Category Archives: Instructional Activities

Week 24 – Spring Garden Preparation

We’re a little more than halfway through the school year. According to my calculations we have 17 weeks remaining. We are still harvesting chard and kale on a weekly basis, however most of our other winter veggies have either all been harvested or gone to seed. We are now clearing those beds and amending them once again with organic compost for an all new planting of warm-weather, spring vegetables. Over the next couple of weeks we will be planting rows of beans, corn, squash and decorative sunflowers, as well as transplants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumbers that were started indoors. For schools that are not accessible year-round I recommend growing cherry tomatoes, as the larger beefsteaks will not likely mature before school’s end.

Week 23 – Cole Slaw Recipe

We’re harvesting cabbage, we’re harvesting carrots, put them both together what have you got? That’s right, we’re making cole slaw, a name derived from the Dutch word koolsla (kool) cabbage (sla) salad and made famous by a guy named Richard Hellman, a New York City deli owner who made salads and sandwiches with his wife Nina’s home-made mayonnaise. Once Hellman started bottling the mayonnaise in 1912, cole slaw took off as a national side dish. For those of us on the west coast we know Hellman’s mayonnaise as Best, it is one and the same and the one by which all others are judged.
To make our cole slaw I’ve got a cutting board, a kitchen knife, a vegetable peeler, a carrot grater, and a big mixing bowl. First lets harvest our veggies. When picking cabbage pull the whole plant from the ground, snip off the base (stem and roots) and cut away the big tough outer leaves till your left with a tight round head. With the carrots (4 small ones) cut away the green tops. Wash both under running water. Cut the cabbage into quarters and then into thin, fine strips. Peel the carrots, grate, and add to the cabbage. Next, we make our dressing. Add three tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, sprinkle of sugar, dash of salt & pepper and mix well. Enjoy!

Week 23 – Bolting

Bolting is the term used when a vegetable crop runs to seed. It is triggered either by a cold spell, a hot spell, or changes in day-length (photoperiod). Annual crops will bolt in the first year, biennials in the second year. Some vegetables (lettuce, mizuna, arugula, etc.) become unusable (bitter) once they bolt.

A tell-tale sign that a vegetable has bolted is the formation of a central stalk. Once you see this you know that the vegetative stage is over and the flowering stage has begun.

I recommend allowing one or two plants to bolt (lettuce and cilantro are good choices). This will not only give students an opportunity to view the complete life cycle of a plant, it will also enable the formation of seeds of which we can save for the following season.

bolted-cilantro

More on Bolting at Wikipedia

Week 22 – Planting Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the easiest vegetables you can grow, but they prefer cool weather. Think about where they originated – mountains of Peru, and where they grow well – Ireland, Maine, and Idaho (all cool weather environments). You should try to get them into the ground at the right time. Here in Southern California, according to digitalseed.com the right time is now.
If you want to grow potatoes, you should plant seed potatoes. A seed potato is nothing more than a piece of a potato with an “eye”. Potatoes from the supermarket should not be used as seed potatoes as they are bred not to form eyes (keeps them fresh on the shelves longer). Visit your garden center or order from specialty seed catalogs for seed potatoes.
Potatoes grow best in soft loamy soil and in full sun. Add plenty of compost prior to planting , to create a rich, loose soil that retains water, yet is well draining. Soil should be slightly acidic to avoid potato scab. Plant “eyes” in hills, two to three eyes per hill, and cover with 3″ of garden soil. Space hills one foot apart. As the plants grow, mound additional soil around the plants every week or two. Do not let the tubers or potatoes be exposed to sunlight. You can cover the soil around the plants with compost or mulch.
Below is a picture of a potato flower. From this picture can you tell what family the potato is in.

Week 21 – Rain

Our gardens are loving the rain. When we consider there are droughts about the globe and even close to home we are thankful for the rain and all that it does for us.
Please review this student-friendly article what is drought from the National Drought Mitigation Center and spread the word.

Week 20 – Swiss Chard Recipes

Swiss chard is having an identity crisis. Not as popular as carrots or as tasty as tomatoes, this prolific relative of spinach is in need of a good publicist. Being a biennial it will take two years to complete its lifecycle and go to seed. To the school gardener and the home gardener this means greater reward for your labor. With minimal effort one can be picking Swiss chard 52 weeks a year in our mild winter climate. Just pick the outer leaves and leave the smaller inner ones intact.
This lovely rainbow variety does cause heads to turn and students clamor to take a few cuttings home simply because “it looks pretty”, however, the one question I get from everyone, including teachers is, what do you do with it? My simple answer is, its in the same family as spinach, any recipe calling for cooked spinach can be substituted with the green leaves of Swiss chard, the stems are another story and we’ll get to that in a second. Below you will find two recipes for Swiss chard, the first is for the leaves, the second, for the stems.

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Sausage
In boiling salted water cook ½ lb pasta for 10 minutes, drain in colander. In same pot sauté ½ cup onion and 2 cloves garlic in 2 TB olive oil. Add one chopped turkey sausage and cook till browned. Add two bunches chopped Swiss Chard (about 3-4 cups) and sauté till wilted, adding up to ½ cup of broth (chicken or vegetable) as needed, about 10-15 minutes. Add cooked pasta, salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Swiss Chard Stems Moroccan Style
Chop stems from two bunches of Swiss chard (approximately 2-3 cups) and sauté with one onion and two cloves of garlic in 2 TB olive oil. Add a little chicken broth, vegetable broth or water, about ¼ cup, and cook till softened, about 10-15 minutes. Pour off liquid then stir in 3-4 tablespoons of tahini (start with 3 then add more as needed), juice of one lemon, two tablespoons olive oil, pinch of garlic salt, pinch of cumin, salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Week 19 – Pop Quiz

When we eat broccoli do you know what part of the plant we are eating? I’ll give you a hint, it’s the same part of the plant as when we eat artichokes. Here’s another hint, when we don’t pick broccoli in a timely manner this is what it looks like-
We are currently harvesting broccoli, carrots, peas, spinach, swiss chard, lettuce and radishes. Identify what part of the plant we are eating for each vegetable. First entry with all correct answers wins a packet of seeds.