Unlike a lot of Southern California, we are fortunate to have some larger lots in our neighborhood. They aren’t huge, but they are pretty good sizes for an urban community. Many of our neighbors use their land to grow all kinds of fruits and veggies. We even have a neighbor that hosts bee colonies which help pollinate all that our gardens produce. I have a small herb garden just outside my kitchen that is always filled with Mint, Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary and Basil, and we recently added a raised planter. They’re on the south facing side of the house and they do quite well with very little effort on my part. Alex may differ with me on that as he is the designated waterer. We also have a large avocado tree that produces small but creamy fruit. For anyone that gardens, you understand that a lot of what you produce goes to waste, because there are only so many (insert fruit or veg here) you can consume.
Enter Sue, gardener extraordinaire, and even better neighbor. She’s an avid gardener whose side yard produces some beautiful tomatoes and other gems that her partner Ashley whips up into divine cuisine. She had a brainstorm after meeting with several local home gardeners who all faced the same dilemma- an abundance of home grown goodies but a lack of diversity. So, she created the Garden Exchange.
How to be Neighborly: When life gives you (enter harvest here), trade them.
Depending on the season, home gardeners meet every 2-4 weeks at a designated host’s home and exchange their crop. You place your harvest on a table, and then you get to “shop” from the local “market.” BYOF (fruit). BYOV (veg). BYOS (snacks). BYOB (beverage). All free. Take as much as you brought. All honor system. Surprisingly there are always leftovers. The exchanges have offered products ranging from tomatoes, eggplant, kale, potatoes, rhubarb, lemongrass, peppers, persimmons, citrus, avocados, and herbs, to honey, eggs, baked goods, succulents, homemade beer and sangria. Since my garden has limited production, I usually bring something homemade to share. I’ve done pumpkin bread, mustard, rosemary cashews, and the persimmon bread using persimmons from the prior exchange.
Last night’s was hosted at my house, and we attached a theme to this one. The flowers are currently in full bloom, so we encouraged attendees to bring a floral arrangement from their clippings. Wow. Was it stunning. My BYOS was a contribution of simple carrot soup.
Fast & Easy Carrot Soup
- 6 large carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
- ½ onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 14 oz can tomatoes
Put all ingredients, except tomatoes, in a pot and just cover the veggies with water. Bring the water to a boil and allow carrots to cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Put the carrot mixture into a blender with the tomatoes and blend until smooth. Adjust salt to your taste.
How to Host Your Own Garden Exchange
- Location, Location, Location. Pick a host home and evening (we found 7pm works well as people will be home from work by then)
- Publicize. Start with neighbors you know garden, or can see their trees, and email them or place a flyer on their doorstep, or use nextdoor.com if you have an active neighborhood. Let non-gardeners know non-organic contributions are welcome (baked goods, crafts, succulents, homemade beer, etc.). The more the merrier.
- Set up:
- You’ll need at least two 6 foot long tables for the produce
- Sign in guests. First come, first served. We “shop” in order of arrival.
- Provide Instructions
- Let people know they can take as much as they brought. If they brought a lot, take a lot. If they brought a little, take a little.
- Invite “shoppers” in order of arrival to take produce.
- We usually have lots left over after one round, so cycle through again until you run out.
- The host keeps the remaining goods.
The whole thing take about an hour, but people always stay to chat and munch on all the goodies people bring. Good luck! Have fun! Be neighborly!