Moving toward local eating: Finding substitutions

Choosing vegetablesPart of the “Moving toward local eating” series

When you’re trying to source your food locally, some substitutions are simple and easy. For example, I was able to buy Michigan potatoes instead of Idaho potatoes, Michigan-grown and -processed canned beans for far-away canned beans.

Then there were other things that had no direct local substitutes. Chocolate and coffee might be prepared locally, but they don’t grow here.  Then again, they don’t make up that much of our diet, so I don’t worry about them too much.

For other things, I started to ask myself what it was about each food I enjoyed, and started looking for local substitutes.  Some of them were pretty easy to see (subbing peaches for mangoes), and some were really odd (subbing refried beans for cheese in quesadillas – but the creamy texture is what I was looking for, so that worked).

Some involved foods that don’t taste anything alike – for example, we now sub fresh snow peas for carrots in lunches.  The point of the carrot is that it’s juicy and crunchy and easy to throw in with a sandwich…not so much its essential carrot-ness.  So a handful of snow peas are juicy and crunchy and easy to throw in with a sandwich for lunch – and also happen to be made of pure awesome, so much so that we’d skip the carrots for lunch completely if we could grow enough snow peas!



  1. shortystylee said,

    January 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    For coffee and chocolate, I’ve been trying to at least find a product that has some part of it’s production done in Michigan. I’ve been stuck on Roosroast coffees and Mindo chocolates lately. Maybe I can convince them to make a mocha blend 🙂


  2. January 24, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Interesting substitutions. I love my Michigan cheese and root vegetables 🙂

  3. cookiecrumb said,

    January 24, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    I’m guessing you don’t have space for gardening. Just to get you jealous, have you ever looked at the blog of the Michigan self-sustaining farmer, Fast Grow the Weeds? I mean, just to get you INSPIRED. 🙂

    • Suzie said,

      January 24, 2011 at 10:15 pm

      @cookiecrumb: I’m guessing you haven’t been reading EatCloseToHome for long. 😉 But – regarding the recent FastGrow post – she does not have chickens… not yet, anyway!

    • Emily said,

      January 25, 2011 at 9:20 am

      Cookie –
      Yup, I read El’s blog all the time, and WOW! Yes, very inspiring. Her greenhouses put mine to shame.

      More about “growing your own” later in the series. It has been my default stance for years, but now…that may be changing for some things.


  4. Alan said,

    January 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    As a local foodie, and a grower (a bit further south than you…) I have to throw my two bits into the mix.

    1 – A lot can be grown in the winter with minimal cover (see E Colmans 4 Season Harvest and Winter Harvest Handbook for ideas.)

    2 – On things that will never grow where you live. I look for Fair Trade, least processed options. For example, I’m getting coffee from a local roaster who buys green beans from a fair trade group. He roasts and grinds. Supports local farmers far away, and local business here. Most herbs I buy as whole seed and grind, or find some local who does. Same idea.

    I love your substitutions. Looking at 100% local has made me start thinking hard about substituting, or altering to fit local produce. That’s how the food we love (Italian, Greek, Indian, Chinese, etc.) was created. They used what was native to their place. That’s what we need. Maybe you can create Michiganise food…

  5. Lisa Bashert said,

    January 26, 2011 at 8:51 am

    I’ve been thinking for years about how to live without black tea and tried growing numerous herbal teas in my garden. Mostly they all tasted like weeds to me. Finally found a couple that I think are sustaining and delicious and fulfilling in the way black tea is to me: chocolate mint is one and it’s also full of nectar for my bees; and what I call my “House Herbal” is another. The latter includes equal parts sweet woodruff, goldenrod, basil and oregano. It’s supposed to have fresh ginger in it (and you can sub native wild ginger), but it’s also delicious without. I also really like red clover (flower & leaves) as a tea. (It has the medicinal property of lowering anxiety, also.)

    Ypsi Food Coop has tons of Michigan beans in bulk — and they even go on sale! I’m stocking up on cannellini’s this month. Also I grow Big Mama limas which are a huge bean that is delicious and great in succotash. I, too, sub snow peas and snap peas in lunches — although there are lots of carrots that will hold over the winter.

    Made a pie on Sunday with my root cellared apples, Emily. It was DEELISH. Some of the Jonathans are shriveled outside but fine inside (many aren’t) and the Greenings are holding just great!

  6. Lisa Bashert said,

    January 26, 2011 at 8:54 am

    I meant — many Jonathans *aren’t* shriveled. They are plump & fine. Many of the Greenings had worm damage to begin with so I lost a lot that way, but those that had no worm damage are completely outstanding.

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