Unless it’s made a splash in the news, the concept of eating local hasn’t really been on too many minds over the years. Tourism Kelowna is trying to change that with their Farm to Table tour they now do every year. Raudz Table spearheaded a very deliberate move toward buying and eating local several years ago, and were pleased to recently host government officials who are seeking to aid in the shift of focus. Eat Drink Local is spearheading efforts to get as many restaurants on board as they can, to purchase their menu ingredients from local farmers and vendors.
There are many benefits to eating local, only one of which is supporting local farmers, vendors, and suppliers. While this in itself is huge, encouraging each region to explore what local growers have to offer, keep funds in the local community, and support local agricultural efforts, research and expansion, there is another side to eating local that it appears, only those in small niches appear to be talking about.
It has been said that eating local honey will aid in reducing one’s hay fever symptoms. While those in the official medical and food administrations of various governments around the world decry this saying, the linked article here explains why. Pollen-based treatment only treats pollen-based symptoms and for those to work, they must be local to the pollens being reacted to. The second major thing to note from this article and beekeepers you may talk to, is their emphasis on raw, un-pasteurized honey! Pasteurized honey has had it’s molecular structure changed and is not much good for anything beyond flavour and sweetening whichever dish or drink it is added to. Honey that is left raw has other benefits as well that you can google at your convenience. But the key thing to note as we discuss eating local, is that the raw honey must itself be local.
In the same way that local pollens used to make local honey can address hay fever to those same local pollens, so eating local has it’s own set of benefits on the health of those who live in the area. This isn’t a concept to be kept strictly to restaurants or farmer’s markets for part of the year. This can be a year-round mindset and lifestyle change that benefits everyone!
A second example comes to mind as we prepare to hit the meat of this article. Kefir grains are a very popular source of probiotics and can be grown at home using either water or milk depending on the grains obtained. The way kefir ferments, is to pull yeast out of the air and feed on it with the help of sugar added to water, or lactose found in the milk. Being as no two homes are the same, the yeast pulled out of the air in one home will vary in it’s properties to that pulled out of another home. The resulting fermented milk or water is unique to that home’s occupants and their needs.
Just as pollen and yeast are both unique to the areas they grow in, the same is true of the soil from one geographic region to another. Farmers are accutely aware of this fact when they consider what produce they can grow in each region, and how nutritious forage is for their livestock. Keepers of livestock such as horse owners, are encouraged to get hay tested at a lab to learn what may or may not be missing in their animal’s feed. Due to this reality, some regions of Canada force horse owners to augment their hay with grain and supplements to aid their animals in getting the necessary nutrition found in hay grown elsewhere. Why would hay in one region be lacking nutrients while hay in another region doesn’t? Soil composition.
Soil gets its nutritional content from area minerals, plant life, water sources and the atmosphere. When a tree burns for example, the nitrogen in the ash soaks into the soil making for nitrogen-rich soil which plants love to grow in. Manure from animals enriches the soil as well and is a major contributor to fertilizer manufacturers. In the Lower Mainland for example, crop farmers spray pig manure over their fields every spring. This smells positively and sharply putrid (from first hand sniffing driving by), but they get amazing crops practically every year. Local flora and fauna both contribute to soil content.
As a human being, every single major region of the world carries plants and animals necessary for human survival and general thriving health. Over the past 10-15 years, the discovery of so-called “super-foods” from various places have become all the rage. Gogi berries, Acai berries, Oil of Oregano, Ginseng, Ginkgo-Biloba, Stevia, and others have taken their turns wowing the health-crazed masses and consequently been imported all over the globe far beyond the peoples they were placed among to assist. Now don’t get me wrong, these plants do have beneficial properties and have amazing claims. The point is that they will benefit most, the people who live where they grow natively.
So what are the super-foods here in North America? Do we have any at all? The answer is yes! While it is not commercially grown, Chokecherry is a superfood! Most of Canada is still in the dark on this on a national level, but the Government of Manitoba actually has cultivation guidelines for those who wish to farm the berry. This berry made the news in Winnipeg in 2014. The list of benefits of this amazing plant will be discussed in another article, but two breeds of chokecherry grow right here in the Okanagan! The Black Chokecherry, and the Pin Chokecherry. We’ve discovered that Ginger has a local equivalent as well, the Pineapple Weed, a member of the Chamomile family. Chamomile also grows wild in the area. Everyone loves to drink Chamomile tea for it’s calming and soothing properties, and use it as a wash or in a cream to sooth the skin from bites, stings, burns, etc.
We have other amazing plants growing wild right here as well, that have wide-ranging uses for us that many import other products or plants to deal with. Many of these plants are in the teas you will find here at Ashtree Wildcrafting.
But whether it’s wild or domestic, if it’s grown here, it will contain nutrients tailored to the needs of those living here, whether bird, animal, fish or human. Supporting your local farmer doesn’t merely keep your funds local and let his family live a little easier, it also ensures you are benefiting from the nutrition found right here in our own soil. So allow us to be one more voice encouraging locals to buy and eat local!