We had A LOT of okra this year in the garden and unfortunately a good bit of it got too big before we had time to harvest. When okra over-develops it gets hard and sinewy and isn’t good to eat. We let all of this big okra dry out on the stalk and then when it was hard and brown we clipped it off. Some of the okra we’ll use for seeds for next season, but most of it, we used to make Christmas Ornaments.
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.
While making flower bouquets primary students ventured beneath a plum tree guild and observed the beauty berries, butterflies, cosmos, and all sorts of other late summer plants.
The Gardening Crew in Middle School got down to business in late summer to harvest their first honey from the bee’s. They got two gallons of honey! The harvest was done entirely by hand, even scraping and filtering the comb. The honey was a rich amber color, which means that they used many different pollens and that it had time to thicken and mature.
In Upper El this semester students planted carrots, turnips, beets, radishes, rutabaga, kale, collards, cabbages, broccoli, 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 …
This fall and summer the gardening classes on Tuesday got to do a lot of harvesting for the market. We 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!
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.
Ground Cherries are another plant in the nightshade family and a really fun snack to scavenge for in the garden. They are called ground cherries because you harvest these yummy little fruits after they ripen and fall to the ground. Primary students especially enjoyed harvesting ground cherries this fall and savoring their flavor – which is rather like a cross between a tomato and a pineapple. These plants are really easy to grow, but are hard to find in grocery stores. They make good chutneys and salsa’s, in addition to being good fresh. They grow in most soil types and will do great even in poor soil or pots. Try growing them at home for a delicious fast snack.
Tomatillos are a wonderful and versatile vegetable. The kids enjoyed picking these little “lantern” fruits in the garden and learning about tomatillos and ground cherries this year. tomatillos are a member of the nightshade family (the same family as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers) and they originated in Mexico. We used our abundant harvest to make a traditional green salsa or “salsa verde.” The first step was to peel the husks off our tomatillos and then wash the sticky coating off of them. We then put a tiny bit of salt, lime juice, garlic, and whole tomatillos in the food processor. Push pulse and – SALSA VERDE! Some methods involve oven roasting the tomatillos, but we opted for the fresh version of this classic.
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!