winter vegetable garden in snow

Eating locally is good for us, good for the people who produce it, and good for the environment. Finding local food when I lived in sunny Los Angeles wasn’t too difficult. I went to my neighborhood farmers market every week and bought produce and dairy from farms that were less than 300 miles away. During long Midwest winters it can seem almost impossible to get locally grown foods especially in an urban area like Chicago. Most produce in the supermarket this time of year is shipped in from California, Mexico, or South America.

Believe it or not there is plenty of stuff in season right now, such as mushrooms, eggs, and local meat. Plenty of local vegetables are available as well. Most root vegetables like potatoes, parsnips, and turnips grow in the Midwest well into November and available from storage until March. Apples and cabbage can be harvested and kept in cold storage to use during the winter until March. Many stores in the city that specialize in locally produced food, such as Dill Pickle Food Co-op, Green Grocer and True Nature Foods, carry dried legumes, meat, and produce grown in urban hot houses. There are also winter farmers markets in Chicago like the Logan Square Winter Market where you can buy from local producers.Now is a good time to begin planning your own garden with next winter in mind. Apartment or condo dwellers lucky enough to have a sunny, south-facing window, can grow some of your own produce with a few seed packets and small pots. If a fresh supply of sprouts sounds appealing, pick up some seeds and a growing kit at your local health food store. With the addition of fresh water, a jar, and some mesh cloth you’ll have a countertop mini-farm in no time. If you want to dig deeper, though, to find local sources of produce, check out the Local Harvest connection on our Grow It page.

What’s your favorite way to eat locally during the long Midwest winter?