Garden Club – Harvest Celebration

by Angela Stanford

Garden Club Week 5 – Eating the Fruits of Our Labor

Today was the last session of Sycamore’s Spring Garden Club.   After the kids finished eating their lunches and fed their scraps to the red wigglers,  we headed over to check on the progress of our tomatoes and herbs.  Lo and behold, we found several blossoms replaced with little green tomatoes.  How exciting!

Fruits of our labor – first tomato

Since these little green tomatoes will take another month or two to produce enough fruit to make pizza and salad for 25 hungry fourth graders, (and we will be well into summer break by then) we supplemented the basil and bought some organic tomatoes to top the cheese pizza they enjoyed.  They also enjoyed eating “pizza poppers” by wrapping the chopped tomatoes with a basil leaf and popping into into their mouths.  Many kids were pleasantly surprised how delicious this simple little snack can be.  (Another version includes wrapping up a bit of fresh mozzarella and a cherry tomato with a basil leaf.)  Mmmmm!

two thumbs up for pizza made with garden fresh tomatoes and basil

While the kids were eating, we brainstormed other ways the kids could make pizza with basil and tomatoes at home.  For example, they could toast an english muffin, pita bread or piece of naan, spread pizza sauce on top and then top it with chopped tomatoes, shredded basil leaves and shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese and then pop it in the toaster oven or under the broiler (with help from a grown up, of course) and yum.  It’s pizza time!

Here is another quick and easy way to enjoy eating fresh garden produce on your pizza.

Arugula & Cherry Tomato Pizza with Feta Cheese

Pre-baked pizza crust or whole grain tortillas or Naan

olive oil

parmesan cheese

3 cups arugula –coarsely chopped from your garden

15-20 cherry tomatoes – halved from your garden

2 tsp lemon juice, fresh

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

pinch of kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper to taste

Optional toppings:  pine nuts, olives, feta cheese, chopped fresh basil or other herbs from your garden

-Brush pre-paked pizza crust/tortilla/naan with olive oil.  Warm in oven or toaster oven according to package directions or 5-7 minutes depending on how crisp you want your crust.

-Cover with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 2 minutes until cheese is lightly brown.

-While cheese is melting, toss arugula, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and optional toppings together.

-Gently cover pizza with topping while crust is still warm.

-Serves 4 as a light lunch.  Enjoy!

4rth grade gardeners with Angela Stanford and Kim Lawrence enjoying their garden

A big shout out to Mr. Lawrence, Sycamore’s Science Specialist and my partner with this project to help kids learn about where there food comes from and how the choices they make about food affect their health and the health of the environment.

See you next session  Until then….

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Garden Club Visits Backyard and Patio Garden

Week 4 – Backyard Garden Tour

This week during our lunchtime garden club, the 4th grade gardeners learned what food and paper items are great for composting.   Upon finishing their lunch, the kids fed their lunch scraps to red wiggler worms in our Worm Cafe outside the science lab and then took a field trip to my backyard garden to explore what is “springing up.”

Mrs. Lawrence & 4rth grade gardeners feed worms in worm cafe

As we entered the garden, I told the kids they were entering a “nursery” where many baby plants are growing and over the next 2-3 months will grow and yield a bountiful amount of fruits and vegetables bursting with color.    As we walked through the strawberry patch, we talked about how strawberries and the sugar snap peas growing next to them are already producing food in early Spring while the mung beans now showing their leaves will soon follow and the blueberries are not far behind them.

Angela explains how you can grow many foods in small spaces in your back yard, or in containers on your patio

As we passed the herbs in pots and the green tomato plants in their Earthboxes starting to climb their trelaces,  we talked about how every blossom now appearing will soon be replaced with a colorful tomato ripe for eating in a couple of months.

smelling fragrant lemon blossoms

The kids also got to smell the fragrant blossoms on the meyer lemon tree that will drop and turn into green bulbs that in early March turn into yellow producing the most delicious fruit!

