K is for Kale

Posted by on Mar 31, 2011 in seasonal food of the month | 0 comments

There is no getting around it -green leafy vegetables are amazing. They support our liver and gallbladder that work tirelessly to rid our body of toxins, they are good blood builders and are excellent for making strong bones and lungs. Green leaves are made green by the magic that is photosynthesis. Chlorophyll – that which makes plants green, absorbs sunlight and transforms carbon dioxide and water into energy – carbohydrates – that nourish our bodies.

Kale is full of vitamin K that is important for strong bones, vitamin A needed for strong tissues and eyesight, vitamin C, important for all cell activity, and a plethora of other important vitamins and minerals. Kale is the quite simply one of the most nutrient dense foods around, and worth finding ways to love.

During World War II in the UK, the government encouraged people to grow their own food through the Dig for Victory campaign. Kale was a favorite because it is so easy to grow and so nutritious. It’s spring! What will you grow?

Click here to learn more about kale.

Read More

Raising entrepreneurs…

Posted by on Mar 29, 2011 in Food for thought | 1 comment

Check out this TED talk by Cameron Herold. He is a successful entrepreneur, and has some interesting ideas about preparing our children for the future. For example – instead of giving his kids a weekly allowance, which he feels prepares them for a weekly salary – aka – a job that entails working for someone else – he lets his kids go around the house to find jobs that need doing, and then he lets them negotiate a rate for their work. Half of the money that they make gets put into savings. At the end of each month they go together to the bank and to talk with their broker. Yes, his kids have brokers.

Interesting food for thought. http://www.ted.com/talks/cameron_herold_let_s_raise_kids_to_be_entrepreneurs.html

Read More

Portobellos for kids?

Posted by on Mar 29, 2011 in Food & Farm program, Food for thought, Recipes | 0 comments

Generally, it has been my experience that kids don’t love mushrooms. There are exceptions for sure, but generally, this is what I have found. This season though, I’ve been honestly surprised by the effect of the portobello (portabella). At the market last week, we let the students pick the menu, and it was delicious. Locally made artisan pasta shells with broccoli rabe and spinach (it was quite sweet rather than bitter because of the cold), locally bred and humanely treated sausage, carrots and portobellos! These wonderful mushrooms made their way onto the menu simply because one student had never had one before, and was curious. So we sliced them up, and cooked them up with the greens and an onion. We looked everywhere for garlic, but every farmer told us it is too early in the season – it isn’t ready to harvest yet. All of it came out perfectly. We sat around our feast with smiles and ate, all the while talking about the food, and our experience, and our surprise. Buying food, connecting with the people who grow it and bring it to our city, working with a budget, and preparing a meal to eat with good people – is REALLY fun.

What we did with the mushrooms:

Ingredients: 1 lb of pasta, 3 portobello mushrooms, 1 bunch of broccoli raab, 2 big bunches of spinach, 1 onion.

Directions: Put your salted water (as salty as the sea) to boil, add the pasta and a dollop of olive oil to the pot to keep your pasta from sticking. Follow the package instructions to make your pasta al dente. Chop your portobellos into 1/4 inch slices, dice your onion, and chop your greens also into 1/4-1/2 inch slices. Put your veggies into a hot pan with olive or sunflower seed oil* – this will end up being your sauce (*sunflower seed handles high heat well), and top with sea salt. Sauté until your greens have wilted and your mushrooms are soft – about 5 minutes.

When your pasta is ready, drain the water and add to your vegetables. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

*We also cooked up our pork sausage with leeks, thyme and half an onion in a pan with sunflower oil until browned on every side. It was a great accompaniment.

On our lunch menu this winter, we began offering portobello burgers as a vegetarian alternative to turkey and beef burger day. We did not have high expectations at all, but students and teachers alike, love them on and off the bun!

Read More

seeds have coats – did you know?

Posted by on Mar 24, 2011 in Food & Farm program, Food for thought | 0 comments

It has always felt like a miracle at our house, when a seedling we planted turned into a plant – because sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.  Never having had any official lessons on sowing seeds, we’ve done different things at different times – really pressing the earth down so the seed felt secure, putting it deep, putting it shallow, watering daily or every other day, keeping them inside or outside, always with great intention and promise. There are so many options really. Thanks to Anastasia Cole- resident farmer and our guide at the Brooklyn Grange (an incredible roof top fruit and vegetable farm and oasis in Queens, NYC), our family has tangible confidence about the seedlings we will plant this season.

