Regional Food

KevinRegional Food6 Comments

In an effort to identify what regional local foods are here in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I’m going to keep this post of a running list of things that are certainly regional, and things that certainly are not. My criteria will be: is it possible to, under the wrong circumstances, hit it with my car. Within the proximity of the city, clearly. Seems ridiculous, I agree, but for 4 years has served me well to quickly get to the answer I’m looking for. In many cases, I admit, it would require getting through a fence first.

Things I could feasibly hit with my car

Animal: honey via bees, white-tailed deer, mule deer, porcupine, muskrat, moose, elk, rabbit, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, llamas, alpaca, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, horses, coyote, wolf, lynx, gopher, squirrel, beaver, fox, eggs. A longer drive: pronghorn [antelope], bear. With some difficulty: northern pike, walleye, perch. Added: bison

Plant: canola, wheat, barley, flax, alfalfa, corn, oats, hay, peas [Canada goose favorite], saskatoons, strawberries, raspberries, apple, pear, evans cherries, currants, high-bush cranberry, dandelion, lamb’s quarter, chick weed, cat tail, wild mints, wild mushrooms, standard garden veg, etc.

Things I totally could not hit with my car

Animal: Muscox, polar bear, caribou, cougar, grizzly, mountain goats or sheep, crocodile, any ocean creature, anything from Africa, Asia, South America, Antarctica, Australia, or the Middle East, unless I somehow got my car in to the zoo.

Plant: Bananas, coffee, cacao, olive trees, sugar cane, vinifera grapes, prickly pear, lemon, orange, lime, fig, peach, black pepper, bay, maple [I stand corrected], passionfruit, guava, papaya, mango, star fruit, watermelon, cantelope, honeydew melon, coconut, vanilla.

Over time this list has stopped me to think about things as fundamental as my use of oil [formerly olive, now canola], sweetner [leaning way harder on honey], and even my morning coffee. Does eating local matter that much. I don’t know, does it?

If you have some ideas to add to this ongoing list, or a particular item to debate, weigh in in the comments.

6 Comments on “Regional Food”

  1. Thea

    Hmmm. I have spotted some coffee plants in certain coffee shops about town. What if one was sunning itself in the car park?

    Right now, I see eating local as a celebration and a way of story-telling, especially at the moment when it’s so easy not to, and so many are complacent about food and it’s story. In the scary future, Kevin, people like you and I will be equipped to deal with the realities of the hard work of eating. And until then, we have to keep our farmers going and our knowledge alive.

  2. Mel

    Definitions are important, but rarely are they ever cut and dry, black and white. Depending on one’s definition of local, there could be some problems with your list – for example, alpacas and llamas are native to South America – does the fact that there are now many Albertan farms housing these creatures mean that they are now local? Or does “local” apply only to animals and plants that grew here originally, before modern civilization swooped in and raised/planted a bunch of organisms that originated across the ocean?

    I would argue that you just can’t stick to such a rigid definition of “local” (or anything, for that matter). Many “exotic” species are now pretty entrenched within Alberta’s ecosystems, for better or worse, and I’d consider the vast majority of them to be local. I think that for plants, I consider it local if it is able to survive the winter and grow again the next season without any human intervention. As for animals, that’s a bit more complicated, but I don’t have a problem with any animal being raised “locally,” as long as it’s raised humanely.

    Shopping local is important, but I’m not sure that it’s entirely possible (and certainly not practical) to be completely, totally, 100% local in everything we do. I suppose one could also make the argument that imported foods like sugar and coffee are very beneficial, even crucial, to the economies of their countries of origin, and we’d actually be doing those countries a huge disservice by avoiding them. But that, of course, raises the issues of evil corporations exploiting cheap labour, infringements on human rights, the environmental impact of trucking those goods all around the world, and all sorts of other potential ramifications of choosing these products.

    Great discussion topic, and sorry for carrying on so long.

    One last thing: I am getting a pretty good giggle from the image of crashing into my food choices on a highway. I’ll qualify that by stating that in the case of the animals, I’m imagining steaks and burgers flying at my windshield – not live creatures. Because that’s just cruel.

  3. Kevin

    Theah – you could crash through the window, no? Hah. I like the word celebration – it’s true. Celebration and show of respect are old-world philosophies that got lost in our order at McDonalds.

    Mel – Great point. I certainly wouldn’t think alpacas are local. I know somebody that has a parrot. That ain’t local. You’ve got me thinking about a tweak to my classification. I like your ‘local’ definition for plants, and think those exact same words could apply to animals – especially from the context of resources required to shelter/feed them. I think of bison [an omission from the original list, oops]. They don’t need help. Stick them in the wild, they get by.

    As for impact on other economies – first thing that popped to mind was that perhaps they could quit growing cash crops and get back to growing food that could help feed people. Perhaps even THEIR regional food. I’m ducking here a bit, as I know others far more qualified to discuss that kind of global issue than I. I also know it’s far from that simple.

  4. Apple Jack Creek

    You could hit a cougar. Unlikely, because they tend to avoid roads and such, but we have ’em around here. I get a phone call every so often from my neighbour saying “keep the kids inside tonight and if the dogs are having a conniption fit, go out and check – my cousin just saw a cougar up in a tree just west of your place”.

    Deer – oh yeah. Been there, done that. :)

    You should add bison and cattle to your list of possibilities too. Lots of those around. :)

  5. Carissa

    I love this list, thanks for the morning giggle. I’d argue the maple gleefully; turns out Manitoba Maple trees can be tapped, and I think you’ve even got some on your street. I just bought a bottle of local maple from just a wee bit north of us and plan to tap the trees on our property in Feb/Mar. I’ll let you know how it goes…

    I also just discovered beaked hazelnuts growing here, and AB is definitely within their range. Apparently they are propagated easily by layering and cuttings. ;)

  6. A Canadian Foodie

    Hilarious, and thought provoking. how important is eating local? It is critical to the survival of our economy and our planet. But, to what extent should one sacrifice enjoying the global bounties one has come to appreciate daily: like coffee?
    My answer to this, for me, is that if it can be bought locally, I do. Regardless of the increased price, if it is increased. If it cannot be bought locally, is there a close local substitute that I would enjoy and appreciate using as much or almost as much (or maybe even more, knowing it is local)/ And. lastly, there are somethings that I will continue to support globally that are not local – but they must be healthy, and whole and ethical. (good, fair and clean).
    So, that is how I live and make my food decisions. I find the closer I am to the root of my food. Literally. The greater my pride and satisfaction in the care I give to myself, and my family.

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