The ‘buy local, eat local’ craze is sweeping the nation. Eating local is a great idea, but where do you start? How do you become a locavore? And what benefits does it give to you and your surrounding environment? These are all great questions and, surprisingly, the answers are fairly straight forward. Let’s get things straight and get on with eating local and becoming an honest to goodness locavore.
You probably remember from history, biology, or perhaps one of those other ‘ologies’ about words ending in ‘vore’. Think herbivore (plant eating animals), carnivore (meat eating animals) or even omnivore (animals who don’t really care as long as it is edible.) So it only follows that locavore means those people who consume locally grown food and use locally produced products, or at least try to remain within a certain radius from home. Basically, if it’s on a truck for hours or days to get from the farm to your table, it doesn’t qualify as local.
So what exactly are the benefits to your health when you are a locavore? One of the most commonly stated health benefits is that food that is grown near you is believed to help your body fight off allergens. For instance, eating locally made honey will help you during allergy season because the same pollen that your body is trying to ward off is what the bees used to make the honey. Therefore, by eating the honey, you are helping your body develop antibodies that will help fight off the allergens.
Not only will your body thank you for eating local, but you also have the power to help sustain small businesses that count on you to keep going. You get the chance to see exactly what goes into your food and the local businesses are responsible to you, not some corporate entity. By voting with your dollars, you are telling these local businesses that you love what they do or you believe they could be better stewards of what they have. Either way, your dollar is working to influence your community.
If you have never tasted a ripe cantaloupe that was picked off the vine just a few hours earlier, you don’t know what you are missing. How about that big juicy tomato fresh off the plant in the garden? When a fruit or vegetable is picked when it is ripe rather than hoping that it ripens on the truck, you get a superior taste. Produce was designed to ripen a certain way, usually on the vine or tree or in the ground. When we prematurely pluck it to get it shipped across country, we seriously defeat the ways of nature. The result? Food that doesn’t taste the way nature intended.
It is amazing how much of a fruit or vegetable’s nutrients develop during the ripening stage while still attached to the plant. During that stage, the soil pours in vitamins and minerals that are essential in order to ripen the produce; the very same nutrients essential to your health. By pulling your food from the ground or off the vine before it is ripe, you are losing out on nutrients your body counts on to maintain its health – your health!
Eating local is more than just a fad… it is a way of life. There is nothing more delicious, nutritious, healthy, and economy-boosting than being a locavore in your very own hometown.