Too green a thumb? Put your excess backyard bounty to good use!
Got an overabundant backyard garden or fruit tree? Don't let the extra food go to waste! In addition to sharing the bounty with your neighbors -- or getting really serious about canning and jamming -- here's how you can put your produce to good use:
1. Make money off your homegrown produce. Veggie Trader lets you buy or sell your backyard produce -- or even trade what you've got for what you want! Turn lemons into limes by signing up and finding fruity neighbors near you."Imagine posting your wish list for eggplants, paid off in broccoli, without exchanging one cent," writes Kim O'Donnel in A Mighty Appetite about Veggie Trader. "Let the produce bazaar begin!"
Don't have a garden? You can still be a Veggie Trader, as Dawn at The Daily Table points out:
Since I have no garden, I can log on to Veggie Trader (it’s free to register), and type in what I am looking for – tomatoes – and my zip code, the distance I’m willing to go to get those tomatoes, and my search will bring up people in my area with extras and what they want in trade.
Homegrown has a great interview with Veggie Trader's co-founder Rob Anderson, who says while Southern California has the most trading activity, "But we’ve also seen a lot of activity in states as diverse as Texas, Washington, and Indiana. The site has been popular in our hometown of Portland too!"
2. Join a neighborhood produce exchange. Neighborhood Fruit lets you find neighbors with too much fruit near you -- or public trees with fruit free for the taking! The site will soon start charging a membership fee, so join while it's in beta to get in on the free deals.
More local initiatives like the Portland Fruit Tree Project has fruit harvesting parties, where neighbors pick and take home the bounty from overabundant local fruit trees -- and donate the rest to local food pantries.
For those seeking fruit instead of getting rid of excess stuff, L.A.'s Fallen Fruit also maintains maps on where to find fruit trees near you -- since all fruit overhanging public property's free for your taking!
In northeast L.A., we have the Hillside Produce Coop, self-described as "a free neighborhood monthly exchange of all the FRUITS, VEGETABLES, HERBS and FLOWERS we grow in our yards" (via LAT). Participants join an email list that lets them know when and where to drop off the excess produce -- then get a mixed bag of neighborhood-grown produce delivered later that day! The service is free, since people volunteer to bag and deliver the goods in exchange for a share of the bounty -- something you can opt to do, if you don't have extra garden produce to share.
3. Donate your food to those in need. Ample Harvest lets you quickly search by zipcode to find a food pantry near you eager to take extra produce off your hands. The goal's to reduce food waste while also reducing hunger in America -- all through backyard produce!
I also recommend searching for more local produce-to-food-bank programs near you. Oregon Food Bank, for example, encourages people to plant an extra row of produce for the hungry and donate the harvest to local hunger relief agencies.
Don't even have time to harvest your excess fruit? In the L.A. -area, we have Food Forward, a volunteer group that goes to properties they've been invited to, to pick excess fruit and giving the bounty to SOVA Community Food and Resource Program and MEND (via LAT). Just let the group know you'd like them to come by your fruity property to arrange a picking. You can volunteer to be a picker too!
The easiest -- and perhaps most fun -- way to get rid of your produce may be to simply throw a themed party. There's a guy in Mar Vista with avocado trees who throws a backyard avocado-guacamole party every year, with guests invited to bring over chips! Know of other ways of putting your excess harvest to good use? Let us know about the resources you use in the comments.
Photo by Gabriela Camerotti
BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel grows chard on her balcony garden and eats it all herself. She also blogs at greenLAgirl.com.