Thursday, January 17, 2008

Food Miles

I've got a bit of a 'bee in my bonnet' about the latest global warming catch cry....... food miles. Most people know that this means how far the food travels before it reaches your table.

If we read the labels on packaging in the supermarkets, we will discover that in Australia, we are eating simple foods like jams and sweet corn, dates and dried apricots from far away places such as Turkey, Poland and Thailand.

I've had a few shopping expeditions at ALDI recently, where all the labels are strange, and packed under the vast ALDI umbrella. I bought some peanut butter and was horrified to read on the label it was from China! Safeway (Woolworths) is the same.

China has recently earned the reputation for poor quality control on its products, with lead paint on children's toys, and chemicals in its foods. Who knows how the peanuts are grown for that peanut butter? The Chinese are know to use human waste for fertiliser, and ground grown peanuts could be bathing in it. Thailand could well be the same.

I like to know how my food is grown, and though it's cheap to buy imported food, it could well be bad for our health.

Australia is becoming inundated with imported foods, when we used to grow everything we needed. Local growers have been put under huge pressure with cheaper imports, and are closing down their operations.

I heard recently talk about fuel costs becoming so high, it will be prohibitive to cart food from one side of the world to the other.

Our household is trying to produce as much of our own food as we can, and our health has improved markedly with no herbicides or insecticides. I have hardly bought any vegetables for the past three years and our savings have been obvious.

The pleasure we derive from walking outside for food for our table never lessens.

We buy very little processed foods, but I have promised myself to read the labels, and spend a little more to buy locally grown food where I can.

Following on from that ramble, for the past three years, I have collected wild cherry plums that grow along many of our roads nearby. Spread by birds who revel in this annual fruit bonanza, they are easily accessible from the roadside.

I usually pick a couple of buckets, and cook them up for jam.

It is a real pain to pick all the pips out. I used to mash them up and do it with a teaspoon, which is very time consuming, but yesterday I waited for it to cool a little and got the hands in, which is much quicker.

I make the jam in the microwave in a huge casserole dish, and it's done in forty minutes. Apart from buying the sugar, we have delicious jam for nothing!

I think our new beehive is up and functioning, though I doubted it for the first few days. There were few bees around the front entry, and I hoped they all hadn't defected back to the old hive.

I tapped on the side yesterday morning, and it began to buzz furiously inside, so I think all is well.

We went to pick up a motorized honey extractor from a retiring beekeeper the other night. Although we are far from needing such a unit, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. Buying one new is a very expensive process.

My man hadn't seen it before, and his jaw dropped when we called to pick it up.

It is a real old dinosaur, with lovely cast iron mechanism. We were told he bought it from an 80 year old beekeeper. The motor runs smoothly, and the seller showed us all the tricks he has learned so it extracts efficiently, with little damage to the honeycomb.

We bought 6 used hives as well, complete with frames, so we can expand at our leisure.

"History is a kind of introduction to more interesting people than we can possibly meet in our restricted lives; let us not neglect the opportunity."
... Dexter Perkins


zooms said...

We share your preference for eating local and homegrown, how did mankind move away from these delights?
Really like the honey extractor too, and the Dexter Perkins quotation is so apt.
How do you find these?

BlissHill said...

Re: the quotes.... There are lots of lovely quote sites on the Net. I love trawling through and finding something that fits, and maybe teaches.

Mim said...

Have you read the book "Animal, Vegatable and Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver? She writes a great book about buying food locally. It's really a good read.

BlissHill said...

Hi Mim, no, I haven't read it, but might have a look for it. We have a lot of local produce available, mostly gourmet food... cheeses, wines, berry farms, potatoes, apples and the like.

We are very lucky to live in a very productive area.