Party! Throwing a Harvest Garden Exchange

Okay, I know– summer isn’t over yet. But it’s getting close– about a month and a half for most of the country, and we’ll start to feel crispy mornings and see everything turn to shades of gold and burgundy. To be honest, autumn is my favorite season, so maybe I’m season-jumping a bit. But what better time to plan a Harvest Garden Exchange than before the hectic rush of the harvest hits? In order to have a succesful soiree, a few key points should be kept in mind:

1. Themes are your friend– it’s makes your party special, unique and fun.

2. Have an activity planned (this can be elaborate or low-key).

3. Invite a mix of people.

4. Choose food that can be made ahead or go potluck.

5. Be flexible.

The idea behind a Harvest Garden Exchange is potluck. The main activity involves showing off and trading harvest goods. You can pick one type of item, or let people bring what they have. It could be harvested garden seeds, produce, home-canned goods or hand made items. Just make sure that east guest brings enough of their item to share with the group (for example, 12 guests, so 12 jars of jam or packets of seed). If you don’t mind a little friendly competition, you could assign award ribbons county-fair style. To prolong the festivities, plan a hands-on activity. Some good harvest-time activities are fall bulb planting, pumpkin carving, or scarecrow buildling. The meal should be potluck-style, with everyone bringing their fall favorites. Some of my favorite autumn dishes (that are potluck-friendly) are chili with cornbread, 15 bean stew, meat skewers (cooked on a grill), individual beef pies, apple turnovers, pumpkin bread, chewy molasses cookies and pretty much any type of casserole, from scalloped potatoes with ham to a traditional cassoulet. Don’t forget thermoses of apple cider or mulled wine. Outdoors in the mid-afternoon to early evening is the best time for a gathering like this– plenty of daylight hours for the activity, then everyone can settle in to eat and maybe enjoy a bonfire or movie on a projection screen (easy to make with a white sheet stretched taught, and you can rent projectors from office-supply stores) once it starts to get dark. Wizard of Oz is a good fall movie pick. Whatever you choose, get a group of good friends and good food and you’re bound to have a great time.