"Late May and early June are the ideal time to put out squash and bean seedlings," say Fiona and Caz over on the Squash and Bean Swap Facebook page, "it's a good moment in the growing calendar!"
The Squash and Bean Swap is a project by Bandstand Beds - a collective of growing enthusiasts working in the Bandstand area of London's Clapham Common - aiming to use that Springtime window of opportunity in the growing calendar for community-building. Participants in the Swap come from a range of growing organisations in the London Borough of Lambeth, joining together at key points in the growing process to swap seeds, seedlings, and fully grown produce.
After selecting and sowing seeds earlier in the year, the focus is currently on swapping seedlings. Once grown into squashes and beans, the produce can be stored through the winter months, providing tasty and nutritious local food at a challenging time of year for growing vegetables in the UK:
Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris – French beans) and squash (Cucurbita maxima, C. moschata) are grown all over the world for winter storage. Summer sunshine is converted to protein and carbohydrates. The fruits are choc-full of minerals and vitamins to see through the dark months. – Fiona and Caz
The swapping aspect is the community-building tool. Swapping events bring people together, giving them the opportunity to share tips and produce. Swapping seeds, seedlings and vegetables provides participants with more culinary variety, and the process can form connections and build a local community united by a passion for local food.
Beyond the act of growing, eating and community building, the project also aims to teach people about carbon-free food storage as well as composting and food waste recycling. The organisers are hoping that raised awareness about preparing beans and squash could also result in a recipe book.
Looking to build communities in your city? Just add vegetables.