Fresher, tastier, better for the environment. Buying and eating locally grown foods is not only good for your community, but your body can benefit too.
Struggling to know how and where to start? Here are five tips to help you eat more local foods.
In Ireland our lush pastures and plentiful rainfall determine what can be produced at certain times of the year. The year-round availability of most foods in the supermarkets can be confusing, and this makes us forget about the season’s altogether.
By familiarising yourself with what vegetables and fruits are in season, you will be able to recognise what food is truly grown locally.
This knowledge will let you rotate your meals each month, allowing you and your family to enjoy the taste of fresh local ingredients and in addition, benefit from the most nutrient-dense food available at the time.
The added bonus is that you get to keep your meals fun and exciting; there’s no chance of getting stuck in a boring meal rut.
To find out what is in season, take a look at the BBC Good Food’s seasonality table. From meat and fish to fruit and vegetables, this guide will help you discover which foods are in season; you can plan your shopping trips to suit.
Restaurants and cafes that source local food are becoming more popular. These ‘field to fork’ eateries are a great way to support your local farmers and producers.
If a restaurant doesn’t actively display that they source their food locally, ask your server and they should be able to provide you with the information. If they have no idea what you are on about, be wary!
To find restaurants or cafes that source local food for their menu, start by searching online. In Northern Ireland, over 170 restaurants have signed up to the Taste of Ulster charter, an organisation dedicated to promoting local food producers and those who serve it in cafes restaurants, bars and hotels.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups connect local farmers and consumers. These networks are open to anyone who supports a fairer local food system; as a member you will pay a membership fee to a local producer, helping them maintain an income.
Although the levels of these groups vary throughout Ireland, members can access a range of benefits by joining a CSA. As a consumer, you can expect to receive a share of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables via direct contact with a farmer or grower.
Many CSAs offer volunteer opportunities where you and your families can participate in farm open days and learn more about where and how your food is produced.
It is easy to switch to local when you know where to look. If you usually shop only at supermarkets, you can make gradual changes to where and how you shop. Try swapping your big branded coffee for a local roasted cup or buy your weekly vegetables from your local deli.
Although this may take a little more time, it is very rewarding and can often save you money.
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If you are feeling rather ambitious, you really can’t get more local than your own back garden. The same rules apply to growing your own as to buying from a local producer; you know where it comes from.
If you have never grown anything before, think about starting off small. Try experimenting with small vegetables or herbs and once you feel confident enough, try out new crops and expand your garden patch.