Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

Let’s Grow Tomatillos, Potatoes and Eat them Too

school gardenThough still awfully dry, lots of fruits on the vine are ready for harvest. The fruits of which I speak are more cucumbers, peppers and beans (all these containing seeds within), rather than apples, pears and peaches.

And though Holly Hill Farm and many school gardens currently do not grow enough corn to make chips, a bag of organic corn chips can be purchased to accompany the salsa verde, as we enjoyed the other day with kids from the South Shore Educational Collaborative during their weekly field trip to Holly Hill.
school garden 4Some visits to schools yield a small or compromised harvest, like already nibbled beets or slightly chewed tomatoes, but the lessons and the end results are still there for kids, teachers and families to see and taste. These visits make for good investigative queries. Did the deer leap over the fence or walk right up to the outer garden beds? Did the woodchuck burrow under the bed or stroll in through the accidentally left-open gate? Did the well-intentioned families weed too many crops or water not enough? There ought to be no blame, as any farmer will tell you, it takes a lot of hard work, diligence and attention to many details. In some cases, there is a lot to share, much to the amazement and delight of some school communities.
At St. Paul School in Hingham, garlic bread is on the menu, with well-cured hanging-in-the-barn-since-July garlic. The sugar pie pumpkins are also curing for Miss. Knoblach’s special treat of a pie.  After harvesting, the students have also been busy sowing new seeds for fall and transplanting some spinach too. And though they suffered from zero potatoes, the cucumbers and tomatoes have begun to fill the void.
At the pre-K to 2nd grade Osgood School in Cohasset, the term bumper crop applies to many vegetables. Teachers, the lead coordinating parent, the students and I were pleasantly surprised with the bounty of beans, mid-Summer transplanted cucumbers, potatoes, peppers and ever exciting carrots. The joke I make about turning on a non-existing underground camera was not necessary, as the shoulders of the carrots and the tops of the potatoes were rearing their delightful selves.
It was all we could do to pace out the harvest for the six second grade classrooms who took time out from their writing, reading and numbers. Many of these kids had sown these seeds as wee first graders on warm and cool spring days in April and May. Some thought the peas were beans, as they too had planted the former, though already enjoyed them in June. Many beans are a bit past their delicious ripe stage and can be saved for seed next Spring.
school garden 2Curriculum lessons, science kits and text books can be left closed, as learning outside with hands-on-lessons about the beans presents a terrific view into the life stages and growth cycle of many plants.  The potatoes speak for themselves when it comes to an exciting, digable activity. Especially the red skinned variety are great to find amidst the rich, black soil. For these red skins are worthy of supporting, cheering and routing. The cucumbers and peppers, within the hour, were washed, though organic and above the soil, sliced and served to the same second graders at lunch the very same day. Now that is a farm to table movement with speed and proximity. The carrots will be washed, having held onto some dirt underground, and the tops are headed to enrich the new compost pile. And that future compost will help the school farm garden be more productive next year. They too have a garlic bread event planned for late September.
All this harvest makes me hungry, and since everybody eats, these partnerships and collaborations with schools allow for lessons to be learned, good, hard work to be had and tasting a little bit of summer in September. It makes coming back to school quite appealing.
As for reaping the fruits of labor, the second ripening of the raspberries at the Wampatuck school in Scituate made for some delicious tasting.  So many ways to bring this local, organic produce to many kids and students, teachers and families. Both on the Farm and at school, let us grow vegetables and eat them too.

© 2014, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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