Friday, November 6, 2009

How to eat fresh, local foods — even in the snow

Another cold Cleveland winter will soon be upon us, and the brilliant yellows, reds and greens of bustling outdoor farmers markets are fading away. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up sustainable, savory and nutritious foods during the winter months. And why would you, considering the soul-warming possibilities of homemade comfort foods, perfect for frigid temperatures? From stews to soups and chili to pot pies, warming up is more delightful when you have fresh, tasty ingredients to work with.

Beth Knorr, the farmers market manager for the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy, shares some tips so you never have to forfeit your healthy summertime eating habits, even when the weather outside is frightful.

1. Freeze it. It “does take a little bit of planning if you know that you want to continue eating locally throughout the winter,” Knorr admits. “Freezing things when they’re in season certainly will make that easier.” So buy a surplus and prepare for the long haul.

2. Make new friends. If you’ve established a positive relationship with the farmers at your summer market, keep it up over the winter, suggests Knorr. Ask your favorite vendors if you can contact them directly to purchase produce during the off-season to tide you over until the weather warms up again. Thanks to new technology, there’s a decent chance that vendors will have a steady supply of leafy, juicy, vine-ripened, organic and otherwise wholesome foods available, even when it’s below freezing and icy out.

3. Seek shelter. Though not nearly as plentiful as markets in July and August, indoor farmers markets do exist during the winter. At Happy Days Lodge on State Route 303 in Peninsula, for instance, farmers markets will be held on the third Saturday of every month from now until April.

All of these tips will take a little bit of time and planning to put to good use, and it might be easier to just open a can or heat up a TV dinner after trudging home through the snow and slush. So why should you stick with fresh, local food? Well, if not because it’s good for the environment, the local economy and your health, do it for the taste. The amazing flavor of fresh, local food keeps people craving it all year long. “It’s really not even comparable to what you find in the grocery stores,” Knorr says. “It’s unmatched.”

Missed the markets this summer? Check out the farmers market guide from our June issue and see what you can look forward to next year.

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