Angela demos composting kitchen scraps into the Tumbleweed composter

Lastly, we visited the compost bin and loaded up my Tumbleweed compost bin with food scraps form my kitchen and gave it a spin!  Mrs. Lawrence and I then explained the differences between how the composter breaks down food by incorporating oxygen with the spinning to help the microbes break down the scraps and turn them into compost, where the worms in the Worm Cafe eat the food scraps and turn it into worm castings which also make excellent compost!

See you next week!

Garden Club Brings Wall to Life

Week 3 – Planting the Living Wall

living, vertical wall of color

What a fun time I had with the 4th grade gardeners and Mrs. Lawrence this week planting this vertical garden of live color outside the Multipurpose Room on the Sycamore Valley Elementary school campus.

“diapering the plants”

The smiles on the kids faces were priceless as they wrapped up their flowers and herbs into these black felt squares that we laughingly called “black diapers.”

ready to plant in living wall

The felt holds the roots securely together and holds in moisture when the plant is tucked into it’s pouch on the vertical wall.

tucking plants into pouches on the wall

The kids tucked their plants into the 48 felt pouches on the wall. All members of the club will take turns watering the living wall as well as the Earthboxes according to a schedule set up by Mrs. Lawrence, our 4th grade science teacher and my partner on this wonderful project.

School Garden – veggies, flowers, herbs & sign

After all the plants were tucked into their pouches on the wall, the kids reviewed the watering schedule set up by Mrs. Lawrence to know when each member is responsible for watering the Earthbox through the remainder of the school year.

The Living Wall units will also water the Earthboxes from the water that drips out of the bottom row of pouches. This is an excellent lesson of water conservation which Mrs. Lawrence and I will discuss at our next meeting.

Lastly, Mrs. Lawrence and I , with the help of Manuel our ever helpful custodial engineer, hung the Garden Club sign the kids made above the Living Wall .

A big shout out to Plants on Walls (www.plantsonwalls.com) in San Francisco for their generous support with our Living Wall project.

No Garden Club next week.  In two weeks the kids will be touring my organic garden, learning about composting and enjoying a lunch on the lawn among the flowers and trees.

Garden Club Plants Pizza Garden

Week 2 – Planting our Earthboxes

Garden Club with Pizza Gardens in Earthboxes

This week our 4rth grade garden club students planted tomatoes and herbs into two Earthboxes that will be harvested and used to make pizza for all to enjoy!

After planting two different varieties of organic tomatoes, these little gardeners also learned that the tomatoes will be staked so they can crawl up and reach for the sun so they don’t cast shade on their neighboring herbs in the box that do not grow as tall.   These plants will require a minimum of 8 hours of full sun each day to thrive and produce plenty of food for our garden club pizza feast!

planting herbs around the tomato

The black cover on top of the box, attracts the sun and heat and holds in moisture.  The kids likened it to a shower cap for the plants, however this shower cap helps keep moisture in rather than out.  🙂

The kids gave the seedlings a little drink to get them started, but the Earthbox contains a reservoir at the bottom to hold water, so the plants always have access to it as they naturally reach down into the soil to drink from it.

A big shout out to Dustin and the rest of the team at Sloat Garden Center in Danville for their continued support of our school garden project!   http://sloatgardens.com

Next week we will will plant our Living Wall!

Sycamore Elementary Spring Garden Club

sprinkling water while preparing the Earthbox

On Thursday April 19th, science teacher Kim Lawrence joined me and 24 fourth graders at Sycamore Valley Elementary School to kick off the Spring session of our Garden Club that meets on Thursdays at lunchtime. We have 6 weeks of fun planned to teach these eager little gardeners about where their food comes from, the power food has to make them healthy and strong, and how to care for the earth to grow more nutritious food.

During our time together, we will be growing tomatoes & herbs in Earthboxes, learning about worm composting by feeding scraps from the kids lunches and planting a living wall to adorn our school with live art!

