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Locos for Locavores—Eating Local in Mexico

Locos for Locavores—Eating Local in Mexico

Omar and I are concerned about global warming and pollution, and try to eat locally and not be part of the problem.  We’ve got a long way to go, but we are giving it our best shot.  Trouble is, in a developing country the lack of environmental education, coupled with the very real lack of money, makes old habits die hard.

June 3, 2008

Beautiful artichokes
Beautiful artichokes

It’s finally Springtime in Upstate New York, and, for the 49th consecutive year, Mom is putting in her vegetable garden.  For an area with a short growing season—we’ve had tomatoes and peppers frozen out in early June–an amazing tonnage of food has come from that 20 x 20 foot plot over the years.

When we were kids we didn’t know that we were locavores.  Maybe everyone ate more locally produced food in the 1960’s.  But we were epicures, all right.  We didn’t need to be told the difference between the hard, pink tomatoes in the grocery store and the incredibly juicy and fragrant fruits fresh from the vine.  Whenever we got hungry we would stop playing with our plastic dinosaurs to wade like T-Rex into the tomato patch.  Tomato plants glisten golden in the sun with thousands of tiny hairs, and the smell as you brush by tickles your nose and makes you almost sneeze.

And as you bite into that sun-hot tomato, it is impossible to escape the juice as it spurts over your chin and runs onto your tee-shirt.

Asparagus, peas, beans, peppers, potatoes—in those hazy summers dinners were often made entirely from food from our garden, with beef from the cows grazing the hill on the farm behind the house.  We had no idea how lucky we were.

I remember our first garden.  With the excitement of starting a new project, my folks brought in huge Clydesdales to plow up seemingly acres of land—much more than they could ever tend or use.  I think every seed in the catalogue went into that first huge plot, including exotic southern crops like peanuts and tobacco.

The garden is much reduced now, but it still provides fresh food all summer and fall and the most delicious canned tomatoes throughout the winter, as well as green tomato relish and a bumper crops of frozen raspberries, basil, and peppers—both hot and mild.

An aside.  After visiting us in Mexico, Mom and Rich got the chile bug, and planted the hottest, habaneros.  The plants didn’t do anything much until very late in the season, when they burst forth with tons of the incendiary peppers.  Half a tiny pepper heats up a good size pot of spaghetti sauce.  The first year, with no practice in cooking with habaneros, Mom was at a loss of what to do with them.  Rich likes sausage and pepper sandwiches, so she made up her mind to serve him one of them.

So she heated some oil and fried up 15 or 20 of the fiery little devils.  She ended up cooking with a towel over her nose, the fumes were so strong, and cried a river.  Rich had to sit outside.

Just before the paint started to peel Mom decided the peppers were done, and made up a nice hard roll with a hot sausage patty (to make it spicy, I suppose) and the load of habanero peppers.

If you’ve ever eaten a habanero, you don’t forget it.  My head is sweating just thinking about it.

To his credit, Rich got the sandwich down, and spent the next two days pulling the toilet seat up around his ears.

Green long before their time, my folks very rarely need to use any pesticides, relying more on rotating crop positions and removing any diseased plants.  Rich often flicks Japanese beetles and asparagus beetles into a jar of kerosene.

I’ve never had space for a garden anywhere I’ve lived, and I miss all the fresh food.  We did try container gardening last year (see post) but although it is very sunny here south of Guadalajara, there was too much shade in the passageway we have available to us.  We are thinking of trying it again, on the roof this time.

Luckily, it is relatively easy for us to buy locally produced fruits and vegetables.  This is Mexico, after all, and we grow produce year around for shipment overseas.  Our development was a broccoli field four years ago, and cauliflower and other crops are still grown within a couple of miles.

The tianguis, or street markets, are full of local fruits and vegetables, and are good places to find unusual items that are usually grown in very small, non-commercial quantities—the fruits mispera and zapote negro, huantzontle, which looks like a huge lamb’s quarters and is battered and fried, and of course huitlacoche–Mexican truffles, AKA corn smut—which apart from being quite homely is ambrosia in quesadillas.

Where we fall down on the locavore bit is with imported foods you just can’t find here.  Good apples.  Cherries.  Raspberries.  And peanut butter.  I need my peanut butter, and the Mexican Aladin brand is awful.

We have a long way to go to being green.  Mexico City is now starting trash separation and recycling, but in Jalisco everything still goes into the same can.  Mexico has huge oil reserves, so there isn’t much incentive to tap the incredible solar and wind power available to us.  We did see a solar water heater—the water is pumped through glass pipes on the roof—but at $800, nobody in our neighborhood could afford it.

There are some efforts at reforestation, but so far they seem like more talk than action—and there have been several large forest fires in the Primavera this year, so Guadalajara’s ‘lung’ has been compromised again.

Pollution and global warming know no boundaries, of course.  It is wonderful that more people are biking and taking cloth bags to the supermarket, but until there is more education in developing countries, our environmental problems are going to increase.

Dan and Omar

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Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.