Food Trends: Don't Just Eat Organic, Eat Local
BERKELEY, Calif., Jun. 27, 2007 (KGO) (KGO) -- For a growing number of food purists, eating organic is no longer enough. These days, if you're not also eating food that's grown locally, you're just not at the head of the food curve anymore. We look at one of the hottest trends in the food industry in the drive to discover how to eat well, close to home.
When Berkeley chef Jessica Prentice shops for food, she wants items that are tasty, healthy and local. She says it makes more sense than buying food shipped from thousands of miles away.
Jessica Prentice, Locavore Chef: "When you can grow a huge range of vegetables and fruits, meats, eggs, dairy products close to where you live, that you should buy those things. Those things are fresher. Those things have less of an environmental impact."
Jessica is founder of a Bay Area group called Locavores -- people who eat local food as much as possible.
Jessica Prentice: "In the Bay Area we are incredibly lucky. We can produce a huge amount year-round and then import what we can't produce here, rather than importing apples from New Zealand when we can grow them in Sebastopol."
That's also the idea behind a new book called "Plenty." The authors were horrified by research from Iowa State University that found food typically travels between 1,500 and 3,000 miles from the farm to the plate.
J.B. Mackinnon, author: "So we're talking about huge distances, worlds apart."
All that transporting food is expensive and hard on the environment. So the authors decided to spend a year eating only food from within a hundred miles of their home.
J.B. Mackinnon: "We did really feel healthy over the year. I mean we were eating food that was picked right at its peak of flavor, and flavor is a good indicator of how much nutrient power has built up in the food."
Whole Foods Markets are now stepping up local products. Many customers want to know exactly where the food comes from.
Justin Jackson, Whole Foods: "California is a hyper local area, and whereas in many other parts of the country we could say that local could be within say seven hours driving distance, in California, people in Sonoma are very, very committed to what's local in Sonoma, and people around Monterey are very committed to what's local in Monterey."
Just how far you can go and still claim to be local is an open question.
We challenged Locavore Jessica Prentice to make an all-local meal last month. She limited the ingredients to within 200 miles of her Berkeley kitchen.
Jessica Prentice: "You can do quite a lot with a hundred-mile radius, but if you even just move it out another hundred miles to 200 miles, there's a lot more you can get."
Jessica is co-owner of the Three Stone Hearth where she will serve the meal to about 80 people. It's a Mexican dinner, and right away, there's a problem.
Jessica Prentice: "I actually would have used tortillas for the Mexican, but I can't get tortillas made from locally grown corn, at least not yet."
Instead, she's making an appetizer using bread baked in Marin County with flour grown in Yolo County, about 90 miles away. It's topped with cheese from Sebastopol and a spring onion which, like most of the vegetables in the meal, is from River Dog Farm, again in Yolo County.
Some of the other highlights include pork raised in Tomales, 60 miles away, cooked with oranges from Reidly, 195 miles away.
Jessica Prentice: "That is an all-local chili mix with pumpkin seeds in it."
Organic rice from Chico, 166 miles away. The rice was also used to make a drink called horchatta. The farmer who grew it is a guest at the dinner.
Greg Massa, Massa Organics: "It's great having the one-on-one contact with people who eat the rice because typical rice farmers have no idea where their rice goes."
Every dish got rave reviews.
Nicole Leong, diner: "It's delicious and knowing that it's very nutritious and that it's grown locally is even a bigger plus."
Emmett, young diner: "The sauerkraut and the rice, it's superb."
Addi, young diner: "I liked that rice drink thing and I really liked the beans, too."
Jessica did cheat a little with seasonings that were not all local. Her advice to anyone trying to eat locally is go easy. Challenge yourself occasionally to go all-local, but if you usually eat meals that are mostly local, you can still consider yourself a Locavore.
Jessica Prentice: "It's being wise. It's not about being extreme."
The Locavores are sponsoring an Eat Local challenge in September. For information about that and places to find local food in the Bay Area, visit www.locavores.com.
For information about Three Stone Hearth, the community kitchen that featured Jessica Prentice's Locavore meal, visit www.threestonehearth.com.
For information about Massa Organics, which grows organic rice near Chico and sells at Bay Area farmers markets, visit www.massaorganics.com.For information about the book "Plenty," visit www.100milediet.org.
Written and produced by Jennifer Olney.
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