September 4th was the Eat Atlantic Challenge, a day Atlantic Canadians were asked to eat only food grown or produced in Atlantic Canada. Those who took part know that this time of year, locally grown food is so abundant it’s a breeze to make a meal of food grown nearby. Given our climate though, eating a locavore’s diet (meaning local-only food) through the winter is a challenge for even the most committed. But savouring little bits of locally grown fare is doable year round. It’s the best way to “green” your diet, since local food has a small carbon footprint (as opposed to food trucked in from California or South America). Supporting local farmers also makes our region more independent.
I know the last thing you want to think about this month is what you’re going to eat in February but if you’re into eating local food you really do need to plan ahead and now is the time, since we’re in the thick of the fall harvest.
Here are some freezer staples that keep my family eating local food year-round:
In September I can’t get enough of field-ripened tomatoes. I roast them for tomato sauce for weeks on end and when I’m too tired to roast any more I simply bag the tomatoes whole and put them straight in the freezer. (Ideally you could skin the tomatoes first by cutting a small “x” on the bottom and plopping them into boiling water for 30 seconds. The skin can then be peeled off easily before the tomatoes go into the freezer.) I use the sauce for pasta, pizza and as a base for soups.
With a freezer full of tomato sauce we can last until April without buying tasteless tomatoes grown in faraway places. We mostly avoid tins of tomatoes and have no need to buy jars of sauce, which makes me happy for a few reasons. Although tins are recyclable, they are lined with a plastic coating that contains BPA, the hormone disruptor that is being removed from many water bottles; the sauce jars can’t be recycled locally; plus my freezer stash hasn’t been shipped in from Heaven knows where.
We buy a 50 pound bag of winter squash each September and spread it out on shelves in the basement. Throughout the fall I roast two at a time, scoop out the middle and freeze it for use in soups, stews & quesadilla fillings. My husband (strong and patient) peels and cubes several squash for roasting with other root vegetables.
We pick organic apples from a friend’s tree each October. My husband peels and bags as many as we can stuff in the freezer to use in tarts, fruit crisps and for fresh apple sauce all winter long. Ditto for local rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.