Trading Up

This weekend I headed out to a suburb in the Hague where the country’s most sustainable neighbourhood is about to be built. Development hasn’t started yet but, in true Dutch fashion, the municipal government decided to approve a number of initiatives that would temporarily use the land beforehand, which would be in accordance with and bring awareness to the sustainability aspect of the future neighbourhood.  

That’s a mouthful. And so was the event I went to, which was a fruit and vegetable exchange – a place for people to exchange the fruits and vegetables they grew (or the things they made from them) with each other. No cash involved.

Now it’s hard to imagine any sort of trade ever having happened in Holland’s long history that didn’t involve currency, but apparently it was once so. Mostly among farmers, and again on a sunny October Saturday among allotment owners and food enthusiasts.

The stalls were filled with everything from cooking apples, celeriac, pumpkins, quince jelly, pesto and gardening tools,

to rare seeds and even handsewn tea bags filled with homegrown mint and thyme, made by a woman who’d travelled all the way from Glasgow.

I traded her some asparagus, red carrot and lupin seeds and one of her tea bags for a bottle of my basil vinegar; traded some Persian carrot jam I made for the most delicious grapes I’ve ever eaten, and some of my rhubarb chutney for fresh bay leaves. Who knew that Holland grew grapes and bay leaves?

So much more fun – for everyone – than handing over cash…