ESSENTIAL — Eating local foods has many wonderful benefits. The food is better and fresher and has more nutritional value. If you do some exploring, you may even discover new products you’ll enjoy preparing and cooking. Because the transportation of what you buy is reduced, overpackaging and energy consumption is also reduced. Another positive aspect is that buying locally produced items supports the local economy. In fact, the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec has concluded that, if each consumer bought $30 more in Quebec products yearly, a billion extra dollars would be invested in the local economy over five years. That’s certainly enough to inspire us to take the time to make informed choices! To start, here are five essentials for winter cooking.
THE GOURD FAMILY AND ROOT VEGETABLES
Including squashes, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips and beets, the gourd family (winter squash, pumpkins and melons) and root vegetables are vegetables whose growth isn’t compromised by colder weather. They are planted in spring and harvested through late fall. Parsnips actually improve when dug up after the first frosts and snowfalls because the cold gives them an even sweeter taste. The gourd family and root vegetables are therefore included in the fall menu and can stay there all winter because they keep for a long time. Incorporate them into your soups, stews and risottos.
To consume fruits and vegetables from the garden another way and eat local foods even during the winter, canned goods are an essential that never goes out of style. Tomato sauce, pickles and berry jam are excellent bases for creating nutritious meals that taste like summer all year long. Canning is also a great ritual to mark the transition between summer and fall and get ready for the chilly days ahead.
Camelina oil is the perfect substitute for olive oil, twelve months a year. Produced right here in Quebec, it’s increasingly recognized for its high omega-3 content. With sesame and hazelnut notes, it will give personality to dishes and salads while remaining an ally in cooking your food. Camelina is an annual oil-producing plant with small yellow flowers native to Eurasia. It’s increasingly grown in North America.
To enjoy fresh, local fruits and vegetables, greenhouse farming is vital for quality and availability. It allows us to put tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and lettuce, among other produce, on our plate. Demers, Savoura and Mirabel greenhouses are Quebec-based brands you can look for in the supermarket.
SHOOTS AND SPROUTS
Winter is a good excuse to turn to shoots and sprouts of all kinds. Very rich in nutrients, including vitamins and fibre, they are eaten in salads and sandwiches. Both sprouts, which are seeds that you let sprout in a little water for a few days (alfalfa, chickpeas and fenugreek), and shoots, where the seeds grow in soil (radishes, buckwheat, cilantro, sugar beets and sunflowers), are fast, inexpensive and easy to grow at home regardless of the season. It’s a great way to eat more vegetables!
Although eating local can sometimes be costly, there are many ways to do so without paying more than when buying based on price rather than origin. Cooking and buying local products in season when they’re on sale, visiting different shops and producers and signing up for a CSA are all good ways to support the local economy and bring freshness and flavour to your plate throughout the year.