Grocery Shopping Notes # 4: The Fruit Dilemma Edition

I stopped by the grocery store “just for milk” and gave in to temptation to buy imported blackberries, deeply discounted.

I have been trying to buy local fruit and veg, but in my part of the world, the fruit is really only apples and frozen berries in winter. Right now I buy a limited selection of fruit – local apples, local frozen blueberries, oranges and bananas. I wouldn’t buy imported fresh blueberries or apples from somewhere else, because I’d feel guilty about cutting out local farmers.We buy oranges and bananas year-round, which can’t be grown anywhere in Canada. The USA is our nearest neighbour, so I’ve always tried to buy Florida citrus, but now the stores only stock South African citrus! Pineapple now comes from the Philippines rather than Hawaii. Grapes have long since been imported from Chile instead of California. From what I’ve seen, most frozen and canned fruit is also imported. It’s a microcosm of globalization in the produce department!

Since I buy imported oranges and bananas anyway, does it really matter if I buy imported Chilean grapes or Italian kiwi fruit as well? What should I know about the working conditions and pesticide use in each country, and if I did know, could I buy anything at all?

The other side of it is, if I support the farmers and economies of other countries during the winter, maybe the citizens of those countries could buy Canadian in the summer? Except people in warm climates don’t need to because they enjoy lengthy, if not year-round, growing seasons! Maybe we’ll have to develop international markets for funky local specialties like fiddleheads, dulse and partridge berries.

To me it seems evident that, having no health issues, I should buy local small farm produce, even if conventionally grown if necessary, and not imported organic, with tens of thousands of travel miles. I’ve read the locavore books in which all imported food is sacrificed, but haven’t gone that far.  The extreme solution would be to remain local and eat less variety, or maybe freeze strawberries when they’re available in the summer?  I should probably research which local fruit and berries can be frozen or canned. For sure I could have put up some rhubarb!

Now vegetables are a whole other story: local winter offerings are strictly limited to root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets and turnips. There is really no way I would do without peas, broccoli, green beans, peppers and mushrooms all winter. But I bet it would be possible to buy local in peak season and freeze at least some of those.

As I think and write, I see I should invest in an additional freezer next summer, because we only have a small fridge-top one. Or just enjoy myself eating much more jam 🙂

Note: I later found this blog post:

http://www.mindfultable.ca/2012/02/not-local-the-sustainable-ethical-lowdown-on-four-tropical-treats/

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