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COUNTRY SCRIBE: You can't beat locally grown food

The main crop of strawberries is finished, but the raspberries are ripening. The sweet corn is three weeks late this year. It will be worth the wait.

The main crop of strawberries is finished, but the raspberries are ripening. The sweet corn is three weeks late this year. It will be worth the wait.

Although the best-tasting stuff is local, the average bite of food we eat travels 1,500 miles before it gets to our mouth, according to an area local foods promoter.

One of my favorite silly facts: When we have thousands of acres of potatoes growing in the Red River Valley, what sense does it make that most of the potatoes in the store are from Idaho?

Local food advocates point out that of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on food in our region, only a tiny fraction stays here. And this is a farming region!

However, raising vegetables and fruits in our area requires people who work their tails off for six months and then find something else to do for the other six months. Like catch up on sleep.


Problem is you can't earn enough money on fruits and veggies in the six-month season to spend the other six months sleeping. You have to find another job.

In California, farmers plant three crops of veggies per year. They have it down to a year-round routine. They also have cheap, if sometimes illegal, help to do the hard work of harvesting the crop.

Because they are so efficient in California, they can ship their tomatoes 2,000 miles to Fargo and still undercut the local price.

However, they'll never, ever outdo local flavor.

I am not much of a food puritan. People who go on food kicks make me suspicious. They never are happy just to eat their funny foods. They have to make everybody else eat them, too.

I also hate it when somebody insists that my choices at the grocery store are moral decisions. Are my coffee beans raised by joyful peasants? Are my tomatoes picked by registered aliens?

And when there gets to be a "movement" involving food, like an organic foods "movement," or a local foods "movement," it makes me want to buy a case of Twinkies made at a factory in China and eat the whole thing on the front step of the nearest health food store.

But then I eat some raspberries out in the garden, or some local sweet corn, or some beans grown at the garden place down the road, or some carrots out of Dad's garden, or some apples off the tree.


Or I sip some local rhubarb raspberry wine, or drink some grape juice made with local grapes. Both have an unusual zest.

Last spring, I ate an ostrich steak grown in North Dakota. Wow. I would have another one in a heartbeat. Juicy, flavorful and tender, like rare beef.

A properly done bison steak, I contend, has a slight flavor of homemade donuts. The flavor is unmistakable and delicious. And it is found locally.

Local horseradish, ladies and gentlemen, makes the stuff in the bottle from the store seem wimpy, flavorless and coarse. It will cure what ails you. (That's a nice way of saying it will clean out your sinuses.)

The best-tasting apple in the world, the Honeycrisp, was developed in Minnesota and grows better in the southern and central part of the state than it does in other apple producing regions of the world.

Honeycrisp keep well. When all of the Honeycrisp orchards that are being planted now start to produce, we should be able to have Minnesota-grown Honeycrisp apples all year round.

In my hometown, we have locally made ice cream using local fruit that is so good there's no way you can feel self-righteous about eating it. It is truly sinful.

So, without starting some sort of movement and without adding guilt and morality into the mix, there are plenty of reasons to be fussy, picky, snooty and knowledgeable about the foods we buy and eat.


In the past, health food trends were joyless. We were supposed to choke down cereal that tasted like sawdust, juices that were sour, whole-wheat pancakes that fell apart.

But the way things are going now, if we just follow our taste buds, we'll support local growers, eat healthier foods and have a lot more fun.

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