • bok choy • broccoli • cauliflower • cucumber (field) • cucumber • garlic • red/black currents • gooseberries • lettuce • mushrooms • green onions • snow peas • peppers • peppers (field) • potatoes • radicchio • radishes • strawberries • blueberries • grapes • musk melon • nectarines • pears • plums • raspberries • watermelon • fresh herbs • squash • blackberries • watermelon • artichoke • celery • sweet potatoes •
SEPTEMBER • apples • apricots • peaches • brussel sprouts • plums • blueberries • Asian vegetables • cucumbers • sweet corn • green/yellow beans • carrots • turnips • beets • peppers • spinach • celery • bok choy • green onions • zucchini • potatoes • blueberries • celery • red/black currents • garlic • mushrooms • snow peas • peppers • radicchio • rapini • raspberries • strawberries • eggplant • plums • grapes • leeks • musk melon • nectarines • parsnips • snow peas • squash • brussel sprouts • crab apples • Spanish onions • peppers (field) • zucchini • strawberries • Swiss Chard • fresh herbs • garlic • leeks • mushrooms • peppers • potatoes • radishes • rutabaga • spinach • sprouts • squash • tomatoes • musk melon • nectarines • pears • raspberries • strawberries • blackberries • watermelon • artichoke • celery • sweet potatoes •
OCTOBER • broccoli • cabbage • sweet corn • carrots • turnips • brussel sprouts • onions • beets • peppers • celery • garlic • mushrooms • snow peas • peppers • rapini • radishes • raspberries • sprouts • tomatoes • eggplant • leeks • parsnips • pears • snow peas • zucchini • strawberries • Swiss Chard • fresh herbs • artichoke • Asian vegetables • green/yellow beans • bok choy • cauliflower • leeks • celery • cucumber (field) • lettuce • green onions • onions • peppers • potatoes • sweet potatoes • spinach • squash • apples • crab apples • cranberries • pears • plums • strawberries •
NOVEMBER • apples • pears • brussel sprouts • leeks • garlic • cucumber • lettuce • bok choy • mushrooms • beets • green onions • onions • carrots • cauliflower • cabbage • peppers • parsnips • cauliflower • Asian vegetables • tomatoes • Chinese cabbage • rutabaga • radishes • turnips • sprouts • radishes • onions • potatoes • squash • pumpkins • crab apples • pears • cranberries • cucumber • garlic • leeks • lettuce • Spanish onions • peppers • rutabaga • sweet potatoes • mushrooms • potatoes
How “local” should anyone be expected to eat?
Stacey believes “eat local” by supporting Ontario farmers’ first, this is my local community. Then support foods produced and grown within North America, grown as close to home as possible.
If your looking to get started “eating local” and your used to eating foods produced overseas, try eating seasonally as much as you can and save the mango’s and avocados for those special occasions!
Naturally some foods are not locally available in Ontario during the winter months, however on any given day over the winter I find several locally grown and produced items to feed my family. Always remember. You can freeze berries in summer to last you through the winter: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries. Why not do the same with vegetables? You can “can” asparagus, beets, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and more!
In the winter months here in Ontario, we have carrots, potatoes, squash, onions, parsnips, cabbage, sweet potatoes, garlic, and green house cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts and more!
I hope to inspire “eating local” in all homes within Canada and United States. This will help all of us by creating jobs, recycling our money back into our local communities and create a sustainable environment for our future. We will rely less on California at some point if we choose to eat local. We will reduce the risk of drought that has haunted California for years. Eating local helps not only us but those from afar.
This is absolutely necessary if we’re going to protect our local farmers’ growers, packagers and healthy food sources. Let’s work together to keep our local and local organic food affordable and not create an environment where the average family feels they cannot be a part of our “eat local” community.
Now it’s your turn to bring on “eat local”.
eat fresh*eat local*eat healthy