Monday, March 1, 2010

Come On Spring!

OK spring, Let's do this.

I am looking at the 10 day and there are 4 happy suns smiling at me followed by 6 ugly clouds with rain and winter dripping out of them. Cut it out winter! I love you, but stop cutting into spring's time. There are gardens to build and plant, students that need to get outside and tuck some little seeds into the soil.

So please, give us all a break and let the suns get some playtime.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Plant something new this year!

Sometimes I get asked what I do all winter... well my friends, I think about spring. Like any good gardener I spend my time looking at seeds on-line and in catalogs, planning out what to plant where, and dreaming about how it is all going to taste!

I have seen a lot of different varieties of vegetables and fruits and I am always looking for things that kids might find fun to grow and eat. But sometimes, despite all the preparations, spring gets here too fast and becomes so busy that we all just end up just planting the same things that we always plant.

So, this year, my gardening friends, let's think ahead and plant something that we have never grown before.

I have put off writing this post because I have been trying hard to determine what new little veggie I might plant in my own garden. I finally decided (drum roll please)... French Sorrel. Those of you that have been to the Beanstalk might have tasted this sour green, but if not, you should think about growing some yourself. This spinach-like plant grows perky little green leaves Spring- Fall. These leaves have a lemony flavor and are great for snacking or mixing in salads.

So, I ask you, what new vegetable venture will you embark on this year?

Here are a few ideas...
-Sugar Snap Peas: sweet and fun to pick, little hands will pull these plump pea-filled pods so quickly from the vine that you might not ever bring one inside.
-Easter Egg Radishes: kudos to those of you who tried these colorful orbs of goodness after I suggested them last fall. I love these radishes because of their various bright colors, large size and milder taste.
-Raspberry plants: oh man, those of you who have the fall-bearing raspberries in your gardens have witnessed the squeals of delight as the kids pick the bright red fruit right off the plants and just pop them in their mouths... yummy!

Someday I am going to create one of those websites where you answer a bunch of questions about your personality and then a customized list of fruits and veggies you should plant pops up on your screen. Until then, think about the foods that you like to eat, but have maybe been shy about growing. Ask your students for suggestions and then help them research their ideas to see if they grow well in this area. Ask your friends what they grow in their gardens and see if anything sounds good to you. Or, you can ask me... I am always happy to give you some suggestions.

Let's be brave and all grow something new together. Chances are, with a little time and attention it will do just great and you and your students will be enjoying fun new produce from your schoolyard garden.

Friday, January 8, 2010

For the Love of Radishes

If you met my dad and talked to him for any length of time, more likely than not he would tell you all about the time when I was two and I ate a whole row of radishes right out of our home garden. I spent the first five years of my life in "the country" and it was not uncommon in the summer for me to explore the wonders of our large yard while my parents worked nearby. I guess on this particular day they let me explore our vegetable garden, only to turn around and find my face soil-covered and a trail of discarded radish greens lining the long row where the radishes used to be planted.

The punchline of my dad's story involves the stinky diapers that they had to change for weeks... But, for me, that it not the end of the story. To this day, radishes remain my favorite vegetable to eat. Although they are not the most versatile vegetable in the garden and my adult stomach could certainly not handle eating a whole row of them, they still have a special place in my heart and on my plate.

You see, part of my love for the radish is its association to my childhood memories. I was able to experience from a young age the wonders of planting seeds, watching them grow and then eating fresh food right from the garden. Many of the kids growing up in urban environments, however, aren't allowed this same opportunity... they may never get to pull a juicy red radish from the soil, experience the joy of unearthing a circle of new red potatoes or see the surprise bouquet of flowers that appears when broccoli florets are not picked in time.

That is what the Schoolyard Gardens program is all about... Creating a space where children can explore the wonders of vegetable gardening, forming their own food-growing and eating memories. I believe that gardening is a process that has the potential to teach kids a whole new way to relate to the food that they eat.

And it is so important to introduce kids to gardening early while they are still forming their food preferences. Kids need to experience the fun of gardening before they are "too cool" to get dirty and they need to taste garden produce before they are so accustomed to candy and hot chips that anything fresh is "nasty."

So, I'm counting down the days until I can help little hands plant vegetable seeds in gardens at schools around the city... hoping that when the seeds sprout new memories will grow and a deeper relationship with food can be cultivated. How cool would it for a child to recognize a cucumber in the produce section of a grocery store and ask his parent to buy it because he remembers planting and watering a small white seed in his schoolyard garden that he got to watch grow into a vine with little yellow flowers that turned into cucumbers almost overnight... cucumbers that he got pick off the vine and eat... and actually liked.