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.