michael pollan answers readers questions

Today's Globe and Mail has a feature with author and activist Michael Pollan, in which he answers questions from readers. The questions the Globe chose are the ones many people ask, especially those of us who live in a colder climate, and who are struggling with difficult economic times. The story certainly reflects my own concerns.

Here's an example.
I found your arguments in The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food compelling. However, it is much easier to eat produce locally when one is living in California. I can manage to put up some fruits and vegetables in the summer, but not nearly enough to make it through the long Ontario winter. Perhaps if I did not work full-time things would be different. So what do you suggest for those of us in cold climates – are we really supposed to eat only root vegetables for seven to eight months of the year?
–Elizabeth Caucutt, London, Ont.

It's true it's really easy to eat this way in California – and Vancouver, too, I imagine. I'm not a locavore zealot and there's nothing wrong with frozen vegetables – they're really cheap and they are often picked at the height of nutritional quality and freezing does not ruin their nutritional composition. I think it's a very good way to get through the winter months.

I also do think, though, that the idea that you have to have a lettuce salad 12 months of the year has taken hold where there are many other vegetables suitable for salad – root vegetables, cabbage. There are all sorts of ways you can eat fresh vegetables in the winter, shredded with vinaigrette, whatever, that are more nutritious than lettuce salads. There is actually very little food value in lettuce – as much as we all love it, it's overrated.

There's no question it's challenging in the winter and I don't see lots of people putting up hoards of vegetables, but don't overlook freezing or canning. Putting up tomato sauce and preserves for the winter, if you have the inclination, is great – it's a wonderful burst of summer in the depths of winter.


I live in Ontario and have very limited access to local markets. In the supermarket, I am often faced with making a choice between local produce or organic produce. Is it better to buy organic apples from Chile, or non-organic produce from Ontario? I want to do the right thing, and price isn't really an issue (or at least I won't let it be), but I really don't know which is the best for the planet. I suspect organic is more important for me and my health, directly, but in the broader social context? What's best for the planet?
– Joan Burton, Newmarket, Ont

There are five questions in all; very worth reading.

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