We live in the Finger Lakes region of New York on the south shore of Lake Ontario. It’s a beautiful area with lovely scenery, and defined seasons. I love all the seasons here, but summer is the most bountiful. We’re surrounded by orchards and vineyards, cideries and apiaries, and farms offering up a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, dairy products, or cattle and chickens sustainably and humanely raised.
This year I made a concerted effort to buy local as much as possible. It’s decreased the number of trips to the grocery store, the food tastes better because it’s so fresh, and the shelf-life is longer. It’s also much less expensive. We joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from an organic farm that delivers items of our choosing every two weeks, and I shop weekly at a farm stand for fresh-picked produce, grass-fed beef, organic eggs from free range chickens, home baked bread, local honey, preserves and cheese. I grow my own herbs.
For me, buying locally is exciting and challenging. I love concocting menus based on what’s available during any given week. If I can’t get spinach, I use kale and romaine. If strawberries are out of season, I buy berries or stone fruit. I’ll substitute Swiss chard for beet greens and when I can’t get cherry tomatoes, I buy the large, beefy ones that were so common during my childhood.
I’ve learned to be creative with green beans, cruciferous vegetables, cucumbers, fresh garlic, zucchini, and blueberries, which are plentiful throughout most of the summer. Committing to buying locally and for the most part only eating what’s grown here and is in season also means we won’t be eating corn until early August, apples and pears until September, and winter squashes and root vegetables from early to late fall. When I’ve bought more than we can consume in a week or two, I make soups and stews to freeze for cold winter nights, and there’s always a large pitcher of homemade gazpacho in our refrigerator.
We don’t eat many sweets, but occasionally, especially on hot summer days, it’s nice to have a cold treat. I make homemade ice cream using an ice cream maker, cheating a bit with coconut or almond milk for the lactose intolerant among us, but also using milk from local dairies and fruit from local farms. A wine and spirits store in our village carries Finger Lakes wine; a shop up the road, locally made hard ciders and spirits.
I’ll do this again next year, it’s worked for us. We like knowing we’re supporting our local agricultural community and that everything we eat is fresh and healthy and supplied to us by our neighbors and friends..