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Growing Great Garlic: A Photo Diary

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November 2016. Planting

This year we planted Music garlic. An old Italian Heirloom Eliza found in Louisville, Kentucky this summer, we were very excited to try this hard neck variety.

December-May… Weeding, Watering, Waiting…

Garlic requires a long period of time to reach full maturity. On average, it can take anywhere from 6-10 months. You can plant in either fall or spring, but we always plant in the fall because the bulbs are bigger that way.

May 2017. Harvest time!

Afternoon students in Primary harvested and cleaned the first of four beds  we planted at GMS this year. They loved it so much they had a hard time stopping.

May 2017. Post-harvest Star Treatment

Upper Elementary and Middle School students harvested, cleaned, and bundled the remaining garlic in their garden. They also cut and bundled the garlic scapes, the flowering edible stalk, using them in the final Farm to Fork Restaurant of the 2017 school-year! Upper El and Middle School Casa students hung the bundles under the red shed in Lower Elementary for them to cure, or dry, for long-term storage.

June 2017. Final touches

We waited and watched the garlic drying (curing) in the shed for several weeks. The last week of school, we braided and hung half our total harvest. Just a touch of lavender makes the pungent scent much milder.

We wanted to take these beauties home so badly! But we learned that there wasn’t enough for everyone–this year. We have some math to do to figure out how much we need to make that happen!

Until then, you can find your own Greensboro Montessori School grown garlic braid at the Yanceyville Farmers Market this summer during Montessori Market Camp the week of July 4th.

The rest of this year’s harvest will be:

  • Saved for seed to plant in the fall with garden classes
  • Cooked in garden class recipes
  • Used in Middle School Farm to Fork restaurant meals
  • Sold in the Middle School Farm Stand
  • Shared with volunteers and key leaders!

Spring? Garden Workday

Whew! Is it really still spring? The weather would make you think otherwise. Probably the hottest Community Garden Workday on record commenced this past Saturday: 94 degrees with humidity. Water play, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and fava bean hummus kept our energy up and temperatures down while we accomplished a number of projects:

  • Fixing the gate to our pond 
  • Fixing the lattice on our shade structure for gathering circle
  • Mulching and weeding to our hearts’ content
  • Planting luffas, gourds, and trumpet vines to shade the gathering circle 

Thanks to all who participated. We had a great time with each of you!

Strawberry Smiles

“The strawberries are ready!” 

This simple sentence expresses so much joy for all of us at Greensboro Montessori. We weed, water, and wait nearly all year until these gems glisten like rubies every spring. And every spring, we prepare some delicacy to mark the occasion, be it strawberry shortcake, strawberry salad and strawberry dressing, strawberry ice cream… or this year, strawberry lemonade!

We prepared this recipe in Primary classes on rainy spring days this April. Everyone LOVED it. It’s a keeper for our cooking curriculum and we hope it is for yours, too.

With love,

The Montessori Gardens

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups Strawberries, washed
  • 1 1/2 cups Fresh Lemon Juice (from about 5 lemons)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 3 cups Cold Water
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Puree strawberries with 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a blender until smooth.
  2. Force strawberry puree through a sieve to remove seeds (optional)
  3. Stir together the strawberry puree, remaining lemon juice, 1 cup sugar, and water in a large pitcher until sugar is dissolved.
  4. Taste! Add more sugar if desired. Serve over ice!

Note: Lemonade can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. 

Recipe Credit: Epicurious.com <http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/strawberry-lemonade-201080&gt;

 

Carolina Gold Rice: Lessons in History

In spring 2015, Upper Elementary students planted Carolina Gold Rice in their permaculture garden. That fall, they threshed and winnowed the harvest as they discussed its history and origins in West Africa. They used a mortar and pestle like West African women did to hull the rice. Our students read about how these women, like those fed by the rice they prepared, were slaves bound for the Americas. They commented on how difficult it was to hull even a quarter cup (in an hour!) and imagined what months of such labor might feel like.

In the year since we first planted and harvested Carolina Gold Rice with Upper Elementary students, I have read and researched more and more about its history. I recently came across a piece written by culinary historian, and grower of African and African-American heirloom crops, Michael Twitty. Twitty, whose work has been internationally recognized for years as a prominent voice in food justice, gives us a true and untold timeline of Carolina Gold (Oryza glaberrima), which dates from 3,500 B.C.E. along the West African Niger and Casamance rivers. I encourage you to read the full article and timeline here, but if you don’t, marinate on this excerpt from his opening paragraph:

“…I am fascinated by the history and heritage of the foods that were introduced to the American diet through the slave trade. The fact that many of these foods–foods that enslaved peoples once cultivated sustainably and consumed out of necessity–have become popularized without context is a culinary injustice. Culinary injustice is what happens when descendants of historically oppressed people have no sovereignty over their culinary traditions, when they are robbed of their proprietorship of their own ancestral traditions. I believe that telling the true story of traditions that were part of the experiences of the oppressed is about reconciliation, not blame; hope, not guilt.” 

We decided to grow Carolina Gold Rice at The Greensboro Montessori School again this year. Why? To continue to shed light on the significance of this plant and use it to engage conversations of hope here in Guilford County.

Today, Lower Elementary children threshed, winnowed, and planted Carolina Gold in seed starting trays together. We discussed the history of this rice: not all rice, but this rice. We discussed what it meant for us to be growing it in our gardens. They commented on how hard it was to hull even a quarter cup (in an hour!) and imagined what months of such labor might feel like. People on the planet still hull rice this way, they learned.

