How Local is Local? My Five Principles.

Strawberries

 

Little did I realize as I lightheadedly declared I would only eat local food for a year that it would be so complicated. Not only today’s global food chain but also centuries of food trading throughout the world make it difficult to really understand how local local is. So I reflect on my intention. Is it about the produce and its history? Does an imported seed that grows wonderfully in our garden stay on the list? Is it about the shops and the supply chain? Do I want to buy from the local supermarket or only from farmers markets? Is it about the people, the produce or my health? Can it be about all of that?

I knew it would be challenging, I am already looking forward to all the detective work, asking questions, finding answers, understanding more about what really nourishes us. At the same time it has to be practicable… and fun. If I know that pumpkin and sunflower seeds grow here in Germany, do the ones I buy really have to be from here? (Yes.) Does the tasty Austrian smoked tofu from organic Austrian soy beans stay on my shopping list? (Yes.) Yesterday I did some shopping for the community in our big organic supermarket in Regensburg so I started reading labels. Uh oh. The millet was from China, the raisins from Turkey and the dried beans were from all over the world. The nuts were all marked “non-EU” and the chocolate… well we all know that doesn’t grow anywhere near here.

But then I walked on to the city center and discovered Regensburg’s weekly market where the first stand was selling freshly picked forest mushrooms and wild blueberries. Next door two friendly women were sharing cake recipes and selling bee pollen, the magical crunchy topping for müslis and desserts. Local organic farmers were selling fruit, veg and greens and enjoying the sunshine after the long weeks of rain we just had. Later in the afternoon I was talking to visiting friends and locals and suddenly everyone knew a shop, a farm or a mill selling their own produce: fruit and veg of course, but also grains, beans, and goat and bee products. For every product I crossed off the shopping list earlier on I find two new ones, yay!

So what are the principles and rules of my experiment? I want some – simply because I am that kind of person – and because I want answers for all the questions I am asked. But I will keep them simple:

1. If it naturally grows and is produced in Europe, North of the Alps, I eat it. For non-fruit & veg that includes France and Austria. Fruit, veg and grain from Germany only.

2. The experiment includes all foods: herbs, spices, oils, condiments, sweeteners, dried goods… everything.

3. Organic wins over local. I will go as far as I need to go for organic produce. It doesn’t need a “bio” label but I do not want any pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics or other “stuff” on my plate.

4. Animal products – if any – only from very close by (within 10-15 km). Eggs only from our own hens.

5. Last but not least: 90% is fine. It’s about my love and passion for food, not a fad diet. And the folks here bake the most fabulous cakes, I can’t possibly turn them down!

 

Quality not Quantity

 

In my next post I will start sharing some recipes: I have learnt how to bake sourdough bread from freshly ground rye, barley, spelt and heirloom wheat wholegrain and I have already been quite successful at “localising” my breakfast porridge, raw and cooked. And I have discovered some fun wild plants for salads and stir-fries I can’t wait to share!

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