By Malaika Rosenfeld
When we think of winter we think of ground frost and 4 pm sunsets, Christmas lights and snowy days, but we don’t automatically think about the modern practice of outsourcing food. It’s become a cultural norm of American daily life to be able to eat grapes that were in Chile on Monday at breakfast on Tuesday. This is a reality made possible by a global apparatus of technology and trade agreements that allow perishable goods to travel long distances to reach our dinner table. Unfortunately, this isn’t an economically or environmentally sustainable practice — the costs are, like most commodities today, much larger and far-reaching than what is reflected on the grocery bill.
International growers have flooded the American market in local farmers’ off-season ever since mass appetites for asparagus in January came onto the scene in the early 70s, turning the US from a net exporter of fruits and veggies. This has actually positively affected domestic growth and sales. As transportation/production improvements have lengthened the US growing season and consumer demand has risen with product availability, but it is primarily large industry corporations that profit.
Of course, greenhouse gas emissions from food production are what is generally regarded as creating the most negative impact, in the form of international deforestation and transportation. This is true in many cases, especially considering that even produce grown here in North America has to travel an average of 1,243 miles to get from the point of production to that of consumption. Sometimes, however, it is even less sustainable to produce the same food here in the US because of additional climate, energy, or resource requirements.
So where do you, an appreciator of colorful foods during the long cold months, stand in this equation? Shopping as an informed consumer is an easy and impactful way to help both the planet and the small business owner. To narrow down the complex factors that go into eating sustainably, below are a few delectable produce options that are fall and/or winter-grown and guaranteed to be locally sourced at your grocers. Let’s get your December grocery list started!
- Brussel sprouts- They may have been your dinner time nemesis as a child, but simply roasted with some olive oil and salt will have you heading back to the store for more!
- Winter squash- From butternut soup to roasted delicata, the opportunities for gourds to become a winter kitchen staple are endless.
- Potatoes- Truly the backbone ingredient for the sustainable foodie on a budget.
- Beets- More of a fall/early winter vegetable, these can last up to a month in your fridge, canning options aside!
- Parsnips- The vegetable you’ve heard of, but never really could picture. Their time is here, and they will shine glazed, roasted, or even in soup, in all their carrot-like rooty goodness!
- Sweet Potatoes- If they’re not already in your cart, they should be. Perhaps the most versatile of winter vegetables, they will level up any meal no matter how you cook them.
Interested in learning more about where your produce is coming from, or how to start eating seasonally? Check out these excellent resources:
- Have a Plant: Winter Fruits & Vegetables Guide
- USDA Seasonal Produce Guide
- Webstaurant Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables in Your Region
- Seedmap: Where Does Our Food Come From