Follow the white radish

Green beans with butter, mustard, balsamic, cracked salt and black pepper.

I have a confession to make. Last week I bought, prepared, and ate green beans from Mexico.

As I ate the internationals, steaming and tender, dripping with savoury sauce, I tried to shut their failings from my mind. Each unassuming bean on its long journey to Vancouver carried with it a frightful share of greenhouse gas emissions. I’d rather not taste that kind of responsibility in my food. Perhaps it explains my preference for the strong tang of balsamic vinegar, to drown it out?

My guilt was such that when I visited my local farmers market a few days later, I bought veggies I don’t even like along with the ones I do. Local, organic, in-season veggies—full of the goodness of social, environmental and economic sustainability—now inhabit my veggie crisper.

At Vancouver’s farmers markets you buy directly from local farmers and food producers. Food travels a minimum distance, contributing far fewer emissions than their worldly competitors. In addition, at the market nothing is re-sold, so the profits from the sale of that food stay with the people whose labour produced it. All of the vendors are from the local area (though the definition of “local” may vary, all are from BC), so my purchases are a direct investment in the local food economy. This contributes to the demand for local food, ensuring that farmland doesn’t shrink from the spectre of new development, and our ability remains to grow food in our region. Such local investment is as much an investment in food security as it is in the local economy.

White radishes, follow them if you dare.

As if these benefits of shopping at the farmers market weren’t enough, add to it the choice of foodstuffs that you just don’t see in the average grocery store.  Sweet, white radishes—milder than the common red ones, and with a tender crunch that reveals their extreme freshness having been pulled from the ground just the day before—become the star in a bowl of mixed salad greens. Red spring onions, with two-foot-long leaves and small red-purple bulbs, inspire an onion and garlic roasted potato salad. And the kale—ah, right, the kale. It was sitting beside the lovely white radishes, looking dusky and beguiling and wholly unknown.

Caught up as I was in my guilt over the beans and my euphoria at the springtime return of my local farmers market, I had adventured into the land of un-tasted vegetables. I know they’re good for me, of course, but I don’t like a lot of veggies. With some trepidation, I plan to prepare these greens tonight. If it goes badly, I will blame the experience on the interloping Mexican beans. But if it’s successful (as in, I eat them and consider doing so again) I will thank the radishes for leading me on.

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