Buy local… at ethnic food stores?

At the 441 market a few weeks ago, Farmer John was selling big slices of Chinese Winter Melon. I bought some immediately. I almost always will buy new vegetables… I love trying new foods and especially love experimenting with new ingredients and recipes on my children and guests. Then we saw that a new Asian grocer had opened on NW 13th street.

We were in so much trouble.

Ward’s, the Russian/Eastern European deli, and the Indian grocer are within 5 minutes of each other. Jim and I already agreed not to visit the Russian deli alone, it’s impossible to go there without spending $50 so we try to limit excursions to once a month. We visit Ward’s every week, that is where we buy the majority of our meat and non-local produce, dairy and specialty items. We go to the Indian grocer every other week at least. Now a good, clean Asian grocery with a meat counter, a good fish counter, and fresh vegetables has opened right around the corner from all of the other small grocers we love so much.

But how does this fit in with our thriftiness and local foods priorities?

Most of these foods are not grown or processed in the US, but the shops are locally owned so a larger percentage of the money stays in the community. Shopping at small and locally owned stores is another piece of “Buy Local” that many don’t consider. Ethnic grocery stores are also usually much less expensive than the same items at Publix or Kroger, making a big difference if you eat as wide a variety of foods as we do. (If you don’t believe me, go to an Indian grocery store and compare prices on spices sometime.) Also, often the quality is better at the small grocer because their turnover is higher.

And surprisingly, some of the produce at “ethnic” grocery stores is local. I just found out that the curry leaf, fresh fenugreek, chilis and betel leaf at the Indian grocer are all grown in South Florida, and the lemongrass and many of the greens at the Asian grocer are grown at a local farm. I just had to ask.

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