Garden Lifestyle

How to Start a Food Swap

Do you have a hankering to put more homemade edibles on your pantry shelf while building community at the same time? Then it’s time to learn how to start a food swap.

Emily Paster's new book includes everything you need to organize a food swap in your neighborhood or community.
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

I’ve been invited to all kinds of friendly exchanges over the years, from Christmas cookie exchanges to vegetable seed swaps. But I’d never heard about food swaps until I read Emily Paster’s new book.

A food swap is simply “a gathering of friends and food lovers to exchange their homemade goods,” she writes in Food Swap: Specialty recipes for bartering, sharing & giving (Storey, 2016). It’s a chance to meet, mingle, chat and swap your fermented peppers for someone else’s banana bread.

“I managed to trade a few jars of jam and pickles for delicious cookies, bread and a drinking syrup – none of which I would have made on my own,” she writes.

A food swap follows in the long tradition of neighbors trading, bartering and exchanging their handmade or home-made goods. In Paster’s book she takes the simple tradition to the next level.

The food swap movement is now in full swing and swaps are popping up from coast to coast. Homemade food enthusiasts have fallen in love with the idea of getting together to swap, share and enjoy the entire process. No money changes hands at a swap.

As co-founder of Chicago Food Swap, her exchanges have become a business. But they can still be simple affairs staged at home, too.

Food Swap provides all the details for organizing a food swap in your neighborhood or community. She gives creative ideas for finding a location and publicizing the event. Paster also includes a section on legal considerations, what to bring to a swap and how to package it. Her helpful tips for savvy swapping will help beginners become experts in no time.

An additional benefit of a food swap, Paster says, is it leads to “making you a better cook.”

The book includes 80 delicious recipes for swapping and gift-giving all illustrated with mouth-watering images. She includes many more recipes on her West of the Loop website, too.

Even if you decide a food swap isn’t for you, you’ll appreciate the Food Swap recipes for Salted Caramel sauce and Vanilla Rum caramels. Vegetable gardeners will especially enjoy her recipes for Carrot soup, Turnip Greens pesto, Roasted Tomato ketchup, Garlicky dill beans and Spicy Green Tomato salsa.

One of the most thoughtful additions to the book are the pop-out gift tags to attach to your own homemade or home-grown goodies for gifting.

Food Swap is a modern take for continuing the fine tradition of sharing, trading and enjoying the fruits — jars, breads and sauces — of our labors.

(Storey Publishing provided a free copy of Food Swap for the purpose of this review.)

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