While the kids ate their lunches, I talked to them about the different parts of a plant and each of them shared examples of some of their favorite foods of these parts – root (carrot), stem (celery), leaf (spinach), blossom (cauliflower), fruit (strawberry), seeds (sunflower seeds).

adding soil to the Earthbox

After eating, we assembled the two Earthboxes that the fourth graders will plant tomatoes and herbs in next week. The kids then took turns filling the Earthbox with handfuls of organic soil, dolomite and organic fertilizer. In our last few minutes together, they learned about how the plants will get their water from a reservoir at the bottom of the box rather than from water sprinkled on top of the seeds. More on watering and developing a watering schedule in a couple of weeks!

making garden club sign

The kids finished up by decorating and signing their name to our Garden Club sign that will hang above the Living Wall we will be planting outside the MPR.

creativity displayed on school campus using recycled materials to celebrate Earth Day

To celebrate Earth Day this week, I couldn’t help but post this photo of all the terrific artwork displayed on the school grounds.  It really brought to life how colorful life can be when we teach our children how to honor and care of our Earth.

Next week – planting the pizza garden!

Garden Club – Harvesting and Eating

by Angela Stanford

(Originally posted on November 9th, 2011)

Garden Club Week 7 – Eating the Fruits of Our Labor

Today our 5th grade gardeners enjoyed learning how to prepare and eat the spinach and radishes they grew in the Earthboxes. Here I am with the kids serving up Spinach and Radish Salad after demonstrating how to make it, so when the kids take there veggies home, they can make the same salad for their families.

Angela serving up Spinach and Radish Salad to Garden Club

The salad was a big hit! Most kids asked for seconds! Here is the recipe. I have scaled it down from the original recipe to feed 30 from the Earthbox website and tweeked it by adding more radishes and reducing the salt. It still makes enough to feed10 people a plate full. I also cut the dressing recipe in half. Use as much or as little as you like and save the rest for next time.

Spinach and Radish Salad

2/3 cup olive oil

3 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 Tbsp grainy mustard (not spicy mustard. kids don’t like spicy)

2 small cloves garlic minced

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 lb torn spinach leaves

10 radishes sliced thinly

1 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Whisk together oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Wash and spin dry torn spinach leaves and toss with dressing. Add Swiss cheese and toss again. Serve.

The kids also tried the Spinach and Radish dip I made on gluten-free rice crackers. They liked it, but raved more about the salad. I think it was the dressing that did it. I’ve made it again at home because it is to versatile tossed with any veggies I happen to have in the fridge to make a delicious and nutritious salad! (By the way, it also makes a great marinade for beef.)

Thumbs up for the Spinach and Radish Dip

Here is the recipe for the Spinach and Radish Dip.

Spinach and Radish Dip

2.5 lb spinach, coarse stems discarded and leaves washed

1 1/2 cup plain organic yogurt

3/4 cup finely chopped radish

1/4 cup minced red onion

1/2 clove garlic minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp white wine vinegar

Serve on whole grain mini toasts or gluten-free whole grain crackers

DIRECTIONS:

In a large heavy saucepan, cook the spinach in the water clinging to the leaves, covered over moderate heat for 3-4 minutes stirring once or twice or until spinach is wilted. Refresh spinach under cold water and drain in colander. Squeeze spinach dry by handfuls and chop it fine. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and serve on crackers or toasts. If you let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two, flavors will meld for an even better taste.

Note: If fresh spinach is not available, you can substitute a 1 lb box of frozen spinach. Once defrosted, remember to squeeze out the moisture before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.

COMING THIS SPRING

Garden Club at Sycamore Elementary will start up again in the Spring with a 7 week session of 4rth graders who will be planting veggies in the Earthboxes, preparing and planting an herb garden in the Living Wall, learning about water conservation, continuing the worm composting and teaming up with the Green Team on campus to tackle waste in the lunchroom.

A shout out to Mr. Lawrence, Sycamore’s Science Specialist and my partner in this effort to help kids learn about where there food comes from and how the choices they make about food affect their health and the health of the environment.

Kim Lawrence & Angela Stanford

Kim Lawrence and Angela Stanford

See you next February as we start up our Spring session of Garden Club. Until then….