Agriculture | Ecotrope

Apps That Help You Eat Local In The Winter

Ecotrope | Feb. 17, 2012 9:07 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:32 p.m.

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I tested two apps that claim to tell you which local foods are in season now and available near you. They were both helpful to a certain extent, but would have been even more helpful if they didn't shut down on me or direct me to farms that are closed for the season. 

I tested two apps that claim to tell you which local foods are in season now and available near you. They were both helpful to a certain extent, but would have been even more helpful if they didn't shut down on me or direct me to farms that are closed for the season. 

Ecoscope Megan Fulton found this nifty app created by the Natural Resources Defense Council to help people find out which locally grown foods are in season. That kind of tool can be especially handy in the wintertime when the selection of fresh, local produce is limited.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’s getting easier to find local produce year-round as more and more farmers markets are staying open through the winter months. The USDA reports a 38 percent increase in winter farmers markets from 2010 to 2011 – and that’s after the number grew 17 percent from 2009-2010.

Not sure if there’s one near you? Here’s a searchable list.

The NRDC app builds on that concept with its Eat Local app, which allows you to type in a zip code and get a list of farmers markets nearby on your phone. You can also check and see what’s in season in your state. Oddly, however, the app tells me are only three things in season in Oregon right now. And they’re all fish: Pacific halibut, Alaskan pollock and pink shrimp.

If I’m willing to extend my locavore district into Washington, however, the app tells me I can get apples, carrots, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, rhubarb, squash, AND the fish. That sounds like dinner.

But the app doesn’t seem to tell me if I can get those items at a nearby farmers market that’s open in the winter. The list of farmers markets doesn’t appear to take the season into account. Not as helpful as it could be.

I snooped around and found this Locavore app that was initially way more impressive. I opened up the Oregon tab and got a long list of fruits and veggies that are still in season along with the length of time they will remain in season. Then, when you click on the item you want, it shows you a map of where that item is in season across the country and offers suggestions for “where you  might find local grapefruit,” for example. I think *might* is the operative word in that section of the app.

If the app didn’t shut down when I clicked on the “where to buy” button, it took me to a map with pinpoints for all the places that grow the item I want. Awesome, right? But then when you click on the pinpoints, you find a more generic listing for a farm that may or may not be open for business in the winter. So that’s not as helpful as it seems.

But what I really liked about the Locavore app is that it tells you what’s going to be in season next month, what’s in season year-round, and it offers a quick and easy way to “check the neighbors” in Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Northern California. There’s a “recipes currently in season” button, but alas, when I tapped to open it, the section was blank.

All this leads me to conclude, at least for the time being, that it’s probably easier to just go to the farmers market you know is open in the winter and see what they have available. Talk to the people selling the produce and figure out what you can and cannot get locally this time of year. What? Apps don’t replace conversations with people? Not this time.

How do you choose your fruits and veggies in the winter? Do you stick with locally grown foods all winter long? Does your diet change at all? Do you use a phone app to help you figure it all out? Do tell…

 

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