Top | Diane Lassen, RN, HHC — Blog

Local eating in a global world

(post, Diane Lassen, RN, HHC)


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Eating locally is all the rage these days. In fact, “locavore” was the word of the year last year, and there are wonderful books such as Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which really romanticize the idea of eating locally and growing your own food. I have to tell you, I am all for it. I grew up in suburban New Jersey with a Dad who dug up half the backyard for our garden, and we ate from it all year long.
 
Eating locally means eating seasonally. Even though nearly every conceivable food option is available 365 days a year in our global supermarket, we should know where our food comes from, and we should strive to minimize the traffic that our food must endure by eating foods grown close to home. I love the concept of seasonal eating because it is an intuitive way of eating. It dates back to the basis of Ayurvedic medicine, where with each season came plants that gave us exactly what we needed for that season. Let me explain this concept: In the summer where it is hot, we have succulent, juicy fruits and vegetables like melons, stone fruits and tomatoes and lettuces which naturally cool the body and quench our thirst. As fall moves into winter, the fall harvest provides us with hearty and sustaining foods, foods that warm us and give us energy such as winter squash, root vegetables, beans and many seeds and grains. These foods are heavier and warming in nature, and give us a feeling of contentment and nourishment—much needed in the cold, dark days of winter! Then with the spring comes cleansing sprouts, young greens and berries which help to rid the body of excess weight that may have accumulated over the winter, and which cleanse the body of toxins and wastes, thus preparing us for another season of heat.

As we enter our final month of winter, we should continue to focus on our stores of local winter squash, pumpkins and sweet potatoes that are high in carotenoids, the antioxidants that have given us extra protection during the cold and flu season. Look to the Brassicas such as kale, cabbage and Brussel sprouts which, after a cold snap, have higher levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants which help protect us from environmental stress. A good frost also sweetens their flavors considerably! This Brassica family as well as members of the lily family –most notably garlic, onions and leeks—are also high in sulfur compounds which protect against cancer and other damage to our DNA. All of these vegetables were the winter staples of our grandparent’s “root cellars” and should find a place in our basements as well. 

Soon the winter winds will die down, and the sun will warm the earth enough to cause our spring bulbs to appear. What a joyous time of year! And just when you can’t eat another acorn squash, it will be time for the spring greens to appear in the marketplace, and for wild mustard and chickweed to pop up in the woodlands, begging to be harvested. Our bodies will beg for the bitter greens of arugula and cress, so that the cleansing and detoxifying process can begin again. We will awaken from our long hibernation indoors ready to tackle the garden beds and other outdoor activities that beckon with the coming warm days. But as I write this, it is cold and gray, with a light snow falling outside my window. I think I’ll put on a pot of soup and toss another log on the fire. Winter just isn't over yet.


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