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Published November 25, 2008, 12:00 AM

Why buy fruit from overseas – find it locally grown

As Thanksgiving approaches, my focus moves away from the garden and toward the hectic holiday season. Being a self-proclaimed “foodie,” my thoughts now are about what to prepare for the kick-off meal to the season. I was doing this last Sunday as I was preparing a pheasant soup and a thought occurred to me: Am I a gardener because I love to cook, or do I cook because I garden?

By: By Carrie Barre-LiBaire, Extension educator, Alexandria Echo Press

As Thanksgiving approaches, my focus moves away from the garden and toward the hectic holiday season. Being a self-proclaimed “foodie,” my thoughts now are about what to prepare for the kick-off meal to the season. I was doing this last Sunday as I was preparing a pheasant soup and a thought occurred to me: Am I a gardener because I love to cook, or do I cook because I garden?

I have to admit I have gone through much of my life without it concerning me. Being a child of the 1970s, I have never been denied much of anything I desire, whether it is a mango in the middle of winter or shrimp while living in the Midwest. But once you experience the difference of freshly-caught shrimp from South Carolina, or fresh mangoes from a tree in a Florida backyard, it’s hard to go back. True gardeners will only buy a mealy hothouse tomato in January out of dire necessity, and doing so causes us to yearn that much more for our own. Nothing could smell as good as a true ripe tomato on the coldest day of February

There has been a lot of buzz lately about where our food comes from and the costs it entails. Why buy a banana that came from Central America on a ship or plane, then put in a “ripening room” filled with ethylene gas and trucked to our grocery stores, when we can get Minnesotan grown Honey Crisp apples that can be stored for months right in our home? I don’t know, and the more I think about it, the less sense it makes to me.

But getting back to the question at hand; did my love for good food lead me to gardening, or the other way around? In my case, I believe the two are so intertwined there isn’t a point where one passion ends and the other begins. From the apple butter my mother used to make from our old apple tree in Ohio (it was so massive we had a tire swing from it, and it was rumored to be a Johnny Appleseed tree) to having fresh asparagus from the garden in early spring, what the garden produces has always been a part of my culinary psyche.

This time of year I am forced to take a reprieve from thinking about the garden and instead focus my attention on scheduling events and spending too much money. I can usually get through it without too much angst, because I know the seed catalogues will start arriving as soon as the season is over. So after the holidays I am going to pour over every seed and plant catalog and work on expanding my culinary garden, not just for my own plate, but because it feels right.

If you would like more information on locally-produced foods, you can contact me at the Douglas County Extension Office at (320) 762-3890. You can also go to www.prideoftheprairie.org or www.minnesotagrown.com.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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