For me, eating local is first and foremost tied to my love for cooking. I enjoy cooking and eating a freshest ingredients I can find. Choosing local ingredients ensures a product that was picked fresh and traveled less.! Throughout the summer and fall months, my weekly ritual involves shopping at the Downtown Farmers Market for some of Utah’s best produce. At the market I get to interact with people like Richard from Wilkerson’s Farm or David from Zoe’s Garden - farmers who have dedicated most of their lives to producing food less than 40 miles from my home. My relationship with these farmers is simple yet understated: I purchase food that they themselves grow. Food purchased in supermarkets often comes from California, Florida, Mexico, Canada, or perhaps as far away as South America, eliminating an important and satisfying bond.
Eating local is not only limited to the typical Utah harvest months between June and October. That’s right! You can enjoy local food year round with just a little bit of thoughtful planning. Canning or freezing food is simple and satisfyingwhen January comes and you are craving harvest season foods like tomatoes or peaches. Never canned before? Not to worry. You can take a class from the Summer in a Jar series, where seasoned canning pro Alison Einerson will school you in all things involving the mason jar. For more information on canning classes or how to can, go to slcfarmersmarket.org or freshpreserving.com
As we hit the height of the harvest season this September, I invite you to join me in the Eat Local Challenge. Sponsored by Wasatch Community Gardens, Slow Food Utah and the Downtown Alliance, the Eat Local Challenge asks you to increase awareness about your daily food choices. How you challenge yourself is completely up to you. Some choose to only eat food produced within a 250 mile radius while others make conscious decisions to incorporate a few local ingredients into their daily routines. My personal “cheat” in the Eat Local Challenge is coffee, for which my coworkers, friends and family thank me. That’s right folks, coffee does not grow anywhere near Utah. A great place to start for recipes and learning what’s in season is The Vintage Mixer or SLC Foodie, two blogs by SLC resident Becky Rosenthal. If cooking is not your thing, several restaurants pride themselves on serving up locally-sourced fare. Some of my favorites are Copper Onion, Plum Alley, zY, Pago, and Caffe Niche.
Whatever you choose, recognize that some of the best food available to you is grown right in your state. We play an important part as the consumers (and producers for all you home gardeners!) of a growing and thriving local food community in Utah and must continue to support it.