Thursday, July 12, 2012

The 100-mile-diet? - The Locavore's Dilemma

cabbage storage
Anyone that has grown up in the Toronto area knows that the city's nick name is Cabbagetown. Why? The name Cabbagetown comes from stories of Irish immigrants arriving during the Irish Potato Famine in the middle of the nineteenth century. They grew cabbages in front of their homes in an area that became part of Toronto. Why cabbage? Probably because potatoes, historically a food staple of the Irish, had become unreliable through successive crop failures due to the potato blight back home. Cabbage was reliable and could be stored through the harsh Canadian winter, and avoiding starvation is an excellent incentive.
"This standard winter vegetable (cabbage) may be stored either indoors or out. In the former case a good way is to put the trimmed heads in slotted or open vegetable barrels. Or the plants may be taken up roots and all, the loose outer leaves trimmed off, and three or four heads tied together by the roots and suspended from nails in the cellar rafters. In this way they will keep well without occupying any floor space, which is needed for other things, such as root crops and fruits. .......... It is well to store at least part of the crop out of doors, as this will keep in perfect condition until late spring, when it will be much more fresh and crisp than that which has been stored indoors."
"......Well matured cabbage can easily be kept through the winter in an outside trench or pit. The heads are packed as shown
(see above right), covered with straw or marsh hay, and as freezing weather approaches, gradually cover with soil."
One of the most effective ways to avoid starvation is through trade. Even the Irish got tired of eating cabbage, not to mention the fact that growing anything in Canada, even relatively balmy Toronto in winter, is tricky. Trade, of course, reduces the risk that local food issues will impact local families with famines. The chances of widespread famine are remote especially if the trade areas are farther away. The greater the distance between traders, the more likely there will be food to trade.

But the anthropogenic global warming crowd has again bullied its way into an economic area blissfully unaware of the facts. They claim that to reduce one's carbon footprint its best to follow the dictates popularized in a book the100-Mile-Diet, eat locally to reduce transportation and thus CO2 emissions.

There is nothing wrong with eating local foods, its makes perfect sense when they are available. But is it wrong to source food from distant shores? Does it really help the environment to eat locally? Is the food more nutritious and safer if its local?

In a new book Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu dispel some of the myths around eating locally versus globally. Watch this lecture that Desrochers presented to CATO recently in Washington D.C.


  1. I am familiar with Cabbage Town, having spent my younger days in the east end of Toronto. But I never considered it a nickname for the city, only for the area between Riverdale Park and Parliament Street. James Town and Hog Town are nicknames for other areas of Toronto.

  2. Maybe it's a function of what sports channels one watches/listens to. Both Hog Town and Cabbage Town are used by broadcasters when referring to Toronto colloquially.