Who says kids won’t love a healthy snack?

Quite often when we tell people what we teach our kids in cooking class their response is, “Do they even like it?” Every time, with a satisfying smile, we reply, “Yes, they do!” And our doubter is left amazed. Take our Fourth Graders for example:

We walked Ms. Lafleur’s fourth grade class to the orchard and began to harvest some of the last Granny Smith and Fuji apples of the year. The kids were literally jumping with excitement over the prospect of picking this delicious fruit.  After we collected a bowlful of apples and took it back to the table, we washed and cut the apples.  The students then learned all about fennel and chopped the bulb up as well.  They also cut up some mint and sorrel they had harvested from the garden and tossed it all with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Finally, we took our forks in hand, and as a class we counted “one…two…three”…and we all tasted it! At first it was quiet, as everyone chewed up their first bite.  But then, the exclamations started coming from all directions! “This is GOOD!!”  “I love it!” “I’m going to want some more!” Every single student had  something wonderful to say about the tastiness of this snack.  Then from the side I kept hearing, “Miss Cassie, Miss Cassie” and so I walked over to my friend at the table.  He stood up and looked at me with an almost desperate countenance and pleaded “Please! Can I take this recipe home and give it to my mom so that she can make it for me for my birthday?!?” At once my heart was overjoyed at this most sincere stamp of approval.

Ms. Lefaur's class enjoying the salad

 

Try it for yourself and tell us what you think!

Apple Fennel Salad

Ingredients:

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and halved

2 bulbs fennel, sliced thin

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

optional: 1/4th cup chopped sorrel

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Method:

1.  Cut the apple into thin slices and place in a medium bowl with the fennel and sorrel.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice, mint, and olive oil in a small bowl.

3. Toss the apples, fennel and sorrel with the vinaigrette and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Enjoy!

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The American Honda Foundation has just awarded us another $25,000 grant to continue our efforts throughout our (ever expanding!) community. To them, we say, “thank you!” and we can’t wait to put that money to work.

On a smaller but no less exciting note, we used our bike blender again in one of our cooking classes. The kids loved the resulting smoothie (the adults, not so much). The adults (this one, at least) did love seeing an entire class rally around each other. They stood in a circle around the bike chanting each others’ names and helping out when the pushing got tough. Literally: the kids would step on the pedals to help or kneel next to the bike and push the pedals with their hands if their classmates couldn’t turn them. The whole scene was heartwarming, and the apple smoothie at the end was well deserved.

In fact, it was so exciting that a class of kindergartners even filed in silently behind their teacher to check out the scene. They took the opportunity to walk around the garden too, and take a gander at our newly planted winter crops:

We’ve got several plantings of kale, chard, collards, and broccoli and more already in and going, and several more beds ready for plants that are on the way:

These beds were planted first. Just after they went in the ground, the water in the garden was turned off due to an irrigation issue at school. Thus, the plants bolted and look crazy (those tall plants in the middle bed are lettuce!). They still taste good, though. You can see the Mexican Marigolds blooming along the fence. They make the air so fragrant!

This was our second planting. We’re hoping to get some delicious brassicas and greens out of these beds. The flowers in the corners help attract beneficial insects, which eat the aphids and other pests that eat our crops.

Here, the amended soil waits patiently under a layer of alfalfa. The mulch layer will break down and replace some nutrients our earlier tomato crop leached from the soil. It will also protect the roots of whatever we plant next, staving off too much evaporation and some pests.

As I type this, I can hear the gentle chords of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon playing in the background filling me up with fond memories of a night that just passed us by.  The Harvest Moon Celebration, Garden School Foundation’s annual fundraiser, was this last Saturday.

The night took on a life of its own as guests arrived for the evening festivities. We had converted The Barn Studio, GSF’s Headquarters, parking lot into a space of beauty and class. Overhead hung hundreds of twinkling lights, flowers and gourds danced between the divine hors d’oeurves from Real Food Daily and Andrew’s Cheese Shop.

Chef Gino Campagna set up his cooking station where he created a feast of polenta and sausage followed by the most decadent pumpkin raviolis! The owner of The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories had donated her beautiful son’s baking talents to the evening. He had made the most incredible French Macarons that simply melted in your mouth.

Music by Fur Dixon and Steve Werner filled the pathways, making the cool evening warm with western-folk energy. Her voice made everything feel brighter.

The amount of generosity and love for the organization was overwhelming as people stepped into the Barn for the Silent Auction. There was a quiet rush for Karen Haas’ handmade jewelry, a not so quiet rush for tickets to Wicked, gorgeous dresses by Rachel Pally were bid on over and over again, and Maureen Selwood’s artwork was a dream.

The Live Auction was nothing less than lively! A couple in Tuscany (aka Westwood) called in to make a bid on famed Chef Travis Lett of Gjelina, cooking a private meal for 8 people in their own home. Original artwork by Nancy Goslee Power was actively sought after as was an in-home cooking class with Amelia Saltsman.

The night would not have been possible without the support of our amazing volunteers, friends, and local community! You made the night memorable and we thank you for that.

