Red Shoulder Hawk

Red Shoulder Hawk

Monday, December 07, 2009

Get your diet localized!

I feel the local food movement is getting some legs. I just wrote an article for my friend Scott Horton's mag Permaculture Activist, musing over an idea that we could develop a strong food web of local production. Researching my topic I got to see some really great projects that people are up to these days.

Out of my own shared yard I just harvested chard, dandelion greens and chayote blossoms. I also gathered some oca, providing some carbohydrates. Oca is an oxalis that forms edible tubers. The strain I'm growing looks like fat, finger-sized grubs (or as Xena graciously calls them, "carrot-potatoes").

The tubers, or corms, grow right at the surface of the soil. I simply follow the fleshy stalks of the oxalis back to the crown, dig around a little and break off the corms, leaving the plant rooted. It's a nitrogen fixer, and is helping other plants in the beds to grow. Covering the soil with leaves is also important to help remind our cats that the beds are not litter boxes.

I tried to disguise the appearance of the oca by quartering the corms before I stir-fried them with the leaves and flowers. I didn't need to disguise their flavor; they taste like very moist potatoes. The chayote blossoms are supposedly edible as well, but I don't think they added anything to the stir fry. Raw, the flowers are sweet. Cooked, they are gritty.

One aspect of eating locally that I glossed over as I wrote is getting a balanced diet. If I surveyed my friends about food sources for potassium (for example), everyone would respond "Bananas." But bananas don't grow here (Christopher Shein is having some success growing bananas at the other end of Oakland, but not here). So, if I grew Jerusalem artichokes instead, what changes in food preparation are necessary? A banana is a peel and eat food. Jerusalem artichokes are dirty, rooty, and need cooking. To eat a local diet requires changes so we eat what in fact grows in our local bioclime.

I'm confident that sufficient calories, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals can be grown locally, even (and especially!) within a city. I'm less sure about protein. I'm also fairly sure that eating a 100% local, nutritionally balanced diet requires getting used to unfamiliar foods.

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