Funny thing, this Eat Local Challenge. It seems the more you try it, and the more others that try it, the less of a challenge it becomes.
A few years ago, the idea of produce after October would have been futile. This year, I still have CSA pickups for another two weeks. The farmers market changed over to a "Holiday Mart" for November, but two of my farmers still show up and I can buy even more from them in addition to the CSA box.
Next year, our CSA farmer is hoping to have enough greenhouses in that the CSA will run the whole year. The demand has grown, it's possible now to have year-round produce.
I'm shocked at the price people can charge for grassfed meat now that it is a "trend." I still pay $3.00 a pound for a split side. My chicken and lamb guy brings the meat to my doorstep. Local eggs and milk are on the store shelves year round. In the darkest, coldest days of February, well, something local is on the table at every meal.
Even so, the last farmers market is still a tough morning for me. I have to say goodbye to friends I won't see until April. I buy from each of them, too much produce, enough to put up for Thanksgiving and beyond. I buy a gallon of local honey from a beekeeper who emails me information about colony collapse disorder. I buy the most beautiful deep purple snap peas from the Thai farmers who have introduced me to many new vegetables this year. I buy heirloom pumpkins from the same farmer who grows alll heirloom tomatoes. I love his dedication to rare seeds, but his English is not very good, so I can't really explain all this well. So I buy as many as I can carry.
From the "Asparagus Lady" I can get greens and huge bunches of spinach, twice as much in a bundle as anyone else sells. Carrots, mustard greens, collards, onions.
One farmer has a grandaughter that spoils my little girl. He's got sorghum and chestnuts, potatoes, the last of the green beans. I give him a hopeful look, "Next week?" I watch the weather to see how much longer the season can last.
One by one, I say goodbye, but not completely. For a few weeks more, as long as they have produce to sell, I will come to buy. After the last for the season, I will use the pumpkins and sweet potatoes I have stored. The berries and green beans are put up in the freezer. The honey will last all winter. My Thanksgiving table will have local foods, including the turkey. I'll use the last of my sage, rosemary and thyme before winter sets in.
Spring is not so far away. The only real challenge is waiting out the coldest, cruelest months. Even so, the bounty come spring will be all the better for the wait.
If you are going to participate in the Local Thanksgiving Challenge, or at least have as much local produce as possible on your menu, here's a few recipes to get you thinking.
Fall Menu Side Dishes
Roasted Whole Pumpkin with Gruyere
Honey Sage Sweet Potato Pasta
Delicata Squash with Red Rice, Cranberries and Pecans
Maple-Orange Sweet Potato Souffle
Fall Menu Main Courses
Pumpkin Gnocchi with Walnut Cream Sauce
Acorn Squash and Chicken Sausage Cassoulet
Apple-Sage Roasted Chicken