Most of us know that the cost of food around the world is rising; you can read about it here.
But how are we affected in the North Bay?
A couple of days ago, I was chatting with Joe Imwalle of Imwalle Gardens (685 West Third St., Santa Rosa) and he brought up the subject.
Imwalle Gardens is really four businesses. There’s the retail store, the wholesale business, the nursery and the farm. In addition to growing vegetable starts and a number of annual crops, Joe also buys produce from both local farms and wholesale markets in San Francisco and Sacramento. He quotes prices like other people recite the names of their children.
In the last two weeks, prices have skyrocketed, he explains. Zucchini that was $12 a case went up to $42 a case. Celery, also $12 a couple of weeks ago, has gone up to $47. Tomatoes and peppers have tripled in price and the cost of lettuce has doubled. Limes that went for $10 a box around Christmas are now $66 a box; they cost more than lemons at this point.
There are several reasons for these increases. Cold temperatures in growing regions–Mexico, New Mexico and Arizona–have destroyed many crops. A virus hit many lettuce fields and they’ve been plowed under. The price of limes always increases at this time of year, though this year is the highest price Joe’s seen and the quality is poor, with hard fruit with little if any juice.
If you eat seasonally and locally, you may not have noticed these price increases. None of the affected crops are in season now in northern California and if you buy most of your vegetables at a farmers market, as I do, you may be oblivious to the increases. It is one of the many benefits of eating a locally-based diet. Zucchini, tomatoes and peppers are summer foods. Now is time for root vegetables, artichokes and asparagus, which are all reasonably priced right now. At Imwalle’s, artichokes were 79 cents each. They were beautiful, in that ugly way of frost-kissed artichokes, which are the most delicious, with the best texture.
If you find it hard to keep all the news about food, its prices, its sources and its controversies in mind, there’s an easy and obvious solution. Eat as close to home as possible by shopping at farmers markets and subscribing to a CSA. It’s the most economical way to go, the healthiest and the most delicious.
Here’s a selection of recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives for foods that are currently at their peak, here, now.