I have a confession: I’m obsessed with canning. I’ve been longing for strawberry season to arrive ever since I discovered last June that I could essentially capture summer in a jar by making and canning preserves using the pints and pints of berries that my daughter and I picked. After our first strawberry-picking venture of the summer yesterday, I’ve already canned seven jars of jam, and I’m not even close to done yet. When strawberry season wanes, I’ll have blueberry season to gear up for in August.
In case my jam-hoarding gets out of hand, there’s a nice solution: food swaps, where local people get together to make friends and trade their creations. Whether you’ve canned too much jam, baked too many cookies, or have a backyard chicken coop that’s overflowing with eggs, food swaps can be a great way to not only give away your bounty but get a bit of someone else’s, too.
Community food swaps are popping up across the country in cities from Boston to Seattle, but if you haven’t heard of one in your area already, a great listing of local groups and events can be found at foodswapnetwork.com. It lists swap events across the country, and even abroad. Just plug in where you live and you’ll find out whether there’s a swap happening near you. If there are none nearby, the website provides information about how to host a swap of your own.
The website also provides tips for swappers, such as ideas about how to package food (use earth-friendly containers, if possible) and reminding participants not to get hurt feelings if someone doesn’t want to swap with them (you never know who’d allergic to what, after all).
If swapping with strangers isn’t your thing, consider arranging your own, informal food swap with friends, family, or coworkers. I remember my aunts hosting cookie swaps around Christmas time so each of their homes would be filled with lots of different homemade treats at the holidays. It could be a regular event, or a one-time party; maybe work a food swap into your July 4th celebration!
In the end it doesn’t matter whether you join an existing swap or host one of your own. Either way, you’ll be sharing your creations and getting some sweet and savory surprises of your own.
Photo: Gregory Han