In Search of Local Produce

Had I read ahead by a couple of chapters in the Barbara Kingsolver book that inspired me to investigate locally produced foods, I would have reached the part where she says, “January is not the time to start figuring out what to eat in January as a locavore.” Good to know.

As it turns out, Hattiesburg’s Farmer’s Market is open on Saturdays year round, but in January the selection is limited. Greens, sweet potatoes, nuts, home canned foods, and crafts make up most of the fare.

I bought these greens. They are wilting in a pot of steaming water at this moment.

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I didn’t buy sweet potatoes. I already had some grown by a local farmer known around here as Daddy. He’s been supporting my local living efforts for years, whether we called it that or not.

Sweet potatoes and greens are where my story ends for today. January is not the time to make the switch.

I’ve turned the sweet potatoes into this glob of stuff I call Cuban Sweet Potato Stew.

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It’s yummy. I promise. I don’t know what it’s really called or if anyone from Cuba would actually touch it, but I came up with the idea based on something I once ate in a restaurant that called itself Cuban.

It consists of onions and garlic sauteed in olive oil, a leftover sweet potato baked a few days ago, a can of black beans, a can of Rotel tomatoes, and a little bit of stirring. I’m eating it over rice with greens on the side.

As an exercise in local eating goes, it’s a total bust. Most of the ingredients are local only in that I bought them at Corner Market, which is I believe a locally owned grocery store.

As an exercise in nutritious and delicious eating goes, I’m giving it higher marks. It has a very rich taste, and all those different colors of foods must mean I’m getting a variety of nutrients out of the deal.

Kingsolver tells me that if I want to eat local food in January I’m supposed to have canned it myself in June and July. Yes, well, isn’t that a pretty idea?

I think there are fruit stands around here that sell frozen peas from someone’s garden. I’m investigating that next. This ethics of local living is about supporting local farmers, not becoming one, right? Alas, the Kingsolver story is one in which she snaps her own beans and shells her own peas and cans her own tomatoes. That’s a very pretty idea. It makes all kinds of sense. You know exactly how your food has been produced that way. It ships to your kitchen only by the labor of your own two legs, and you get all of the exercise you need just from working your own few rows of vegetables.

As likely stories go, this will probably not be me come June. I own neither a tiller nor a mule, you see. I don’t even own a hoe. Still, I’m sold on the idea of basing my diet primarily around local foods. I can’t wait to see what the Farmer’s Market has this summer.