Artichokes

Good news ‘choke fans, artichoke season is upon us. These edible buds are grown as perennials in our mild winter garden zone which means for those of us with year-round school gardens the time to enjoy them is now.

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Artichokes should be picked while the buds are still tight. The edible parts consist primarily of the fleshy lower portion of the bracts as well as the base, which is known as the “heart.” The immature florets in the center of the bud are inedible in older larger flowers and are usually removed.

See this video on how to clean artichokes for boiling and be sure to visit the California Artichoke Advisory Board (CAAB) for artichoke and artichoke dip recipes.

One note of caution, artichokes, being a member of the thistle family, have outer leaves that can develop into sharp points, gloves are recommend for harvesting.

artichoke_flower

Lastly, consider allowing one or two buds to open, flower, and go to seed. The purple florets are a treat for the eyes and the feeling of running your fingers over them is a wondrous joy to the sense of touch.

School Garden News – California

Helping young minds grow
By Lucia Constantine, student at Stanford University
MercuryNews.com

Ask a child today where his food comes from and he will be more likely to say a supermarket than the earth.

This ignorance is representative of the increasing disconnect between ourselves and the foods we eat. When it comes to eating, we are setting children up for failure by not providing them with the knowledge and the motivation to make informed choices about food. Children cannot be expected to know what they are not taught, and in most schools garden education is not an integral part of the curriculum. Yet by learning how to grow, harvest, and prepare fresh produce, they gain not only a deeper understanding of where food comes from but also an appreciation for food that tastes good and is good for you.

Garden education programs allow children to witness the miracle of transformation from seed to delicious meal. By involving them in every aspect of food production from planting seeds to tending the crops, and harvesting produce, children develop a sense of pride and ownership over the garden, which makes them more likely to try tasting the food they have grown and to value the food they eat.

Fruits and vegetables can be a hard sell, particularly to children. They rarely appear in television commercials nor do they come in brightly colored boxes. Given the established influence children have on their parents’ food purchases, advertising to children has become common practice in the food industry. The foods advertised are often high in fat and sugar but low in nutritional value. It’s unreasonable to expect children to demand healthy choices when they are continually flooded with images of junk food. A school garden represents an opportunity for children to get excited about eating fruits and vegetables. Because eating habits are established at an early age and contribute to later outcomes in health, it becomes increasingly important to teach children what to eat while they are still young.

Moreover, what’s going on in the garden or in the kitchen serves to reinforce what’s being taught in the classroom. Working in the garden or cooking in the kitchen can be both a hands-on activity and a lesson in history, math, biology or nutrition. Because food is such an integral part of living, lessons in the garden can be connected to almost any topic.

By making garden education part of the curriculum, every child can be exposed to the wonder and miracle of food production and enticed to enjoy more of the benefits of fresh produce. If your school does not have a garden education program, help them get started. Check out the Edible School Yard in Berkeley and Collective Roots in Palo Alto, two successful garden education programs in the Bay Area, for ideas and inspiration. Grants and funding for new projects are available through a variety of venues including the Environmental Protection Agency and Kidsgardening. If your school already has a garden education program, let those responsible for the program know how important it is and how greatly their efforts are appreciated.

Spring Planting

In order to get our spring vegetables harvested before the end of the school term we are currently sowing the following from seed directly into the ground: bush beans, pole beans, zucchini, and lettuce. We are also transplanting seedlings of corn and cherry tomatoes, which we started in our greenhouse. Cherries mature quicker than the larger beefsteaks.

For those with year round gardens wait until the weather warms up a little more before planting cucumbers, melons, and winter squash.

If you’re not sure what to plant or when check out this planting guide from DigitalSeed.com

If you haven’t gotten seeds yet visit our friends at Botanical Interests and while you’re there check out their fundraising for school gardens.

