Before hitting grocery store shelves or your dinner table, a typical food travels 1,500 miles or more. Most people don't realize that in the spring and fall, their favourite fruits and vegetables often come from the southern United States. In the winter months, that food makes an even longer trek from South America or Australia.
More and more people are turning to the "eat local" movement - eating food that has been grown, manufactured and produced entirely (from seedling to harvest) locally. In addition to supporting local growers, food grown closer to home is picked at the peak of freshness, making it tastier, more nutritious and will often last longer on your kitchen shelves.
The locavore movement was popularized with the book "100 Mile Diet,' written by a Vancouver-area couple who, for a year, ate only food that was grown, raised, or fished within a 100 mile (160 kilometres) radius of their home.
But how do you eat locally in a city where you have to travel kilometres to even see a blade of grass?
For several months of the year, the easiest solution is farmers' markets. A downtown Toronto favourite is, of course, the St. Lawrence Market. Head there on weekend mornings to sample local vegetables, artisan cheeses produced in Ontario, and the legendary pemeal bacon sandwich.
To branch out from the St. Lawrence Market, try one of the other farmers' markets in the city. From Montgomer's Inn Farmers' Market in Etobicoke to BirchCliff Village Farmers' Market at Kingston Rd. and Warden, there's bound to be one near you!
In addition to farmers' markets, there are many other ways to eat locally. For meat, head over to The Healthy Butcher for locally grown, certified organic beef, chicken, pork, and lamb. If you're feeling adventurous, they also carry elk, bison, duck, goose, and rabbit.
The best in local vegetables can be found at Cookstown Greens. They grow, harvest, clean, sort, pack, chill, and deliver their own vegetables. About 90 km away from Toronto, it fits the 100 Mile Diet requirements. Find salad greens, asparagus, beets, potatoes, artichokes plus other seasonal vegetables, seedlings and garnishing.
We're also lucky enough to have locally produced dairy products. Look for Monforte Dairy products, produced in Stratford, Ontario (91 miles outside of the city), and sold throughout downtown Toronto
For a one stop shop, visit Culinairum on Mount Pleasant Rd. They sell only Ontario-produced products, from meats and cheese to preserves and herbal teas.
And, of course, you can�t forget the beverages. Toronto is home to some great micro-breweries including The Steamwhistle Brewery at the Roundhouse and Mill St. Brewery in the Distillery District. In you're looking for wine, try any of the VQA wines (100% Ontario grown grapes) at the LCBO and Wine Rack.
Being a locavore is possible even for condo-dwellers in downtown Toronto, you just have to know where to look. Open you mind, tickle your taste buds, and taste the best local has to offer.