Califonia Bountiful

From the editors: Getting to know you

Sept./Oct. 2012 California Bountiful magazine

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How well do you really know your neighbors? Do you call them by name or simply wave in passing? Fall is a wonderful time of year to get better acquainted with the people on your street. A bounty of zucchini, tomatoes, squash, peppers and other late summer produce are the perfect ingredients for a harvest potluck or a neighborhood salsa cook-off.
Getting to know your neighbors is the first step toward building a more connected community and helps when you need to alert neighbors of a lost pet, find babysitters or organize garage sales. And it's much more convenient to borrow an egg from a neighbor when in the middle of a recipe than going to the store!

Connected neighbors also develop safer communities—in urban and rural environments. A big challenge facing suburban dwellers as well as farmers and ranchers lately is metal theft. As one of the fastest-growing crimes in the state and nation, metal theft results in missing freeway signs, damaged irrigation systems, and darkened streets and Little League fields. Law enforcement officials, farm organizations, neighborhood watch groups and legislators are working together on strategies to decrease metal theft.

If you know your neighbors, it's easier to watch out for each other. Help create a strong neighborhood network by starting an annual tradition of a harvest potluck—you'll make new friends, build a more desirable community and maybe pick up a new salsa recipe.

Gather the neighbors for a harvest potluck!

As summer spills into fall, our gardens seem to overflow with fruits and veggies. And while California farmers provide an amazing assortment of foods throughout the year, they, too, are in the midst of prime harvest season.

So you may be wondering, what's the best way to enjoy the bounty of the harvest with others? Try hosting a neighborhood potluck! For added excitement, challenge everyone to get creative and make something new and different.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Around the block, around the world.
Celebrate your heritage by preparing a dish that reflects your ancestry. Tomatoes are great in an Italian panzanella salad. Show off peppers in a cool Spanish gazpacho soup. Or turn grilled eggplant into baba ghanoush—a hummus-like Middle Eastern spread. (A quick Google search will yield plenty of ideas and recipes.)

Salsa showdown.
Salsa doesn't have to be mainstream. Challenge your neighbors to create the best salsa ever, and let everyone be the judge. Mild or spicy, fruit or vegetables, raw or cooked… we dare you to break the rules!

Back to school.
Choose a dish that's outside your usual recipe box. Teach yourself and your neighbors something new. Get a little crazy and make something really different, like a tomato cake or peach pizza.

Equal opportunity.
Think cooking is just for grown-ups? Think again. Get your kids involved and let them help with the cooking. The more they're exposed to fresh fruits and vegetables and cooking, the healthier they'll be in the long run. And they might just take over the kitchen if you're lucky!

Let's eat!
So pick a theme and harvest some quality time with your neighbors. The rewards will go on long after your last tomato is plucked from the vine.

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