Then we tasted the rice that our friends in Upper Elementary prepared last year, with love and curiosity. It had been waiting to be cooked and appreciated on a cold, blustery spring day like today. We boiled the water, added a little butter and salt, and let the rice cook until it was steaming and fresh. As we inhaled all together, we searched for a scent reminiscent of “green tea and almonds” and the “superior texture” touted by the seed packet, to no avail. It was decidedly “buttery and nutty,” we all said, instead.

As we lined up to leave, we closed our eyes and sent a thought of gratitude and acknowledgement to all those whose lives this plant has touched. Has it touched yours? Please let us know how!

 

 

Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) 2017

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Have you ever wanted to learn more about Permaculture? Do you wish you had flourishing gardens with fruit tree’s, herbs, and abundant fresh vegetables growing in your front or backyard like the ones at Montessori?

Permaculture (short for permanent agriculture) teaches you to get the most out of space, filling it with useful and edible plants, all to the benefit of the land. Humans reap the rewards on so many levels – juicy fresh blackberries or a warm vine ripe tomato, the cool shade on a warm summer day offered by a plum tree, butterflies and birds attracted to the garden by flowers and food, the gift of hours quietly working in the garden. And then there’s the fact that there’s nothing more satisfying to the soul than cooking with food you’ve grown yourself!

If this sounds exciting to you, then you may be interested in taking a Permaculture Design Certification course.

Jenny Kimmel, longtime gardening teacher at GMS, and the Land-Lab Coordinator, is offering a 72 hour Certification that will teach you not only the fundamentals of Permaculture, but also hands-on knowledge of how to implement those principles to build a better backyard, community garden, and world.

We’ll even be visiting the gardens at GMS during the course and getting our  hands dirty on a fun an innovative project!

Visit the website here for more information or to register http://sow-permaculture.weebly.com/ or e-mail Jenny at sow.pemaculture@gmail.com for further information.

 

Winter Highlights

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Question: “What do you do in the winter?” (Folks never fail to ask me this when they learn we practice year-round Permaculture gardening at Greensboro Montessori)

Answer: “We follow nature’s lead. There’s plenty to study in the winter. So much that it changes every year.”

Garden classes at Greensboro Montessori are hosted outside when it is 40 degrees and above. Those classes are movement-based and even if there’s not as much garden work to be done, we play games that keep us up! But when the weather is just dismal, we host lessons in the Environmental Education classroom (many of these are cooking lessons!)

Here’s an update on what we have been up to in the past few months:

  • Isabelle and Gail’s class studied the continent of Africa. Many of the plants we grow in the garden originated from what historians call the West African Savanna-Forest Complex., including Cotton, Okra, and Black-Eyed Peas (Carney 2011). This winter we explored a cotton plant grown in the GMS gardens last year and saved seeds from the bolls. What was left? The fiber. We watched Eliza demonstrate how to card the fiber to make a punis, a small tuft of fiber we can give to a spinner to make cotton thread. This is an on
  • For the past 3 years at least, bird studies with Primary and Lower Elementary students in the winter. This year, the lessons included learning song bird calls (Northern Cardinal, American Robin, and Mourning Dove are always their favorites!), making bird seed ornaments for the long holiday break, a migration game, birds and their beaks, making binoculars from recycled toilet paper rolls, and going for bird walks all over campus. Lower Elementary students have particularly enjoyed recording the birds they have seen on their walks in their journals!
  • Right before winter break, Lower Elementary students were busy wrapping up their garden: preserving food and sharing the harvest. They harvested the last of the fall produce to share with Backpack Beginnings. We had two lessons on food preservation this year: dehydrating (persimmons, yum!) and fermentation. We are anxiously awaiting to taste the beet and turnips pickles we made in the coming weeks, but the persimmon chips and fruit leather are long gone.
  • Upper Elementary students have enjoyed learning about garden design as they re-vision their garden this fall and winter. They are furiously drawing sketches of what they want their garden to look like when they aren’t doing research on the groundhogs or birds they have been seeing! For those that signed up for the beekeeping elective, there have been many adventures in winterizing our school bee hives. We are anxious to see if they make it through the winter this year!

 

Backpack Beginnings!

GMS Middle School students are excited to be giving back by donating produce harvested from the gardens to Backpack Beginnings. Last Friday marked out first official donation. Students on the Farm crew for the GMS Micro-economy harvested two crates full of persimmons, peppers, and bags of mixed greens, slated to go to Jones Elementary and students in need.

Several weeks prior, students reached out with a letter to BPB, extending their support and stating their eagerness to work with them. Then our 8th grade Market Manager made a call to arrange a pick up for Friday. It is a wonderful example of how middle school prepares students to be proactive and mature communicators, capable of adult interaction and furthermore, that our students want not only for our community to thrive and experience health and well being, but for the community at large to be “full” and nourished. We plan to continue to donate weekly to BPB and hope that this is the start of a beautiful partnership. Stay tuned!

“Over 49,000 Guilford County School children qualify for free or reduced price meals at school. The objective of our Food BackPack Program is to fight childhood hunger in our community by filling the weekend food gap for children in need.  Our program reduces the negative impacts of hunger so children are ready to learn in school and succeed in life.”

Visit Backpack Beginnings to find out more