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©2016 Otway Fields

Are we all nuts? Our food system is stuffed!

November 25, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I get very frustrated when I pick up a grocery item, turn it over to look at where it comes from and all I see is ‘packed in Australia with imported ingredients’ or ‘made with local and imported ingredients’. This is not good enough! What; the 95% water content is Australian and the rest is from who knows where?

 

In a previous work life, I used to travel to China a lot. I’ve seen hunks of pork being cured on makeshift structures beside a six lane freeway, where noxious fumes from ill kept vehicles blow right over the meat. This pork is turned into the traditional Chinese sausage that finds its way into stir-fries and Asian dishes. I think I’ll pass thank you. Each morning, I’d look forward to reading the heavily censored China Daily. Invariably, there would be a story about a noodle manufacturer being put in jail for using rancid, old cooking oil, or a dodgy rice wine maker who would be caught spiking his wine barrels with something dangerous or illegal to bump up his volume. When buying a food item that looks fine, well, it’s in packaging, so it must be ok, we tend to assume that the item was manufactured in a food-safe environment. This is not always the case. And have you noticed that when you do eventually find the country of origin on the packet, you need exceptionally strong spectacles to read it!

 

Then there are nuts. We don’t eat a lot of them, because you will hardly ever find out where they hail from. Our Australian nut industry is rather small, so you’re not likely to find Australian grown cashews for instance.  I wouldn’t touch cashews grown in Sri Lanka with a barge pole. But we’re not going to know if our nuts are from that country, as the label is not going to tell us. Did you know that Sri Lanka has a terrible rate of kidney disease, and this has been linked to the use of glyphosate. The indiscriminate spraying of this chemical in the cashew plantations has leached into the water supplies that are being used by locals for their drinking water. 

RASPBERRIES PICKED FROM OUR OWN CANES

 

So how do we get around the lax labeling laws imposed on our food sources? We look closer to home! Keeping your food miles low has so many advantages. You’re getting quality produce at its peak. It hasn’t had to be freighted over long distances to get to you, and you’re supporting a local grower, producer and storeowner. The dollars you spend on local products at independently owned businesses keep circulating in our region for a lot longer than when you dash to a national supermarket and buy the same items. Of course it is not always possible to find everything you need locally, and you have no option but to buy products from further afield. This is where you need your spectacles! Set yourself some basic guidelines. Buy products that are manufactured as close to where you live as possible.

THE FIRST STRAWBERRIES OF THE SEASON. GROWN A FEW STEPS FROM THE KITCHEN.

 

Our philosophy when it comes to food goes something like this: Grow it yourself organically. Everyone can start with something, even if it is a pot of herbs. You can grow vegetables without spraying artificial fertilisers or chemical herbicides on them. Once you have a little back yard production going, you are going to have excess at some point. This is when you barter with a neighbour. Eggs for spinach. Berries for coriander. Flowers for a movie ticket! Empty glass jars for a bottle of canned peaches. Be creative with your bartering. We are fortunate to live in a district where quality backyard produce is grown, and there are a number of backyard swap groups. Join in. You’ll be surprised at what you will gain from sharing.

SOURDOUGH MADE FROM ORGANIC FLOUR SOURCED FROM OUR REGION

 

Source locally. What is local? My rule of thumb is 100 miles, based on the book “The 100-Mile Diet”

Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon.  Support local producers, whether they are the grower or the manufacturer. When you look around, you will be surprised how much local produce is available to us. I love that we do actually have a local walnut grower (who doesn’t use nasty chemicals), a shiitake grower, berry growers, winemakers, brewers, bakers, dairy products, meat producers, coffee roasters and organic vegetable growers. Learn the provenance of your food. Speak with your producers.

THIS IS A PLATE OF FOOD THAT EPITOMISES WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO ACHIEVE. EGG FROM OUR

CHOOKS. ASPARAGUS GROWN IN THE VEG PATCH. SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS FROM A FRIEND.

BREAD BAKED IN OUR OVEN. BLACK GARLIC SALT. GARLIC GROWN BY US AND TURNED INTO

A CULINARY DELIGHT. 100 FOOD MILES??? NOPE. MORE LIKE 1 MILE.

 

We’re very fortunate that in our region we have local business owners who are promoting our regional bounty. We have providores, butchers, cafés and restaurants who are all flying the ‘buy local’ and ‘eat local’ flag. Challenge yourself; count the miles on your next plate of food. See how low you can go!|

 

Wherever you live, you'll find opportunities to support local growers. And you can always have a go at growing your own!

 Till next time....

Ami.

 

 

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