new city farmers

Posted by on Jun 30, 2011 in gardens, raising children, summer camp | 0 comments

Whenever caterpillars have been mentioned, or talked about in our house, up until now, it has always been associated with butterflies – even the ones that never actually turn into butterflies. Well, yesterday, we discovered a bunch of caterpillars in our tatsoi plants, and my daughter wanted none of them. It did not matter if they were going to turn into beautiful butterflies that would amaze and inspire profound curiosity about what is possible. They, in one day, had made our once beautiful full leaves, into cobweb designs, and had completely eaten a few of them so that you wouldn’t know there had been a leaf at all. Clearly, a family had settled in quickly just in time to multiply – there were beautiful green caterpillars of all sizes getting cozy. We proceeded in harvesting all that was left and I dutifully took every caterpillar, attached to a piece of green for the ride of course, and sent them off to find a new home. Does anybody know what tiny black rounds all over the leaves, seemingly associated with the caterpillars – are? Is it their waste? Is it their eggs?  I don’t know, and we got rid of them faster than we could take a picture, but I still wonder what their role is and if our plants will recover for another round of harvest. Maybe we need to plant a plant just for the caterpillars. There must be a way to harmonize.

Thank goodness for the bean stalks that are growing. Pristine, bold and steady without any intruders to speak of.

Our questions and insecurities would surely inspire at least a giggle from seasoned gardeners. City dwellers – we can be farmers. I am getting quite excited about our summer camp beginning next week. I am especially looking forward to hanging out with the farmers at the Brooklyn Grange. The Brooklyn Grange is the biggest rooftop farm in the country, and they have lofty goals. They want to create lots of farms on rooftops. Imagine – especially all of you who long to leave the city in order to reconnect with growing food and green spaces. Imagine if people came to the city to learn to farm, if the city were in fact a farming mecca where people of all ages in every community felt connected to their local farm and food chain, where weekly markets were an integral part of our culture’s harmony.

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Dine out THIS WEEK to support school gardens

Posted by on Jun 27, 2011 in gardens, news and happenings, raising children | 0 comments

If summer isn’t enough of an excuse to dine out in celebration, supporting local school garden initiatives, is. Check out this tasty list of options local restaurants are offering to share the profits on to support Grow to Learn: Citywide School Gardens Initiative. Growing gardens teach lessons across curriculum subjects, but most importantly, they instill (without force) an appreciation for the Earth, and the food that we eat.

Restaurants that want to be added to the list, there is still time! Follow the link.

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The Rockstar Nutritionist

Posted by on Jun 26, 2011 in news and happenings | 0 comments

Jill Jayne, is really cool. She is a dietician and a musician, she rocks out to songs about eating good food and it seems to actually resonate with kids. A lot of kids. Check her out:


If only all the celebrities and musicians our kids already admire could be known for loving vegetables and water over junk and soda!

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Community composting in action + The Lower East Side Ecology Center

Posted by on Jun 23, 2011 in Food & Farm program, Food for thought, gardens, raising children, summer camp | 1 comment

Community composting is great for so many reasons. Turning your food scraps into soil, is magical. And meeting your neighbors at the park, with your weeks supply of food waste in hand is inspiring. The more people are out and about on their way to contribute their compostable waste, the more conversations happen about it, and more and more composting happens. Composting is one of those things, like picking up after your dog and sweeping the sidewalk in front of your home, that especially when done in community, makes you feel like a great citizen.

Did you know that 17% of NYC’s waste stream is food waste? When this material is sent to a landfill it contributes to NYC’s disposal costs and can create greenhouse gas emissions. When composted, food scraps and other organic waste become a useful product that adds nutrients and improves the quality of soil for street trees, gardens and more.

The above image of a growing pile of compost shows how quickly the composting initiatives are growing in NYC this spring and summer. This is a part of a 4 month pilot program to see what happens when community composting programs are initiated in our city. Thanks to City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and the New York City Council and Action Carting Environmental Services, and to community composting partners at the Lower East Side Ecology Center, Ft. Greene Compost Project and the Western Queens Compost Initiative – the compost pile is growing, and our collective consciousness of our waste habits, is also growing alongside the pile.

We are excited to spend time with the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s master composters this summer during our Food & Garden camp. The Ecology center has been offering a community composting program since 1990 at their community garden on East 7th Street, between Avenues B and C.  We will be getting our hands dirty and learning all there is to learn about composting in gardens, and in our communities. If you are interested in learning more, they offer classes to the public and even offer a 6 week Master Composters certification course.

May we all become experts in separating out our spoils to make soil.

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Pasta with sugar snap peas and fresh pesto

Posted by on Jun 22, 2011 in Food for thought, gardens, Recipes, seasonal food of the month | 2 comments

Flora’s seasonal recipe: 

Late spring/early summer marks the flowering of pea shoots that create crunchy, refreshing peas that are full of fiber and vitamins galore!  My first encounter with them this year was on the side of the road at a farm stand where the large handwritten sign stating “local fresh peas” caught my eye.  I had to stop, and it was well worth it!  I bought a bag (on the honor system) and couldn’t help myself but reach in and crunch into one…two…three…After indulging, I put away the bag, and while making lunch, I added a few to my salad.  I just love them raw, although they do taste incredible mixed into another one of my favorite dishes: pasta & fresh pesto.

Pasta with sugar snap peas and fresh pesto:


Place rinsed basil leaves (1 bunch), garlic cloves (1-2 cloves, depending on how much you love garlic), parmesan cheese (1/4 cup or ½ cup, depending on how cheesy you want it to be), pine nuts (try pepitas or sunflower seeds, add a handful, or more as you wish), olive oil (3-4 tablespoons), salt & pepper into a food processor and blend to a paste-like consistency.  Taste the mixture as you go and add more if you think you need to.

Snap peas: 

Bring a pot of water with a sprinkle of salt to a boil and place the snap peas in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes.  Remove the peas and transfer to a bowl of water + ice, let cool.


Bring water to a boil, place pasta into the water and let cook for the time stated on your package ~ 10-12 minutes.  Drain and place pasta back into the pot, add the blanched snap peas, fresh pesto and mix it all up.

Top your pasta with some fresh cracked pepper-grated parmesan cheese and enjoy your late spring/early summer feast!

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