It’s easy to eat healthy, fresh, and local in summer when fruit and veggies are pouring out of the farms in Mecklenburg County. Winter is another story. At times it seems impossible to find anything not sealed into a plastic bag in the freezer aisle. Good news: it’s not!
The first step is knowing what to look for. Let’s face it – no one is going to live off of local strawberries in North Carolina in February. Greens are a local eater’s best friend in winter. Collards, kale, spinach, swiss chard, and lettuce are available in abundance year round. This may require learning to cook greens or venturing out of your vegetable comfort zone but as someone who only recently discovered that collards don’t have to be cooked with lard and served with fried chicken, let me tell you – it’s worth it. Fresh greens beat frozen peas and carrots any day.
Next, you just need to know where to look. Lucky for you, Dining Services at Davidson College serves delicious fruits and veggies from the college’s farm year round. Vail Commons, Davis Café, and Wildcat Den all buy lettuce and other greens from the Farm at Davidson College throughout the winter and these items are usually marked by the farm’s logo on the menu. The Davidson Farmers’ Market also runs throughout the winter. It switches to a biweekly schedule from November to March but still hosts many farmers with produce to sell even in January and February. Barbee Farms, famous for its watermelon in the summer, is a great place to look at the market. They sell carrots, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and salad mixes all locally grown even in the dead of winter. The Bradford Store in Huntersville is another nearby option. The store grows some of its own greens and farmers often stop by on Saturdays to sell what they have left from the farmers’ market. Bradford Store also sells local milk, cheese, and butter as well as grains. What could be better than a hot bowl of grits from local corn with local cheese and butter on a cold winter day?
Eating local in winter requires adjusting to what’s available but is certainly still possible. Yes, there’s a wider variety of produce shipped into Davidson, NC from across the globe year-round, but there’s also value in following local growing patterns and supporting local farmers as they coax growth from their frozen ground.