Under the Sun
Think local in buying, eating homegrown food
IF ALL politics is local, then the stuff in my refrigerator could be considered political.
Save for sauces like ketchup, shoyu and hoisin, the milk, fake butter, flour and pomegranate juice, the food was grown in the islands.
Most are garden-variety vegetables -- romaine and red leaf lettuce, mustard greens, kale, spinach, chard, beets, carrots and radishes.
Common fruits like mangoes, apple bananas, oranges, limes, lemons and tangerines make a colorful display on the kitchen counter. Tomatoes add yellows and reds to the palette.
Fat eggs -- tinted pale blue, blush, creamy white or mocha brown by a hen's genetics and not the Easter bunny -- stretch the pockets of the carton with their girth. In the freezer, locally raised beef, chicken and pork chops await their fate in the oven or on the grill.
None of these are extravagant provisions of an affluent gourmet, but are foods available to regular people, if they know where to get them.
Farmers markets are prime harvesting grounds, rich in variety and leaner in prices. Island, region and season dictate the diversity of products. On the Big Island, strawberries have made their yearly debut at the Hilo market. On Oahu, the winter crop of mangoes trails through to the delight of devotees who aren't fortunate enough to win a neighbor's favor.
SUMMER will bring lilikoi, honeydews and other melons to the table. Potatoes -- sweet purples and Yukon golds -- and shallots and onions promise to return, having been stunted by poor weather.
For shoppers who want convenience, Hawaii-grown fruits and veggies can usually be found at supermarkets and health food stores. Though not in abundance, they are bar-coded and packaged for sales when suppliers can provide the consistency large stores require.
It wasn't so long ago that buying local was considered the preference of foodie elitists with money to spare. Not now. Buying home grown or at least grown as close to home as possible has become a frugal and political choice.
The practice supports a local economy with money circulating within a community rather than flowing outside. At a farmers market, the couple selling bak choy and snow peas make change with hands still stained from the dirt of their fields. The papaya man, nursing bruises from a fall while picking fruit, amuses customers with tales of his once-a-year, weekend-in-Vegas vacation.
If this isn't persuasive enough, if connecting with the people who cultivated your salad doesn't hold sway, there are other reasons for buying local.
It conserves energy. Transporting speckled-skinned oranges from Kau consumes far less fossil fuel and creates less pollution than trucking and shipping a crate of unblemished citrus globes from Florida. The local ones taste much better to boot.
IF FLAVOR doesn't matter, then consider that local foods are likely more nutritious and keep longer simply because they are fresher. Broccoli born in California, stored for weeks, then slow-boated to the islands loses food value and even if a few pennies cheaper, their faster spoilage voids frugality.
Above all, buying local sustains agricultural lands and gives Hawaii a measure of food security. We can't produce the makings for a Spam musubi or a Big Mac, but we can grow good, healthy foods and keep the islands' rich soils in cultivation.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org