Sunday, September 28, 2008

Week Two: Change the Way You Eat

Week two had us take a close look at our eating habits.

And while Katie’s suggestion that I should add the words “chew” and “napkin” to my vocabulary is, umm, appreciated, I think Dauncey intended we think about the carbon cost of our eats.

The majority of the shopping we do is for organic food at the Community Farm Store, the hub of all things healthy in the Cowichan Region. We buy local cukes grown by Cindy, we buy our eggs from Mary and her mom at the Farmers Market every Saturday, and we buy peppers from Providence Farm.
If we can buy something that was produced locally, we do.
Still, much of what we eat carries a heavy carbon cost thanks to the transportation and packaging. Things like noodles for our stir-fry, rice, ketchup, sugar — the list goes on and on.
In an attempt to cut down on carbon costs, for a few months now we’ve been trying to avoid tropical treats like bananas and mangoes and avocadoes. (I actually made zuke-a-mole, a zucchini-based substitute for guacamole. The recipe swore you couldn’t tell the difference. The recipe lied.)
During the summer when local fresh fruit is abundant, it’s no problem.
But winter is fast approaching and the local fruit is running low.

Not being versed in the technicalities of homesteading, one of our plans was to resurrect the art of “putting up”. We bought the Ball Blue Book, the bible of food storage. We were given all the equipment we needed to get started by generous Dee in Mesachie Lake through the Cowichan Valley Recycle site — a big ol' pot, a canning rack, a whack o’ jars. All we needed was some lids, some fruit, and apparently a lot of spare time.
First we canned cherries. For hours upon hours upon hours we washed, we pricked, we boiled, we sweated…At the end, we had four quarts of cherries. Four pathetic quarts!

Not to be deterred, we soldiered on. We canned peaches, pickled cukes and zukes, and made plum jam. We also found a small freezer that was looking for a new home (Thanks to CV Recycle again) and froze cherries, peaches, strawberries, plums, green beans, etc…
We imagine the energy costs of running the freezer are likely quite high, but we think they must be lower than the costs of buying the fruit and vegetables in the store during the winter. If we’re wrong, we’d love to know.

Another of the ways to reduce carbon output involved growing our own food. Our plot at the Jubilee Community Gardens has been a prolific provider of beans, zukes, strawberries, tomatoes, peas, lettuce, potatoes, chard and chives all summer and we’ve saved as much as we could, but we didn’t know what to do for the fall and winter.
One of the Busters, Lynn, passed on a list of fall planting times to us which has proven to be extremely helpful.
Since the group met, we’ve planted garlic, endives, kale, Ethiopian wheat, barley and cauliflower, which means we should have leafy greens into the winter and some good treats early in the spring.
We still need to bury some beets and turnips, and to look into some bush beans.

There’s so much that can be done when it comes to food just by taking the time to think about our eating habits before we buy those things we’re used to buying.
And there really is nothing better than eating something fresh from your own garden.

PS. One of the treats of meeting with the Cowichan Carbon Busters once a week is getting to sample desserts, which each member takes a turn making. Last week, Kathleen made the suggestion we try to make the desserts out of as many local ingredients as possible.
With a shortage of flour produced on the Island, it’s been near impossible to find a totally local recipe. If anyone has suggestions, please let us know.
I’m going to try meringue made with local honey and eggs, baked and topped with local strawberries.
Either that or Zuke-late mousse. I’m sure no-one will be able to tell the difference…