September 13, 2010

Delicious and Nutritious Free Food

This is what I got from our neighborhood produce swap last week. My contribution was a freshly baked batch of peanut butter cookies, and I was thrilled with what I received in return.

A woman in my neighborhood had this great idea for the swap and she turned it into a reality. Once a month participants drop off whatever they've got to offer and get back a bag of goodies. It's called The Hillside Produce Cooperative and Hynden Welch is the organizer. It's been so successful that Hynden has been teaching people how to start a swap in their own neighborhood. You can read all about it in this post that I wrote last year.

On top of getting a free bag of fresh, local produce, what I love about this idea is how it eliminates waste. If you've ever grown zucchini or had a fruit tree that produces a lot of fruit, you know that it's nearly impossible to give away all that you can't use. And it feels terrible to let delicious, nutritious food go to waste. This is a great solution. It's also a fun community-building event.

What we got (roughly clockwise from the back): burning sage, zapote, avocado, butternut squash, lemon, a type of banana called saba, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, strawberry guava, banana bread, figs, and tons of fresh herbs including rosemary, basil, bay leaves, and chives.

Not only was I thrilled about the figs and the tomatoes and fresh herbs, there were three items I've never even tasted, which is incredible for someone who has lived in Southern California most of her life. My husband and I shared the zapote that very night, a delicious banana-like fruit, and both became immediate fans. The next morning my husband left me me a note: "I (heart) zapote!" The strawberry guava I grabbed for myself, and it tasted exactly like the name suggests, like a blend of those two fruits. And the small bananas are like plantains in that they're not supposed to be eaten raw, so I steamed them and we ate it with black beans and again, it was delicious. A much more subtle flavor than a commercial banana, and a more pleasant consistency.

An added bonus was that when I sent out a thank you to the group in which I mentioned that I was over the moon about the figs, the woman with the fig tree responded that I was welcome to come by and take more anytime I wanted because the tree would be producing for another two weeks and most of it was going to the squirrels. I took her up on it a few days later when we had a small party because I wanted to make this simple appetizer that my husband and I had loved so much. It takes about five minutes and looks beautiful on a plate, and it tastes incredible!

I highly recommend joining a produce coop or starting one yourself if you don't already have one in your own neighborhood. I couldn't be happier about ours, and feel so lucky to be part of it even though I don't have any produce to offer. I'm always happy to put my baking skills to use.

Do you have a coop or produce swap in your neighborhood? Tell us about it if you do. And click here to find out more about Hillside Produce Cooperative and how you can bring the idea to your own community.

10 comments:

those tricks said...

that fig recipe looks delish!
the produce swap sounds great.
I'm envious!

Someone should set up a program in southern cali that goes around and picks up all that excess fruit from residences and deliver it to shelters, etc.
I remember all those trees bursting with lemons and such with piles of fruit going to waste.
Though there's probably handling laws and blah blah blah. :/

Alea said...

I think the produce coop sounds wonderful! We had guests over on Friday evening and I gave each family a box of fruits and vegetables from our garden when they left. I have since received emails telling me how they are preparing the items. It is such fun to share the bounty!

Karen @ Abundance on a Dime said...

That's a super cool idea! I'd love to do something like that in my neighbourhood.

We have a local program that's been running for a few years now called The Fruit Tree Project, where volunteers go and pick fruit trees in people's back yards and take the fruit to food banks and school nutrition programs (I'm in Southern Ontario so it's mostly apples and pears, with the odd peach or cherry tree). They pick several hundred pounds of fruit a year already and I imagine the program will continue to expand as word about it spreads. I know there are similar programs in other cities in Canada and the US.

Tina said...

Thank you so much for this post. I live in NELA and having been looking for a produce exchange or coop for almost a year!! I sent an email and am ready to participate next month!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

nrhatch said...

Love this idea ~ trying new foods, meeting neighbors, making good use of excess food, sharing baked goods, etc.

Excellent!

Kate Sommers said...

Ohhhh I am lusting after those figs!!
I know we have some growing around here somewhere, I'll have to be like a bird and forage. I love the idea of neighborhood produce sharing. I already thought of a name for ours...
North Shore Crop Swap! I'll keep you posted on my fig finding.

Lilypad said...

I would LOVE that! I've never been a gardener and won't be able to try until we buy our next house, but I love to bake. It's so cool they accept that sort of talent too!
Glad to have you back, Angela!! I tried other blogs while you were gone, but none compared...

Angela said...

Steph- yeah, isn't it fantastic? you should move back- ha! I actually think there are people doing that about distributing to shelters- see Karen's comment below. The way the swap started is the woman was going around "gleaning" the fruit off trees that was falling onto public sidewalks and going to waste.

Alea- what a great party favor! that sounds wonderful to be able to share that with your friends.

Karen- I love that idea- it couldn't be done with all fruits, but apples are perfect. Thanks for sharing that.

Tina- yay, yay, and yay! That is absolutely my favorite type of comment to receive. I am so happy to have hooked you up with the produce exchange. Perhaps we'll meet sometime dropping off our bags- if you see me, say hello!

nrhatch- yes, I love that too- how it is so many different things tied up in one. It's really a sense of community, I met the woman who delivered to my door and she lives just a few blocks away. It is lovely to feel that in a city as large as Los Angeles.

Kate- yes, we got more figs and have eaten the appetizer and just plain figs like crazy for the past three weeks. you should definitely start the coop, love the name!

Lilypad- Thank you so much for that, how sweet. I'm so glad you like my blog. Yes, they are open to people who have nothing at all to share, because they can help with sorting and bagging, or delivery- so it all works out, just like the ideal of a coop, I guess.

Thanks for all your comments- sorry it took me so long to answer them!

Donna Freedman said...

Have you tried making fig preserves? Although it's tempting just to eat them all while they're fresh...
If/when I get a garden I hope to grow things I can eat. I'll try and organize at least an informal swap, because how much zucchini can one person eat?

AT Luggage said...

very nice post :D
thank you so much for this post..
I would love that too!