Written by Madeline Breen
When it comes to preparing Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, my family faithfully believes in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” motto. Every year, our guests enjoy the same tried and true recipes — like mom’s perfectly cooked turkey and my aunt’s spiced pumpkin pie.
I don’t want to break tradition, but there is one simple change I’m challenging my family (and yours!) to make this holiday season: cook your holiday meal only using local ingredients.
The eco-benefits of eating locally? Food grown or raised in your region has fewer food miles — the carbon emissions associated with local foods are smaller. Studies show that the ingredients for the average American meal travel well over 1,000 miles to reach the dinner table, many times more if it includes out-of-season ingredients.
Starting with whole ingredients that are grown locally means less energy has gone into processing, packaging and transporting food to your table. And it means you will know what is in the dish you are eating, and how and when it was made.
The plus for you is that local fruits and veggies usually taste better because they’ve been picked at the peak of freshness, rather than produce shipped from thousands of miles away that had to be picked before ripening.
This means doing as much of your shopping as possible at local farmers markets and farms — for food items like eggs, milk, veggies, turkey, potatoes, pie fillings and more. Localharvest.org has a searchable map so you can hone in on foods sustainably grown and raised near you.
The good news is that eating local and in season is getting easier. This past August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a 9.6% jump in the number of farmers markets to 7,864 nationally.
Shopping locally also supports your community, which is the perfect gesture to make around the holidays.
The pilgrims didn’t use frozen ingredients, why should you?
[Image: Pumpkin pie topped with persimmon slices and pomegranate seeds. Image source: marc kjerland/Flickr via a Creative Commons license]