Eating and buying locally has been a topic of discussion on our blog in the past. Should we buy locally? Is it really that worth it? Does it really taste that good? Here to give us a first hand perspective on eating and buying locally is Megan Convery, a fourth year nutrition major at the University of Texas. She recently conjured up some stuffed mushrooms made from mostly local ingredients, save for olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, that were very popular at a potluck she attended. A quick Q&A with her revealed the following:
Why did you decide to buy local?
I decided to cook these mushrooms after being invited to a “Locavore Potluck” party.
What does ‘local’ mean to you?
Local to me means within a 75 mile radius. I believe San Antonio is local to Austin. If food is grown there then sold in Austin, I would consider it to be way more fresh than food from other states.
Where did you get your ingredients?
I got my ingredients from the Downtown Austin Farmers’ Market, off of Guadalupe and 4th.
*The Downtown Farmers’ Market is hosted by the Sustainable Food Center.
For more info click here.
Which ingredients did you buy locally?
Specifically, the mushrooms came from Kitchen PrideMushrooms, located in Gonzales, Texas. The Italian Sausage came from the free range Berkshire pork at Peach Creek Farms, in Rosanky, Texas. The marcapone cheese that I needed for my recipe was substituted with local goat cheese from CKC Farms, in Blanco, Texas. I found local parsley and scallions from assorted local produce booths.
Do you normally buy local ingredients?
I don’t normally buy local because I always figured they were more expensive. This was the first time I had ever gone to a farmers’ market in Austin.
Did you enjoy for your first visit to the Farmers’ Market?
It was awesome!
Did you think it was expensive to buy local? Do you think it’s affordable on a college budget?
I was surprised by the quality locally grown food had to offer, it was not very expensive. The meat was the most costly. Some ingredients from the farmers market could be afforded on a college budget; for example, I paid $6 for a full bag of local mushrooms. I think a lot of the ingredients I bought at the market would have compared to HEB’s prices, but the quality would not have been been the same.
What was different about using local ingredients versus buying ingredients from HEB?
The quality found in local ingredients was the biggest difference, taste being the most important. The mushrooms seemed to be a brighter white than those you buy in grocery stores. The italian sausage did not have a preserved taste; you could taste every ingredient in the sausage, all of the spices, the flavorful pork, and the herbs.
Do you enjoy cooking?
I love to cook! I love to try new ingredients, new recipes, anything! When I lived in Sicily, I was always inventing recipes where I could make something delicious with the wide assortment of cheeses they made there on the Island. I kind of felt that way again, when I bought the local goat cheese here in Austin for this recipe. It was a nice feeling to be able to recreate that.
What did you learn from this experience?
I learned a lot from this experience. I learned that it is not difficult to find specific local ingredients. I thought it was going to be impossible to find local Italian sausage, but it wasn’t. Also, local food doesn’t compare to store bought foods, you can’t find anything more fresh than food from your own city…kind of.
Will you begin to buy local more often now?
Since buying local is new to me, I would continue investigating more local farmers markets. I know various markets are hosted all around the city on different days. However, Wheatsville is a place I would like to visit more frequently.
Any last words?
The last thing I have to say is, I won an award for my stuffed mushrooms! They were a hit at the Locavore Potluck! I will continue to buy local and find new inventive recipes to use
local meats and cheeses in!
Buying locally grown foods is an enjoyable experience, and I encourage everyone to try it. I hope this quick Q&A has brought you one step closer to a farmers’ market. The farmer’s market downtown has a great atmosphere and the vendors are very friendly. My personal favorite is locally grown, organic strawberries from Boggy Creek Farm, they’re delicious!
On an ending note, here are some before/during/after pictures of the mushrooms Megan fixed up!