Garlic From China: How Far Does Your Food Travel?

Take a good look around next time you walk up and down your supermarket aisle.  You’ll probably notice the happy images of farmers busily tending their crops, picturesque red and white barns with chickens running outside, and photographs of wide open countryside.  Not a factory in sight.  The power of association is incredible.   And incredibly deceiving.

Over the last twenty or so years, the healthcare system in this country has become more and more strained.  This is due, in no small part, to many of us consuming a chronically unhealthy diet of processed foods that may have a picture of a barn on the packaging, but more than likely it has travelled thousands of miles to get to your plate, and have certainly not been anywhere near a farm. Take for example, our garlic. Much of our garlic originates in China, so by the time it crosses the Pacific Ocean and the rest of the country and it arrives on supermarket shelf in New York, it’s far from fresh.  In fact, most food in the United States spends 7-14 days in transit and travels an average of 2,400 miles to reach your plate. All this to have watermelon in December and squash in June.

But thanks to the likes of Michael Pollen (In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and a slew of eye-opening documentaries and media reports over the last ten years we are now better educated than ever about what to eat and where to buy it from.

Here in Queens we have a remarkable array of CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) from which to choose, and as our community grows, the demand for fresh, organic, and unprocessed foods has intensified more and more; we now have organic supermarkets and specialty stores.  Even our larger local supermarkets have a bigger range of organic and local produce than ever before.                                            

And now that the weather is finally warming up, and spring is right around the corner, there’s nothing to stop you from growing your own produce.  You can do it in your garden, or even in window boxes.  Tomatoes, kale, swiss chard, beans, you name it you can grow it!  And the whole family can dig in and really reap what they sow!

This week we look forward to bringing you some great tips for shopping local, eating seasonally and some fabulous recipe ideas too!  Happy and healthy eating!

Carolyn Nagler

Below are some resources to assist you in finding a CSA and to cooking with seasonal vegetables:

To find a CSA in your neighborhood use this visit Ecovian’s website.

To find out what vegetables are in season visit this seasonal vegetable chart.

Check out Brooklynsupper blog for some superb recipes using seasonal vegetables.