Our Green Gurus

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Food swapping


Vietnamese mint and chilli at the Wollongong University food swap.

Credit: Alex Pike


Beetroot - just waiting to be swapped!

Credit: Alex Pike


If you get lucky, you may even find macadamias at your next swap, as Alex did.

Credit: Alex Pike

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By guest blogger and former Green Lifestyle intern,
Alex Pike.

With instant noodles and tinned spaghetti the stereotypical dietary staples of university students, it’s no wonder people are surprised to hear that there is an increasing community of students who grow their own produce and swap it with other like-minded students.

Food swapping is not something associated with the poor life of a uni student, but it makes perfect sense. Don’t have enough money to buy those expensive capsicums, but have
an overflowing batch of Vietnamese mint? Swap it!

Some friends and I set up a little urban garden at the start of this year with help from my dad (who just so happens to be an organic farmer). Our house had a few dodgy garden rows up the back, which were ready for planting after some tender loving soil care and composting.

Within a few weeks of watering and fertilising we had a healthy, developing crop of lettuce, as well as pak choy, broccoli, spinach, chillies and herbs. After a few months the garden was overflowing with goodies, so we decided it was time to head to a food swap and exchange some of our vegies, while networking with students who are doing the same thing as us.

My university has its own community garden and runs a food swap for students and staff every once in a while. It was the perfect opportunity for us to show off the results of our hard work in the garden.

Not everyone has the time or space in the city to grow vegies to swap. Where most food swaps are concerned, if you don’t have anything to bring, you can donate money and take a bagful anyway.

The tables at the swap were chock full of nice vegies, including beetroot, lettuce, chillies, Vietnamese mint, macadamia nuts, grapefruits, lemons, limes and oranges. We added a bag of pak choy and spinach to the mix, which grow like weeds in our garden while somehow managing to avoid being munched on by caterpillars.

We came home with some delicious homegrown vanilla tea, which will no doubt help de-stress cluttered heads at exam time.

I’m definitely going to become a regular at food swaps, and it isn’t hard to find out where and when they take place in your local area. Community gardens often host them, or check out your local green directory.

Alex attended the University of Wollongong food swap. Click here for more info: https://www.uow.edu.au/about/environment/foodswap/index.html