Monday, April 8, 2013

Swapper Profile: Melissa Husges | Long Beach Food Swap

1) Where/how did you first here about Food Swaps and what was your first impression?
My friend told me about the LA food swap in March 2011. He was super excited and told me to sign up ASAP. So I did, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I made oregano jelly from homegrown herbs and vanilla scented grapefruit jam. I came home with some really yummy treats that I still think about, especially that jar of pickled nasturtium seeds. I planted nasturtium really soon after that just to make more. We were so excited about the whole thing for days after and couldn't wait to do more swapping. I loved the warm fuzzy feeling that I got from coming together as a community and sharing the fruits of our labor.  
2) What other Food Swaps have you participated in and what was your experience there? 
After the L.A. Food swap I did one in Pasadena and then took a break until the Long Beach swap started up. Each swap was really great and they each reflected the overall feeling of their respective hometowns, but the Long Beach swap is my favorite. I've only done two, but there were so many familiar faces the second time around that I really felt at home.  
3) What do you do to prepare for a Food Swap? (What is your process? canning, fermenting, baking, harvesting ...)
I really like to experiment and learn different processes and techniques to make stuff. I have a huge yarn stash, bins of fabric and all sorts of craft tools. When I started canning, produce became the new yarn in my life and I was hooked. I soon expanded into different types of food preserves including ferments. I've swapped sauerkraut, herbal syrups and even yogurt. I really like fermented veggies because they are so easy to make as well as super healthy and tasty too. 
4) What about packaging (labelling and re-used materials)? How did that come about?
I hate to throw stuff away, especially if its something as useful as a glass jar. I love giving items a second or third life, but I also like that they are free! One of the reasons that I like to swap ferments and syrups is that I don't have to worry about using canning jars. Swaps are great for keeping my jar stash under control. 
I've always been a sucker for creative labeling. Sometimes I'll just hand write a label if I'm pressed for time, but I'll still use fun paper. When I plan ahead, I like to use labels for swaps as a chance to practice my design skills. I really enjoy doing hand lettering right now and I had a lot of fun making the labels for the last swap. I'm always looking for reasons to do lettering. 
5) Where do you like to source your ingredients from?
I've sourced ingredients from a variety of places. If I have a surplus in my garden I'll use that, but I'm a beginner gardener, so that doesn't happen very often. My husband and I have spent hours driving up and down alleys looking for fruit trees to glean from. I also love that Long Beach has several local farms to purchase from. My daughter loves to go visit the chickens and its really great to be able to chat with the farmers. Finally I'll shop at Trader Joes or other markets around town. I try really hard to use organic and seasonal items. 
6) What do you enjoy most about food swapping?
I love swaps because I will show up with several jars of kraut and come home with such an amazing variety of goodies. It's so nice to have home made jams, scones, and baked treats with out having to do all the work.