What have UE students been up to in the garden?

In Upper El this semester students planted carrots, turnips, beets, radishes, rutabaga, kale, collards, cabbages, brocc100_0300oli, asian greens, lettuces, garlic, daikon radishes, spinach, and fava beans.

They learned a lot and noticed many interesting phenomena in the garden. Students studied seeds, the many ways they grow, and they got hands on experience saving seeds during harvest time. They also harvested and experimented with a special seed/grain, Amaranth.

They noticed many of the insects and animals in the garden and the ways that these animals interact with nature, and how much the natural world depends on them. Students were very excited to observe a special guest, Speckles the hen, as she pecked, scratched, fertilized, and ate in the garden. This experience highlighted many of these interconnections between plants, animals, microbes, and insects.

Students studied soil and practiced the basics of making good compost. They measured seedlings as they grew and noticed the stages they went through. Students also learned about perennial plants and all of their benefits. They studied one in particular named comfrey and learned how it captured nutrients, suppressed weeds, and worked symbiotically with insects.
Students also put their muscles to work raking, mulching, maintaining tools, weeding garden beds, and building hoop houses for 4-season gardening.

They also used tool100_0334s to build some wonderful storage shelves for our sweet potatoes. As it became colder they carefully put the beds to rest using fallen leaves and learned how layering in this way protects and enhances the soil ecology.100_0250

Students tasted herbs (stevia was a big hit,) persimmon, peppers, spinach, kale, purple leaf mustard, radishes, lettuces, turnips, okra, ground cherries, swiss chard and popped amaranth and corn kernels. In addition to all of these fresh foods they also experimented with frying okra, making pesto, making sweet potato fries and soup, pumpkin butter, and gypsy soup.

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Amaranth Candy

Alegrías, whose name is derived from the Spanish word for “happy,” are made from the
highly nutritious, ancient grain amaranth. The recipe calls for amaranth that has already
been toasted or “popped.” You can find popped amaranth in grocery stores, or pop the
seeds yourself using an unoiled heated pan on high (a clear lid is recommended for this).

Amaranth had been grown by the Aztecs, Incans, Mayans, and several other ancient100_0064
cultures until the conquistadors banned it from being grown in order to stop their
ceremonies. It was nearly wiped from existence, and only brought back through seed
saving by those who had retreated to the remote mountains. Today, it has been brought
back, and has been found to have important amino acids, protein, minerals, and vitamins
that completed the diet of these ancient peoples.

Ingredients:

• ¼ pound piloncillo or panela (raw unrefined cane sugar in solid molds sold in international food market grocery stores)
• 1 cup water100_0063
• ½ pound amaranth cereal (“popped” amaranth)
• a few drops of lime juice (optional)

Preparation:

Place the piloncillo and water in a heavy bottomed pot and cook, stirring frequently,
until the syrup has reached the hard ball stage, 245º on a candy thermometer. If the pot is
too hot, you can tell that it has reached this stage after being on high by watching as the
boiling bubbles rise and then drop significantly back to the lowest levels.

Add the lime juice (optional), remove from the heat and add the amaranth immediately,
stirring it in with a wooden spoon or paddle. Add enough amaranth to gain the best
consistency to work with so that it does not have anymore unabsorbed liquid.

Immediately spread the mixture on a large platter or wooden board. Press it to a uniform
thickness of ½ inch, using a rolling pin or bottle.ama

Cool the mixture for about 2 minutes, until partially set, and cut it into finger-size strips
or squares. Depending upon how much popped amaranth was added, it may cool faster
and can be cut immediately after spreading.

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Chai Tea

Although these aren’t all local ingredients and herbs, they make a delicious and warming winter tea. This recipe is a favorite with kids and adults because of its sweet spicy flavor.

Boil 5 minutes, then steep 10 minutes:

1 Tbsp fennel or anise seed
6 green cardamom pods
12 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4″ ginger root, sliced thin
1/4 tsp black pepper corns
2 bay leaves
7 Cups water

Add, bring to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes: 2 Tbsp Darjeeling tea

Add:6 Tbsp honey or brown sugar
1 Cup milk

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French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup (photo)

We harvested a lot of yellow onions from the garden in early summer this year and cured them for later use. We decided to use them to make a delicious french onion soup for one of our staff munches in the fall. Here is the recipe we used. Bon Appetit!

Ingredients

  • 6 large red or yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of beef stock, chicken stock, or a combination of the two (traditionally the soup is made with beef stock)
  • 1/2 cup of dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slices of toasted French bread
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere with a little grated Parmesan cheese

Method

1 In a large saucepan, sauté the onions in the olive oil on medium high heat until well browned, but not burned, about 30-40 minutes (or longer). Add the sugar about 10 minutes into the process to help with the carmelization.

2 Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock, vermouth or wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaf.

3 To serve you can either use individual oven-proof soup bowls or one large casserole dish. Ladle the soup into the bowls or casserole dish. Cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the broiler for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Yield: Serves 4-6.

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Harvesting for Market!

This fall and summer the gardening classes on Tuesday got to do a lot of harvesting for the market. We100_0028 are still harvesting broccoli, carrots, spinach, kale, and lettuce even in the depths of winter thanks to the hoop houses and our frost hardy plants. We  regularly brought a scale with us to class and weighed all of our produce at the end. Peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, oh my! We usually had close to 100 pounds of produce, and sometimes more! Students enjoyed cutting and arranging flowers, snacking as they worked, and doing math to total up our harvests. We harvested okra, ground cherries, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, squash, cucumbers, kiwis, carrots, peppers, herbs, zinnias, cosmos, and much more! Students learned about the variety and bounty of foods growing in the fall garden. We hope that you made it to the market!

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2012 Sweet Potato Harvest

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In the gardens we’ve just finished our annual sweet potato harvest. From Upper-El, Lower-El, and Primary we harvested a whopping 250lbs of potatoes! The potatoes this year were humongous, many of them bigger than a human head, but with all sorts of interesting shapes. No matter what age you are, harvesting potatoes is simply really fun, and the students enjoyed hunting for this delicious treasure. Our potatoes will cure in the greenhouse and then we will make pies, chips, biscuits, and treats galore with them for months to come. Be sure to look for some at the garden market for months to come.

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12 Recipes for Grilled Eggplant

For a Staff Munch in September when eggplant was abundant in the garden, Charlie got down to business grilling, making baba ghanouj, and mixing spices in this recipe of eggplant variations.

Click here to see Mark Bittman’s Recipes for Grilled Eggplant featured in the New York Times

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