The hundred mile diet, as Barbara Kingsolver eloquently wrote about in her book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” involves eating foods that are grown within a hundred miles from home. Growing your own veggies or buying them from local farmer's markets, raising chickens for meat and eggs, or getting fruits, raw milk and organic meats from local orchards and farms are ways to live the hundred mile diet.
Eating local vegetables is easy during summer as we harvest from our gardens and visit farmer’s markets. But it’s January and here in Maine the gardening season is long gone. So, what is the answer to eating local vegetables?
Well, we’re doing it and here’s how. Our cold frames are filled with fresh greens. Hardy plants such as spinach, arugula, mache, claytonia and some lettuce varieties are beautiful and thriving even though the ground is frozen and there’s a foot of fresh snow everywhere else. We’ve talked a lot about cold frames (see previous postings) and right now is when we appreciate them most. Those fresh greens become salads and side dishes full of color, nutrients, and flavor.
Winter squash did very well in the recent growing season, and we put away several dozen delicata, acorn and butternut. Brined cabbage fills the sauerkraut crock, and we have jars of brined cucumber pickles. Cucumbers, zucchini, plums, and tomatoes in various relishes and chutneys are in jars in the root cellar. In the freezer are green beans, beets, swiss chard, collard greens, red mustard leaves, and basil. We have jars of dried pinto and kidney beans. Kale remains in the garden, we push the snow aside to pick some. Kale is sweet this time of year, its starches having gone to sugar with the chilly weather.
Our other needs are supplied locally. The freezer is filled with organic grass-fed beef from farmer Mike in Lyman (a couple towns over) who does his best to get us our quarter every year. From him, too, we get raw milk, raw butter, and chicken. Apples are still available from a nearby orchard. Fish, lobster, and clams harvested off the coast of Maine are another important part of our diet, available year round.
The hundred mile diet is not a new health food fad. It goes as far back as people have settled on the land and had to survive using the resources around them. Our great-grandparents (your great-great grandparents if you are younger than us) lived this way. And it can still be done. Barbara Kingsolver’s family made a commitment to a solid year of eating locally. Refer to the book for their experiences. And ... consider trying the idea for yourself (hey, it’s working for us...)! -G.H.