The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Health

The vegetable less traveled

—GARY W. PRIESTER

An online British friend who retired to France several years ago was commenting on one of the big differences between the two countries. In England, he told me, you could find just about anything in the supermarket, just about any time of year. It France, he continued, people eat much more of what is in season. And the difference, he concluded, is remarkable. Fresh fruit and vegetables, grown locally, are worlds apart in taste!

Interesting point. Most of the out-of-season fruits and vegetables that magically appear on the supermarket shelves in the middle of winter may very well have come from worlds away—often from as far away as New Zealand.

My friend’s comparison was timely, as we had just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a book whose subtitle might well have been “The joys of eating locally.” Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the perfect follow up to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I reviewed last month.

Have you ever noticed the difference in taste between a fresh, locally-grown tomato and some of those shipped in bulk to the U.S. from Mexico? One tastes sweet and succulent, and one tastes like cardboard. The difference between fresh, locally-grown and not-so-fresh, well-traveled is the essence of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Ms. Kingsolver, a novelist with whom many will be familiar, moved from her long-time home in Arizona, with her husband and two daughters, to a farm in West Virginia. They decided to try eating for one year food either produced on their farm, or food that was purchased locally and grown no more than one hundred miles away. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a month-by-month journal of how they did this, and the mouth-watering results of their experiment.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a true family collaboration. Nine-year-old daughter Lily put in a stock of chickens, which provided fresh eggs and meat. Lily ordered the chicks from a mail order catalog and became quite an entrepreneur when she established a lucrative business selling farm-fresh eggs to her friends and neighbors.

Daughter Camille, a college student at Yale and a yoga instructor, contributes chatty commentary and offers inventive and nutritional recipes that feature the variety of local seasonal produce. Barbara’s husband, Steven L. Hopp, a professor of environmental studies, contributes a series of environmental and industrial food-related essays. And Barbara, between her regular writing gigs, manages to raise her two daughters, put in a full day on the farm, and chronicle their year of eating locally.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is divided into chapters that correspond to each month of the year. Ms. Kingsolver and family have written a book that is informative and fun to read without being preachy. To read this book is to—at the very least—vicariously rediscover the pleasure of fresh-grown local meat and vegetables. I bet you have never heard anyone write so rapturously about asparagus!

We New Mexicans do not have access to all the farm-fresh produce the Kingsolver-Hopps do—but we have more than you might think. All through spring and summer there are a variety of farmers’ markets where you can buy fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables, many of which are organic. Organic produce is grown without pesticides, which is better for you and better for the environment. My wife and I, along with about fifty other Placitas residents, have been buying a box of mostly locally-grown, mostly organic produce from Los Poblanos Organics in Albuquerque that we pick up at the Merc once a week. Los Poblanos has about twelve hundred customers in the Albuquerque area and offers a variety of other local products, such as the best tortillas you have ever eaten, exceptional goat cheese, fresh pasta, grass-fed meat and farm-fresh eggs. For more information about Los Poblanos Organics, visit www.lospoblanosorganics.com.

To read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is to return to our roots (sorry, I couldn’t resist), and to return to a simpler time when we all could wait with childlike anticipation to enjoy the first red, ripe strawberries of the season.

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