This fall Upper Elementary students have been working hard in their permaculture garden. So hard, in fact, that they are in the midst of perhaps the greatest discovery they’ve made all year: how to process the luffas and Carolina Gold rice that they planted in the spring of 2015. Students planted the luffa gourds with Aubrey in early June by mounding up 3 small hills at the end of beds along the black chain-linked fence. Why here, you might ask? Because these plants produce a beautiful trellising vine that will grow straight up a brick wall all summer long. Our luffas loved that small corner we carved out for them and only at the end of December were they ready to harvest. Although most of the plantings we have in the garden are edible (and luffas are), there are some that are not! When harvested early, the luffa fruits are eaten often in many South East Asian countries. When left for months to grow large, the fruits become, arguably, nature’s best scouring brushes and sponges! …
Several factors have contributed to our harvest of a bumper crop of persimmons this year. One of those is most likely the honey bees on campus have been working hard to pollinate our many crops and they apparently did a thorough job on the persimmons, which are an early bloomer and good source of food for them in spring. We also prevented any “pre-harvesting,” which led to higher yields. We have been busy in gardening classes and with the middle school farm team (part of the MS micro-economy) finding creative ways to eat and preserve the HUNDREDS we harvested this year. Hopefully you’ve already heard about a few of these from your children or purchased some of the jam, chips, or whole persimmons in the front office See some of our creations below! In addition to the persimmon salad, fruit roll ups, pancakes and 5 spice persimmon jam we also made persimmon salad dressing and ate a lot of fresh persimmons. Look for some of these products at Marketplace on December 16th!
We made these celebratory pancakes both this fall and last as the persimmons were ripening. There were loads of them this year, so look for more blogs on the many many things we’ve done with them. This recipe featured cardamom, a spice many primary and lower el students had never encountered before. They were a perfect treat during the cool rainy weather. One of our favorite activities is making whipped cream from scratch and grinding flour from wheat berries so that the students can see where all of the ingredients came from in their whole form! We used ultra ripe persimmons for this recipe, so the pulp folds into the batter just like jam. You can however, also cut up a firm Fuyu persimmon and there will be little chunks of persimmon goodness in your pancakes. Enjoy!
Garden time in Casa is a bit different than Garden class during the school day. We are usually busy working and playing for longer than 30 minutes and there are special work stations that are available to us for more nature play. Our absolute favorite is the cooking station!
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.