Last weekend, my good friend Cathy invited me to a Food Swap. I had never heard of such a thing, so I pressed her for details. It turns out, the Swap is a gathering of foodie locals who bring their home-grown or homemade delights to TRADE amongst themselves. No cash is permitted at the event, but there are no restrictions on the types of foods people can bring to swap. Samples of your wares are encouraged and definitely help seal the deal for some traders.
I agreed to go and brought with me a loaf of fresh-baked cinnamon raisin swirl bread and several jars of Wild Plum Jam I canned last fall. The flavor of the jam was divine, but I should have pureed the plums, as the skins were a tad bit tough for spreading on soft bread, so rather than have them sit in my larder indefinitely, I traded them at the swap.
Upon arrival at the rural street-side produce stand, the venue for this month's swap, each trader was given a chance to set out their goods. Once most were set up, the facilitator announced that there would be a half hour to walk around, try samples, and list which item you wished to trade for which. Then, at the end of that time, the facilitator called out "TRADE" and everyone scrambled to make deals with other traders for their most highly prized items.
The food selection was outstanding. There were fresh herbs, baked goods, fresh chimichurri sauce and salsa, homemade cheese and ice cream, herbed butter with wild garlic, and jars of pickle relish, almond butter, flavored mustards, and jams and jellies galore. Any preconceptions I had of people trading their farm fresh eggs for a few stalks of rhubarb were blown away in the first moments of our arrival. I wasn't smart enough to bring a camera to photograph the bounty, but others were, so be sure to check out their blogs too.
The conversation at the swap was as exciting as the food items offered, as each person brought a unique set of culinary strengths and insights. One woman talked about foraging for wild garlic and mushrooms in the foothills, while another chatted about making cheese from raw, unpasteurized milk. I got the scoop on how to use fresh lemon balm for cooking, as I had only understood its medicinal uses before I sampled a delicious lemon balm pesto on a piece of dense artisan bread.
In exchange for my bread and jam, I received a bunch of fresh tarragon and fresh lemon balm, a container of fresh cut salsa, one jar of sweet pickle relish, one of strawberry-rhubarb jam, and one jar of cranberry-rosemary mustard, which was to die for.
Now I'm hooked. I can't wait for the next swap and have already begun planning what I will bring and in what quantities to maximize my trading power. Not only is a Food Swap the perfect venue to discover new foods and new ways to use the same old foods, its totally free of regulation, taxation and intrusion by the government, making it my new favorite way to spend 2 hours on a weekend. Freedom, food and friends...FANTASTIC!