So you’re starting the Eat Local Challenge, and you’re wondering what you are going to be able to eat for the next month. Yes, you can find plenty of fresh produce and even seafood and meat available at many area farmers markets and stores. But what about everything else? How far can you go eating strictly local? The best way to start is by having a well-stocked pantry.
The Shelf-Stable Basics
Olive oil and other oils: You’re really in luck if you live in Santa Barbara County because we have a great selection of really top quality locally grown and pressed olive oils. Find one that you like and then buy in bulk for a better value. Also, try local walnut oil and pistachio oil.
Vinegar: You can find apple cider vinegar and verjus at the farmers market. And Olive Hill Farm has started making their own local wine based vinegars. Try the Rosé or Pinot Noir vinegars. They also plan to start making a Chardonnay, Syrah and another Pinot Noir blend. Some of the other vinegars that they carry are made in California, so just ask. Olive Hill Farm is located at 2901 Grand Ave in Los Olivos. And naturally as their name implies, they carry a great selection of local olive oils, too.
Dried beans: A number of local farmers are now offering dried beans. Check out Shepherd Farms, Hilltop Canyon Farm or Mama’s Preserves for a selection of heirloom varieties. Beans are one of the lowest cost and tastiest forms of protein. You can also visit or order online a wide variety of dried beans from Lompoc Beans. Although famous for their Lompoc Pinquitos, they also grow and sell all kinds of varieties including Black Eye’d Peas, Navy Beans, Fava Beans, Green Split Peas, Lentils and more.
Wheat flour and wheat berries: You can get local flour and wheat berries from Solvang Pie Company and Huasna Valley Farm. Use the wheat flour in baking. Wheat berries are the whole kernel of the wheat and are a little bit nutty and chewy. Try substituting them for rice or other grains.
Canned tomatoes: Several local farmers (Ellwood Canyon Farms, Roots Organic Farm) have joined forces with Duo Catering to offer beautiful jars of pantry ready tomatoes. Or pick up a flat of cosmetically-challenged tomatoes and spend an afternoon canning. Either way you’ll have the basis for many a quick delicious meal.
Nuts and dried fruit: Again, we are lucky to live in Santa Barbara County because we have our pick of walnuts and pistachios. Even almonds, pecans and peanuts are grown not too far away in the Central Valley. We can also find dried apricots, figs, dates and raisins at the farmers markets.
Granola: Ocean Ranch Organics makes several varieties of granola, and you can get delicious granola from Goodland Kitchen Market.
Peanut butter and nut butters: Avila and Sons is now selling their own peanut butter and other types of nut butters. You can get almond butter and almond meal from Fat Uncle Farms, and pistachio butter and meal from Santa Barbara Pistachio.
Jelly and jam: There is a wonderful selection of local jams. Try Bona Dea, Mama’s Preserves, Montecito Country Kitchen, Succulent and Marcie’s Garden/Jimenez Farms. And jam is another thing that is very satisfying to make yourself. You can even make a quick, small batch of ‘refrigerator’ jam for immediate consumption.
Honey: There are lots of local sources for honey. If you don’t know a beekeeper, pick up a jar of San Marcos Farms honey. Try using honey for part or of all of the sugar in baking or other desserts.
Pickled vegetables: Again, we’re in luck. Try Pacific Pickle Works, Succulent, Bona Dea or Harry’s Berries for absolutely delicious pickled vegetables. Harry’s Berries also makes a tasty salsa.
Coffee: Believe it or not, coffee is being grown in the Goleta foothills. You can buy locally grown and roasted coffee from Goodland Organics at the farmers market. You can also find a variety of locally roasted coffees, some of which are also Fair Trade and organic.
Dried Herbs and Spices
Herbs de Provence: Shepherd Farms makes a delicious version of this classic dried herb blend. You can buy small jars or buy in bulk to refill your own jars.
Salt: Steve Escobar has been experimenting with making local sea salt. Hopefully it will be available soon. If not, you could try your hand at it.
Pepper: While there isn’t a source of local black pepper, there are pepper trees all over this area. They produce the pink peppercorns that are frequently found in blends. No one is processing and selling a product right now, but it could be an interesting project.
Other spices: You can also find locally packaged spices and spice blends. They may not be grown in the area, but at least you are supporting a local business.
Bread: Try the many varieties of bread from Solvang Pie Company, made with the wheat they grow. Or support a local bakery who makes everything from scratch, i.e. D’angelo’s Breads, Ethnic Breads, SB Bagel Company, Sweethearts Bakery. Also, try baking your own.
Pasta: Solvang Pie Company also sells fresh pasta. You could try making your own fresh pasta using local wheat. Make in large batches and freeze a portion of it, so you have it on hand.
Tortillas: La Tolteca has been supplying area markets with local tortillas for years. What we don’t have yet is a source for local, organic masa corn flour. Lompoc Tortilla Shop also is a great source for tortillas and chips.
Eggs: Lily’s Eggs (from Santa Paula) are readily available at the farmers market or local grocery stores. Or even closer to home, try the eggs from Dare 2 Dream Farms in Lompoc. Even better, keep chickens for your own source of local eggs or make friends with someone who does.
Milk: Unfortunately we don’t have a commercial dairy in Santa Barbara County. You can get milk from within 150 miles from Rockview Farms or Alta Dena. For raw milk there is Organic Pastures and Claravale Farms, which are about 200 miles away.
Cheese: In Santa Barbara County, try the Santa Barbara Cheese Company’s cheddar, gouda and queso fresco. You can find them at the Sunday Goleta and Tuesday Santa Barbara farmers markets, or on their website. tsbcc.com
Central Coast Creamery makes a really nice selection of goat and cow milk cheeses. Rinconada Dairy makes several delicious sheep and goat milk cheeses. Both are in San Luis Obispo County, and are within about 100 miles of us. Drake Family Farms is located only about 130 miles from us and they have both fresh and aged goat cheeses. See the Vertical Tasting in the fall 2012 issue of Edible Santa Barbara. There are also a number of other artisanal cheese makers throughout California that are definitely worth supporting.
Condiments: You might want to try making your own mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and the like. Or try using Canoga Park-based Follow Your Heart Vegenaise instead of mayonnaise (within 100 miles). You can find delicious hummus from Baba Foods based in San Luis Obispo at our local farmers markets. Also some farmers are selling barbeque sauces, salsas, chutney and even salt-cured lemons. At Plow to Porch you can find Om Sweet Mama, a line of locally created and sourced salad dressings.
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With your kitchen cupboards and refrigerator filled with the above, you will definitely find it easier to whip up a meal or snack throughout the month ahead. Best of luck on the challenge!
Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market (almost all local, some regional)
Plow to Porch (almost all local, some regional)
Lassen’s (Goleta and Santa Maria)
* These stores have special tags on their shelves designating local products.