(ARA) - Fall is a great time for enthusiasts of fresh and local food. Farmers' markets are overflowing with tasty produce at harvest time, and if you've worked long and hard on your home garden, it's time to reap the rewards. Fresh food is harder to come by once the last leaves fall and the frost sets in, but there are still a number of ways you can keep your commitment to eating locally alive year-round.
While getting fresh produce from nearby sources isn't a year-round option for many Americans, it's still possible to continue to enjoy healthy regional, seasonal food in a number of other ways. Whether it's buying a basket of fresh tomatoes, green beans, or peaches, and canning or blanching and freezing them for future use, or dining at a restaurant that focuses on using local ingredients, it's possible to continue your green dining habits throughout the year.
Engaging people who are interested in living healthier and greener, Good Housekeeping partnered with LG Electronics this fall on a "Living Greener" initiative, showing consumers across the country how to make the most of local produce and other healthy foods. The program encourages a greener lifestyle, providing consumers with tips and ideas for efficient products, such as LG's new refrigerator. The refrigerator recently earned the Good Housekeeping Seal, and includes a Smart Cooling System that maintains superior humidity and temperature levels to help keep food fresh longer. And at 31 cubic feet, it has the largest storage capacity available in its class and can easily accommodate bushels of produce.
Susan Westmoreland, food director of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute offers these tips to keep eating local even after the growing season is done:
* Support year-round CSAs and farmers markets. To join a Community Support Agriculture you pay a set amount of money for a portion of what the farm or group of farms produce, usually delivered every week or so. Farmers' markets may feature meat, cheese and eggs in addition to colder weather vegetables that keep well, like winter squash and onions. Since both of these are relatively new concepts, you may not be fortunate enough to have both options in your neighborhood. Check out localharvest.org for more information. Then, embrace your luck, shop and eat well.
* Make good use of your refrigerator and freezer. When you are bringing home a bunch of produce, you know the importance of finding space in your refrigerator to preserve the veggies you won't use right away. But at the end of the season, a great way to make your veggies last longer is to blanch (cook in boiling water for 1 minute) then cool completely, bag and freeze them for later use in stir fries and pasta dishes. To freeze berries, simply rinse and freeze in a single layer until hard, transfer to zip seal bags and freeze for desserts or add a handful to brighten any winter cereal bowl.
* Can and preserve. Another great way to preserve your fresh-picked produce for the colder months is to can, pickle or process it. Your surplus tomatoes can be turned to salsa or tomato sauce for winter and your bounty of cucumbers can be transformed into tasty dill pickles. For both freezing and canning, do some research to make sure you are safely preserving your food. In addition to some great books on the subject, Internet resources like the Daily Green are a great place to start.
* Stock up on hearty vegetables. Vegetables like onions, potatoes and squash are not only some of the last to be picked during the growing season, but also some of the heartiest and longest lasting produce available. Even if you don't have a root cellar, you can extend the life of these vegetables even further by storing them in a cooler part of your home like the basement or a garage.
* Patronize restaurants that focus year-round on the freshest, healthiest ingredients. These days, many restaurants aim to get as many ingredients as possible, from vegetables to fish and meat, from local sources. Visiting these restaurants is a great way to help sustain your local food industry.
By firming up your commitment to eating local throughout the year, you'll help your local economy while also decreasing your carbon food print. And on top of it all, you'll be rewarded with delicious meals for every season.