Thankful for You! A Fall Fun Recap

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, the Memphis office is reflecting on all we are thankful for this fall season! With 13 new schools kicked off (we’re now up to 98 Learning Gardens in the city – sometimes even we can’t believe it!) we relied more than ever on our wonderful Garden Teams with a bit of experience under their belts to plant gardens on their own! At our Fall Planting & Watering Workshops, teachers from all over the city gathered to hone their skills and pick up our seed pails, courtesy of Johnny’s Selected Seeds. As Erika, Karen, Liz and Marie rushed around in the meantime to help newer schools plant their gardens, sprouts were popping up from Frayser to Ridgeway, Germantown to Whitehaven, Cordova to Midtown. We can’t thank our hardworking teachers enough for taking on the extra responsibility, and harvesting the rewards, of a garden at their school!

Wide-angle shot of Highland Oaks Elementary School’s ceremony before their Kick-Off! Highland Oaks is our 98th Learning Garden in Memphis.

As the season progressed, tiny sprouts were growing into real food that was shared with each school community. Mustard greens and arugula did particularly well this season, and while lettuce seemed to be struggling to grow quite as fast, we have had rave reviews about fresh and crisp salads!

Mustard Greens at Idlewild ES

Our seedlings got a bit damaged when the remains of Hurricane Harvey blew through the area in early September. Farmer Jack, who grows our seedlings for us locally, wanted to give them a bit of time to strengthen again before we distributed them to schools. Everyone was super patient as we got our delivery in late September and commenced the immense task of delivering seedling flats with kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, and dill to almost 75 schools!

Fall Harvesting & Eating Workshop at Richland ES
Ms. Silverman from American Way MS and another teacher’s daughter work together to prepare the Radish Slaw during the workshop.

After Fall Break, we hosted our Fall Harvesting & Eating Workshops, where we had teachers prepare some of our classroom-friendly recipes! For those of us, including myself, who are often wondering “what on earth should I do with all these radishes?!” – don’t worry, we’ve all thought it! – the Radish Slaw (page 8) was a surprisingly delicious delight – even if you aren’t generally a big radish fan. The second recipe is great for using beets raw, which is often a necessity if you are trying to make snacks in the classroom! Beet Ravioli (page 18) is a tasty way for kids to explore beets, which are often a new food for students. The third tasty recipe we made was the Snap Pea, Herb & Cheese Baguette (page 23). Recipes such as the Beet Ravioli or Snap Pea Baguettes that call for cream cheese can be turned dairy-free by substituting hummus – a great way to demonstrate a vegan recipe, or accommodate any classroom allergies!

Snap Pea, Herb & Cheese Baguette
A third grade student from Ms. Johnson’s third grade class at Ross Elementary harvests a perfect beet from their Learning Garden!

We’ve gotten some questions this season about how to get students excited, or sometimes even willing, to try a new food. A good way to encourage students to try a recipe (other than having them help grow, harvest and make it themselves, of course!) is to incorporate an activity that lets them rank what they tried and describe the food in more detail. This Tasting Tour Activity is the perfect template to structure a classroom tasting with students. Of course, not every student will love every veggie, but encouraging them to try new things is an exercise all on its own. As fall marches on towards winter and you continue to harvest, keep this in mind when coming up with creative ways to engage students with real food!

Students from Ms. Johnson’s third grade class at Ross Elementary try some arugula (aka spicy lettuce).

That’s all for now. The Big Green Memphis team will be taking over the organization Instagram story the Wednesday before Thanksgiving with some fun recipes, so follow us at @thekitchencommunity and keep an eye out for fun food inspiration!