All posts filed under: Cultivating Mindfulness

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. …

Mindfulness Tea

We had some really cold days this winter and on one such day, decided to open the spice cabinet to make a warming and healing mindfulness tea. Thich Nhat Hahn has a wonderful book entitled  Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children that we often gain inspiration from. The children love what Thay calls inviting the bell, and this practice helps them to center and ground themselves. To begin this class we did just that and got down to business learning about the various herbs and spices we wanted to use in our tea. We used a mortar and pestle to grind a some of the herbs to release the healing oils. Many herbs have a multitude of uses and medicinal properties, but we focused in on just one main use for each ingredient we added, so as not to overwhelm ourselves. Together we decided that we liked the idea of drinking a tea with all of these benefits in the gloomy dark days of winter to lift our moods and heal our bodies. We got to …

Thanksgiving and Mindfulness

For our Thanksgiving lesson this year we talked about the bounty of the garden & nature. We filled a basket with seasonal produce – butternut squash, sweet potatoes, dried corn, garlic, and herbs – and discussed how many of the foods we see at Thanksgiving are roots and seeds. They are foods that store well and are often harvested near the end of the growing season. Some things change with time, but the seasons and foods available, no matter how technological we become, are much the same regionally  (barring greenhouses and transfer trucks.) Fall is a time of bounty and we are so thankful to be able to share food together that we have grown with the help of rain, sun, microbes, and all manner of other creatures. Students crunched away on some delicious carrots before break and contemplated mindfulness and gratitude while they ate.

Spring Feast in Upper-El

Last Friday the Upper-Elementary gardening students dove into culinary action as they prepared a Spring Feast from all of the freshly harvested goodies. They prepared a soup, herbal tea, a salad, and strawberry shortbread on homemade biscuits. Carrots, leeks, turnips, lettuce, fava beans, sugar snap pea’s, collards, radishes, mint, and strawberries were all on the harvest list! It was wonderful to see the beauty and variety that the gardens offer this time of year and the kids literally reaped the fruits of their labor on this festive occasion! Hip-hip-Hoorah for gardening and for Spring!                  

Corn Tortillas

This was the culminating garden project for Lower Elementary for the year. The students literally took this from SEED TO TABLE as they planted the corn, tended it, watched it grow, let it dry on the stalk, harvested it, shucked it, removed the kernels, winnowed it, ground it, and made fresh tortillas! They saw the time and work they invested and learned many cultural and historical lessons in the process. The corn we grew was a variety of multicolor Native American field corn. Before the students could grind their corn, it first had to be soaked overnight in a mixture of Lime (calcium hydroxide, not the fruit!) and Water. In the Aztec language Nahuatl, the word for the product of this procedure is nixtamalli or nextamalli. The Nahuatl word means  nextli “ashes” and tamalli “unformed corn dough.”  We then removed the hulls from the kernels. Students ground the kernels in a grain grinder. Some also experienced grinding in a stone vessel, which took considerable effort! We then added a pinch of salt, and a small …