Another Big (and Yummy) Idea

Although we have used our Whole Foods-funded cooking station for simple food prep, we recently used it for one of our Big Ideas—full-fledged cooking classes in the garden.  Chef Greg from Healthy Adventures, through California School’s VEBA program, provided an afternoon of cooking instruction as part of our staff wellness program.  He made white bean hummus, Greek salad with swiss chard and kale, and spring peas with dates and walnuts.

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Best part?  We harvested many of the ingredients on the spot!

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And look!  Harvest of the Month!  Thanks Chef Greg for an awesome afternoon.

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5 reasons to mind your peas

Peas are perfect in school gardens because:

1)  They come in their own wrappers.  In terms of food safety—-winners!

2)   Peas are one of those foods whose “fresh” version and “canned” version are radically different.  If you’ve only had those nasty little canned ones, fresh peas seem like a whole new food.

3)  You can’t plant enough peas.  My experience is that kids love to search for them on the vine, pop them open and eat.  Every year I plant them I resolve to plant ten times more the following year.

4) As nitrogen-fixing legumes, you can chop up the plants after they’ve produced and dig them in to improve the soil.

5)  Peas can be put in the ground early (Valentines Day here in Julian) so kids can plant and harvest during the school year.  (Because some vegetables ripen in the summer, plants whose entire cycle can be observed during the traditional school calendar are great.)

As part of our “emerging” Farm to School program, I am working to choose a “crop of the month” for our school and align it as much as possible with a planting and harvesting schedule for the garden.  We will also be incorporating the excellent matching resources of “Harvest of the Month” in garden lessons.

Naturally, our first crop will be peas for May.

To start, I bought every variety of pea I could find!  Here are a few:

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More pea-brained ideas to follow…..

Wanted: new crop of Garden Ambassadors

At the beginning of the school year, I visit the fifth grade class, give a pitch for Garden Ambassadors and pass out applications.  This week I conduct interviews.  The returning (sixth grade) senior garden ambassadors have already been chosen, and today two of them spent part of their lunch to help me water and harvest for tomorrow’s lesson.

The application asks three questions.  Naturally all of the students wrote about having good character, demonstrating leadership qualities and being interested in all aspects of gardening.  Here’s a few of my favorite lines from this year’s application.

What do you think are good qualities for a Garden Ambassador to have?

Good qualities for a Garden Ambassador are respect, motivation, and an open heart.

I think some good qualities for a Garden Ambassador to have are being willing to get their hands dirty.

Knowing how to decipher weeds from produce!

I think good qualities to have are a good memory and a helpful soul.

Good listening and you can’t mess around! When you’re talking to a guest, don’t mumble and talk clearly.  Last year I created the Green Team and really enjoyed being a leader!

Why would you like to serve as a Garden Ambassador?

Because I think our garden is beautiful and I want to be a part of it!

This would teach me how to plant my own garden.  It would make me so happy if I were chosen!

I am interested in different plant species and how wonderful they look and what they do for our ecosystem.

I remember seeing the Senior Garden Ambassadors and saying I want to do that, and now look, I might!

I’d like to serve as a garden ambassador because I believe we don’t grow the garden, it grows us.   (I’d also love to play my violin in the garden to welcome special guests.)

I see it as an art form.  A blank canvas waiting to be painted.

I want to do it to inspire the younger kids to become Garden Ambassadors. 

What do you think you could learn from serving as a Garden Ambassador?

I could learn how to talk to the public or give a speech without being shy or nervous.

And finally, an addendum to one of the applications (I could clean out the gazebo if you were having guests):