With our Spring Food & Garden Experience group, we labeled our beds with a stick bearing the name of the crop, the date, and where the seeds came from. We sowed seeds of sorrel, and little gem lettuce in rows left to right, top to bottom – just like you read a book (this is an important part of early literacy, knowing how to follow words on a page). We made very small indentations in the dirt – because seeds don’t need to be deep. In fact, if they are sown too deep in the soil and grow tall too quickly in their search for sunshine, they will be weak forever. Their roots won’t be developed enough to absorb the needed nutrients of a bigger plant so young. So just under the surface we placed them, one seed per square. Then we sprinkled new soil on top of all of the seeds and watered them, much more than the sprinkling I wanted to give them. No intense stamping of the soil needed – new seeds need room and a good amount of water to take off their seed jackets, to grow up to their potential. New seeds and young children have a few things in common it seems.

They seedlings will be kept indoors for a few days or weeks depending on the weather – they need to be kept warm and get good sunlight. Windowsills are perfect! Little green sprouts should be visible within a week or so, depending on the seed. However, if two weeks have passed and you don’t see anything, you probably never will. Another good reason to label your seed beds with the date and seed seller’s name.

One of the students with us this week for our Food & Garden Experience shared his surprise at meeting Anastasia. She isn’t the image that many of us have of a farmer. She isn’t a man with a name like Jo or Bill or Old MacDonald. She is young and smart and beautiful and energetic, and she inspired trust and hope in our crowd. As we walked among the planting rows, with snow and rain falling from the sky (farms happen and farmers work in all types of weather!), and the sub-irrigation system below the dirt was highlighted, this same student asked a serious question. Is there enough water in the world?

All eyes were on our farmer. What would she say?

She spoke truth and offered opportunity. We don’t know. The Earth is changing all the time and we don’t know what our resource needs will be in the future with water for our growing population. What we do know, is that we need to manage the water we have, better. Our sewer system is not set up to handle all of the rain that falls on our city. When it rains one tenth of an inch in NYC, (measure that out with your fingers) it backs up our sewage system that overflows into Jamaica Bay (click here to learn about the work to better this system).

Farms, on sea or roof level however, absorb water and turn it into produce and plants that clean our air and provide us with sustainable sustenance. More farms, means less water overflow. More farms, more gardens. This is something tangible we can all do to support a sustainable water system in our city. In all cities.

It is time to sow seeds. If you are new to the world of seedlings, start with what is comfortable. Basil, lettuce, hot peppers and kitchen herbs are easy to grow. Start with one. If you live near a farm, consider volunteering for an afternoon to get comfortable with the idea. You may discover that there is a bit of farmer in you too.

Read More

Learning to Compost!

Posted by on Mar 23, 2011 in featured articles, Food for thought, news and happenings | 0 comments

Our 3-day Food & Garden Experience started as you might expect – in a compost bin. Emily Dinan, Project Coordinator for the NYC Compost Project in Brooklyn was our trusted guide. (Thank you Emily!) She provided us with dirt to explore and bins to dig through full of red wiggler worms. Did you know that red wiggler worms have 5 hearts? Did you know that they eat more than half their body weight in food every single day? They don’t have teeth, so no need to be alarmed. They are just squishy squirmy little ones that make beautiful compost out of our scraps. The NYC Compost Project wants to inspire all of us to compost, so addressing the smelly reputation of compost bins was a part of the lesson. Honestly, this bin didn’t smell at all! The trick is getting an equal balance of carbon (from leaves, hay, newspaper, cardboard, etc. ) and nitrogen (from banana peels, decaying lettuce and other vegetable scraps), and cutting your compost scraps into the smallest pieces possible so that they decompose faster, keeping the air in your home clear. These red wiggler compost bins come with a list of things to avoid – meat, dairy, oil, anything with ink (chemicals) or paper with plstic coating (cereal boxes). For those of you in NYC wanting to compost but wary of starting your own bin just yet, there are programs happening now and looking for support – namely, your compostable scraps at a park near you. Check them out!

The Food & Garden Experience continues. We’ve been shopping at Greene Markets, learning to pickle and sprout. More to come..

Read More