Lemons, loquats and greens: Berkeley crop swap kicks off

Newly formed grassroots group Transition Berkeley organized the city's first Crop Swap Monday evening. All photos: Christina Diaz

As predicted by Berkeleyside readers, lemons were, indeed, in abundant supply at the first Berkeley Crop Swap organized by Transition Berkeley Monday night at Ohlone Park.

Under a fog-filled sky there wasn’t a ripe tomato in sight, though you could pick up tomato starts. Nonetheless, a couple of dozen local residents happily exchanged home-grown goodies that thrive in this micro-climate in July.

People perused two folding tables and a couple of blankets with freshly harvested produce and then filled their baskets and bags with plums and purple potatoes and gave away basil and beet greens. True to their roots, along with kitchen staples such as carrots, strawberries, and rosemary, Berkeley growers showed up with some less well-known produce including loquats, grape leaves, and angelica.

Andrea Paulos, center, who lives across street from Ohlone park, with daughter Mabel, left

In the mix at the meetup: Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen owner Peter Levitt, Berkeley Unified School District Garden and Cooking Program Coordinator Mia Villanueva, and Laurence Schechtman of Neighborhood Vegetables, a group that pairs people in Berkeley and Oakland who need help growing food gardens with folks who want to work the soil.

Co-organizer Linda Currie said the Transition team was delighted with the turnout, which will likely build as word spreads.

Co-organizer of the Crop Swap Carole Bennett-Simmons

The hour-long gathering seemed like a truly hyperlocal affair with people walking or biking their fruits and vegetables over, visiting with friends and neighbors, and swapping recipes with fellow traders.

“How do you cook beet greens?” asked one. Villanueva, who took home a stalk of angelica, picked up a tip to add the herb, which has a flavor similar to cilantro she learned, to the batch of ice cream she planned to make that night.

Intrigued? Here’s a recipe for rhubarb compote with angelica ice cream.

Eva Wise, a member of Transition Berkeley, and Ralph Bartholmew with baskets of produce

Baby Henry Kershaw enjoying some rhubarb with his mother Emily Paulos

Saul's owner-chef Peter Levitt, center left, with produce

Eggs, lavender and rosemary were among the mix at the Crop Swap

Related:
Heads up homesteaders: Crop swap launches in Berkeley [07.15.11]

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and become a fan of Lettuce Eat Kale on Facebook. West Berkeley photographer Christina Diaz likes to shoot life as it happens.

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  • Frank Nachtman

    Great idea. July is a strange time of year to do it though. Unless you like lemons. 

  • Gman

    What a beautiful blond girl!

  • Meliflaw

    A nice mix of people and produce last night. (And I was thrilled to get all those lemons!)

  • Eric

    Bring on the lemon drop martinis….

  • chris

    beautiful.

  • GPO

    Maybe it should be renamed the Lemon Swap? 

    Also, with lemons flooding the market, what’s the barter value of lemons compared with other produce?  If someone had shown up with some ripe heirloom Florida tomatoes from Trader Joes and posited them as “local” it seems like that faux farmer could command a massive haul of lemons?  Or are the trading ratios between different types of produce commodified somehow?

  • Fivecoat

    Interesting how different parts of the country has an abundance of some things. Too bad we can’t trade some Midwestern tomatoes for some California lemons!

  • berkeleyhigh1999

    must be proud of yourself being a 60 year right wing old internet troll obsessed with left wing Berkeley. 

  • Barter

    Herein lies the success or failure of this ‘swap’. If true barter is not encouraged, I suspect it will not flourish.  Almost everyone had lemons and rosemary. Why make and bring a nice jam, honey, eggs or other added value & crafted product, if no one can reward the effort. 

  • TN

    A typical backyard vegetable gardener like myself doesn’t produce enough of any one type of product to make it worthwhile to go to the trouble of going to events and setting up barters. The commitment in time and juggling schedules is simply too high for so little gain.

    It makes more sense to me to simply give away my excess. And I do this in a few different ways. At the office; to neighbors who I know like specific things; announcements on the neighborhood email lists that I have excess veggies to share on my porch; and simply leaving them on the street with a “free” sign. I give away established seedlings the same way. More exotic plants and seeds are give away on “Freecycle.”