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School Garden News – Australia

School’s Patch is Popular
BY MEGAN GORREY, StGeorge.YourGuide.com.au

Green thumbs: Como Public School students. Picture: Lisa McMahon

A NEW vegetable patch on the grounds of Como Public School is sprouting with possibilities as students learn how to grow and harvest their own food.

The school garden was planted to teach children important lessons about healthy eating, the environment and sustainability.

Fresh produce from the garden will be used in the canteen and will be sold at the school’s regular market days.

School administration manager Beth Munro said students had been excited by planting and harvesting their own vegetables.

“They can have a hand in seeing real food grow, rather than just appear in the supermarket,” she said.

“They were so enthusiastic when they got to taste some of the foods for the first time.”

The garden was thought up by the school’s P & C committee and also contains marigolds.

Winter Flowers

Its late February here in our California school gardens. Some of the veggies we planted in September are now going to seed (broccoli, bok choy, cilantro) while others are still producing (fava beans, peas).  Either way by observing the flowering of our plants we are reminded that all our annual plants go through a similar life cycle; they start from seed, grow, flower, set seeds, and die. Its starts with seeds and ends with seeds, beautiful flowers are merely a bonus.

School Garden News – California

An ecologically correct subject for students

By Elisabeth Laurence, SFExaminer.com

Wells_GardenOn duty: Shariff Hasan tends the garden at Ida B. Wells Continuation High School. Bret Putnam/Special to The Examiner .

SAN FRANCISCO – It’s not just English, math and science at San Francisco schools. Students are getting a vegetable education, learning how to grow, harvest and cook food grown in on-site school gardens.

Urban Sprouts, a four-year-old nonprofit that teaches gardening to 750 middle and high school students at gardens at six San Francisco public schools, makes growing food and cooking it outdoors a treat.

Students at Aptos Middle School, International Studies Academy, June Jordan School for Equity, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, San Francisco Community School and Ida B. Wells Continuation High School learn the ABCs of what it takes to prepare soil, build compost “warm bins,” plant seeds, weed, prune and make meals out of just-picked organic vegetables and fruit.

Abby Rosenheck, executive director of Urban Sprouts, began the program while helping a colleague studying the benefits of school
gardens for students’ health.

She says, “Students get a lot out of it. One of the things we see right away is that they start to eat more fruits and vegetables. They get excited — before they thought vegetables were boring. Now they see how they grow in the soil. These are city kids. They learn more about the environment. And they bring that knowledge home to their families.”

At Ida B. Wells High School, principal Claudia Anderson has been a longtime proponent of the program, in which students work together and learn horticulture.

Senior Landall Bell, 17, says, “I’ve learned a lot about plants I didn’t know before. My favorite thing is to see the progress and the growth. It’s knowledge that will probably stick with me for a while.”

The school gardens are situated below a hillside on what may be the best view of The City, just off Alamo Square. Total square footage is about 50 feet by 25 feet. The space is divided into two long garden beds, terraced on different levels with a path between, so students can easily work on the plants.

The beds contain a mixture of crops. The current winter garden features collard greens, lettuce, onions, kale, chard, artichoke, oregano, mint, thyme and new potatoes.

Students enjoy the fruits of their gardening by learning to cook what they’ve grown; for example, preparing tomato soup with newly harvested zucchini.

Rosenheck says, “Students are the urban farmers of the future. With their skills, knowledge and interest they’ll be committed to health, the environment and the community. They’re advocates in a new way.”

For more information, visit www.Urbansprouts.org

Sorrel

sorrelI love the sour taste of Sorrel. Its great raw in mixed green salads or as the main ingredient in the French classic, Sorrel Soup or the Eastern European classic, Schav.

Sorrel is a perennial in the Polygonaceae family along with such relatives as buckwheat and rhubarb. The reason I mention it now is that after 3 seasons ours has just bolted.

Sorrel_Bolting

Enjoy it while you can.

Sorrel Soup Recipes
1) Recipezaar.com
2) JaquesandCompany.com

Schav Recipes
1) Recipesource.com
2) NYTimes.com