In the garden we are regularly left with pounds of food scraps to compost.  So when we discovered pickled watermelon rind our ears perked right up at the idea of another garden snack!  What a great lesson in resourcefulness for all of us!!

Pickled Watermelon Rind

 

Upon looking, it’s easy to see that there are many variation of this pickle recipe.  This recipe below is from Whole Foods and is quite tasty!!

Makes 2 pints

For this recipe, make sure that traces of the pink fruit are gone from the watermelon rind then cut away and discard the green peel, too. What you’re left with are chunks of thick, white rind that definitely don’t deserve to be thrown away. Use this pickle as a condiment on sandwiches or serve as you would a chutney with grilled meats.

Ingredients

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar or honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon whole cloves
4 small, dried chiles
4 wide strips lemon peel
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds peeled watermelon rind, cut into (1/3-inch) chunks (about 5 cups)

Method

Put vinegar, water, sugar or honey, salt, cloves, chiles, lemon peel and ginger into a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add rind, reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer until rind is tender and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes.

Spoon contents of pot (with pickling liquid) into glass jars, seal tightly and chill overnight. Serve right away or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Workdays at the 24th St Garden are some of the best days. True, there are tons of extra hands, so we can get a lot of gardening work done. But more importantly, they’re a great chance for us to connect with the broader community — to meet parents and show them what we do, to bring friends and family and curious strangers in to the garden and, well, show them what we do, too. We build relationships during workdays that are invaluable to the success of our program.

We recently had such a workday.

Parents and volunteers came in to help and watch. Here, you can see students planting fava beans, one of our favorite cover crops, as the grown-ups look on.

Of course, we also pulled boatloads of weeds from the circle garden and pounds of grass from the kitchen garden. We yanked out dead sunflowers and summer crops, and whatever else was passed its prime. And then, things got exciting.

Paula White of Organic Control donated hordes of beneficial insects for the garden.

We released fleets of ladybugs onto our brassicas and strawberries (to control aphids):

                   

which we later investigate closely with magnifying glasses:

We also released worms into a bed we’re amending. They’ll help replenish and aerate the soil:

              

And we set free some snails which eat the snails that eat our plants.

Despite the addition of all these carnivorous insects into the garden (it’s for the protection of the plants! Honest!) we do strive to make our space one of community. We want people from all walks of life to feel acceptance and belonging in the garden. The workdays are a chance to demonstrate that desire, and for people to come in and feel it for themselves. And it seems to be working. This grasshopper, for example, has made herself right at home, as we hope other insects and people will continue to. That’s how we know we’re doing something right.

 

With our garden classes underway and our cooking classes yet to begin, we have been taste-testing our homegrown goods.  And it has been a success! If the students’ excitement for seconds is any indication of flavor, we are growing some tasty fruit!!

Getting ready to try the melon!

Here are some of our beautiful apples begging to be picked.

Our Fuji Apples

Come experience this beauty firsthand at our next workday: October 8th from 9 am until 12 pm we will be in the garden working on some garden beautification projects.  Then at 12 pm Master Gardener and fruit tree expert, Herb Machleder, will be teaching a fruit tree pruning workshop.  All are welcome, so come and join us for the fun!!

Autumnal Equinox, you have arrived with such grace and style; I hardly saw you coming! But it is true, today is the first official day of Fall and I am so pleased that it is here. And even though we are still wearing t-shirts and shorts around the garden, I can certainly feel there is magic in the air.

That lovely shift of the seasons changing is ever present in our fruit orchard. Apples are in season! They are ripe and ready and are desperately wanting us to enjoy them (I’m not entirely sure that last bit is true but like to think it is!).

This afternoon we had Ms. Lam’s kindergarten class come in for the first time. It was wonderful watching them get oriented in the garden. We learned the garden’s cardinal rules and promised, hands over hearts, with fervor, to respect each of the rules that protect both us and all that live in the garden. We went on a guided scavenger hunt and stood next to purple flowers, the red leaves of chard, aging corn stalks, youthful cornstalks and finally, we scattered about to find the tallest plant in the garden — the sunflower.

The Sunflower Tower

 Each item we found was touched gently, smelled, and fully appreciated. Children are so wonderful. Ms. Lina taught them the 6 parts of the plant song which brought them from teeny, tiny seeds to full grown plants, and with all the might of their little bodies, they lifted their arms as leaves and said, “leaves!” and stood taller as their plant-bodies grew taller. I could have sworn that there were children blossoming all over the place! That may have been the best part of the day but we still had to harvest those apples that were begging to be enjoyed. And with that, Miss Cassie taught them what it meant to harvest, and they hopped their ways over to the apple orchard where they each got to harvest an apple.

Orchard Hops

We sliced them up and there they sat, attentive and patient, for their little slice of heaven. We took a moment to appreciate the fruit and discussed what it smelled like, what it sounded like (the ocean!) and what we thought it would taste like. Then the crunching began, the oooohs and mmmmms were quick to follow. Success!