Eating local can be vibrant, fresh, and exciting in the Midwest.
Just because we don’t come from a land of year-round sunshine and warmth doesn’t mean we can’t get creative and utilize everything our midwestern soil gives us. To our advantage, the midwest experiences mild, damp springs allowing cool weather crops to flourish before the hot summer hits. Some spring crops include peas, cabbage, lettuce, kale, radishes, and cauliflower. Summer temperatures bring more colorful crops such as bib or butterhead lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, and zucchini. By the time autumn rolls around, we get to enjoy apples, potatoes, kale, chard, radishes, beets, kohlrabi, and carrots, many of which can carry us into the cold winter months.
Though “local food” doesn’t have a concrete definition, it typically refers to products that are grown and processed within a small radius from where it is sold (HandCut sticks to a 300-mile rule). When the distance and time from harvest to plate is shortened, foods are known to be more nutrient dense, not to mention more flavorful. Why? Because they are picked at their peak ripeness—the tomatoes are beginning to show red on the vine, the peppers are fully grown and colorful, and the lettuce is lush, spending the perfect amount of time in the sun before turning too bitter. Food that travels hundreds, even thousands of miles to reach your grocery store or favorite restaurant is harvested well before its peak ripeness so that it can survive the lengthy travel ahead. The longer an ingredient sits after harvest, the more it diminishes in flavor and nutrient value.
Growing and buying local produce is great in many ways; it’s good for our environment, helps support the local economy and small businesses, and benefits the individual as well. The local food trend has taken off all over the United States. Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in where their food comes from and the possibilities of including those foods in their day-to-day meals. This has led to a more curious and deep relationship with food which has opened the doors to variety in our diets. Eating a variety of fresh foods helps to ensure we receive all of those important micronutrients and vitamins that we otherwise might miss out on, which can sabotage our health and wellness.
HandCut Foods and our partner company Local Foods are just two of many businesses in the Chicagoland area that connect diners to the delicious foods that the midwest has to offer. HandCut strives to feature local products as often as possible. Keep an eye out for some of our favorite farms on your school or business menu.