    I hope I get the benefit of others’ give aways, but I don’t count it. If the transaction costs aren’t low enough, it isn’t worth the trouble to count on trades.

  • TN

    A typical backyard vegetable gardener like myself doesn’t produce enough of any one type of product to make it worthwhile to go to the trouble of going to events and setting up barters. The commitment in time and juggling schedules is simply too high for so little gain.

    It makes more sense to me to simply give away my excess. And I do this in a few different ways. At the office; to neighbors who I know like specific things; announcements on the neighborhood email lists that I have excess veggies to share on my porch; and simply leaving them on the street with a “free” sign. I give away established seedlings the same way. More exotic plants and seeds are give away on “Freecycle.”

    I hope I get the benefit of others’ give aways, but I don’t count it. If the transaction costs aren’t low enough, it isn’t worth the trouble to count on trades.

  • Bruce Love

    TN, I think (hope) the effort was more to get you to socially network than to actually get a specific pay-off from your current garden surplus.   These folks call themselves transition town advocates, so, I’d like to talk a bit about that.

    TN, you write: “A typical backyard vegetable gardener like myself doesn’t produce
    enough of any one type of product to make it worthwhile to go to the
    trouble of going to events and setting up barters. The commitment in
    time and juggling schedules is simply too high for so little gain.”

    I don’t know if the organizers of this project are truly “transition town” activists.  I’m skeptical.  They should be vocal here, answering people like you, if they are.  I question their “bona fides”, in that regard.  But, perhaps I’m just too untrusting of them.  Anyway:

    Assuming that they are the real deal, the vision you should have in mind here is one that moves away from anything you might call a “typical backyard vegetable gardner” and towards city-wide land-management policies that sustain a permaculture.   As in, you live on a farm that is year round productive. Yes, it’s a city.  And, yes, it’s a farm.   As in, a decent percentage of the food consumed in Berkeley is grown in Berkeley.  As in, give over as much of your property as practical to productive, community-oriented use.   No, this is not an easy vision to realize, of course.

    The transition town / permaculture notions are a hard sell in a place like Berkeley.  Berkeley (part of Berkeley) places a high cultural value on purely ornamental growing.  Berkeley public policy tends to want to prevent the commercial or even the particularly intensive use of residential land.    We have at least one city council member who has made the remarkable claim that roosters are inessential to the production of eggs and who can apparently imagine no reason to raise birds but for their eggs.   Nevertheless, short of an energy production and carbon emissions miracle, the transition town and permaculture goals are, at least in broad outline, essential to the survival of our civilization.   It isn’t (or shouldn’t be) about everyone showing up at the park with lemons.   It’s about how do we manage peak oil, climate change, overpopulation, global guerrilla warfare posing a serious threat to nation states, infrastructure collapse, and various other and attendant disasters now unfolding thanks to the poor planning of earlier generations.

  • Caroleannbs

    I had a great time last Monday at Transition Berkeley’s first Crop Swap. People that I talked to came away with stories about meeting old and new friends, learning about plants they had never heard of or tried, tips on growing and cooking, and good food for their tables.

    There were lots of lemons, all of which went home with grateful people, and then there were about 40 other food offerings:

    plums (2 kinds), strawberries, loquats, limes
    kale,collards,swiss chard, lettuce,mizuna,sorrel
    black,red and white potatoes, carrots, corn,
    garlic,beets,cucumber, honey,eggs

    catnip, basil, rosemary, oregano, lovage, angelica
    mugwort, white sage, pineapple sage, calendula, grape leaves 

    and starts for basil, oregano, sunflowers and fruit trees

    I was impressed with the variety that appeared from the excess produce Berkeley gardeners grow.

    I think the aim of the Crop Swap was to connect with each other, learn more about growing food in the city and to spread that growing wisdom. Let’s make our community as fertile and abundant as possible and find many ways to share the abundance.

    P. S. I hope people bring lemons again next week because I only got a week’s supply.

  • Dorothy

    Where was everyone? I brought beautiful New Zealand spinach and summer squash.