Eat it: A taste of the fall garden

21 Dec

Things are growing in the garden. So now what?

That’s one of the vexing challenges of a school garden: finding ways for kids to “cook” the food they’ve grown. A few schools, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, where Alice Waters started her first famous Edible Schoolyard, have built a dedicated kid-friendly kitchen. The rest of us muddle through.

Red lettuce, head lettuce and arugula go into the mix.

At George Watts, we’re only in our first year of gardening, so we’re winging it. My plan of attack, so far, has been this: Grow (mostly) food we can harvest and eat without necessarily cooking it. Secure a water source for cleaning. Set up permanent work stations outside.

Harvesting the herbs

Our first harvest/eating event with the kids was called Salad Days, and it’s definitely worth repeating.

Our fabulous school nutritionist, Becca Wright, and I led classrooms through harvesting from the garden lettuce, arugula, radishes and herbs, then preparing a tasting menu.

(And speaking of Becca, here’s a tip: If you’re a Title I school, find out the name of your school nutritionist and start brainstorming with her about programming ideas.)

On the tasting menu: salad with kid-made dressing, radish salsa and veggie dip. We used tortilla chips and carrots as vehicles for the dip. Becca had to buy the carrots at the store, because our garden carrots weren’t mature enough yet for harvesting. Not what we’d planned, but you can always know exactly when things will be ready for harvest when.

Becca, the nutritionist, makes veggie dip with students.

Kids were split into different groups to harvest the lettuce and radishes, pick and chop the herbs, mix the herb dip, concoct a salad dressing from the ingredients we brought, and make the radish salsa.

Tip: Invest in kid-friendly knives. Becca brought these fantastic green plastic ones so no one would lose a finger — something we’ll want to buy for future food prepping with students.

Not only did the kids get a nutrition lesson from Becca, they flexed their math muscles (measuring ingredients) and made a connection between the plants we’re growing and the food they eat.

One (newish) teacher actually said it was the best thing she’d done so far at the school. And it felt great to finally eat something after months of getting the garden up and running.

Veggie Dip

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup light cream cheese
2 tbs chopped chives
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tsp chopped sage

(Note: We used chives, thyme and sage, because they’re growing in our garden. Use whatever you have.)


1. Measure yogurt and cream cheese and put them in a large bowl. Mix well.

2. Chop fresh herbs. Add them to bowl. Stir.

Radish Avocado Salsa

We grew radishes and cilantro in our school garden this fall, among other things. This recipe came from Isaac Dickson Elementary School in Asheville, N.C. The original recipe called for poblano or jalapeno peppers, but we left them out and added tomatoes instead.

2 avocados
6 large radishes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tsp freshly squeezed lime
1 tsp olive oil
2 large tomatoes chopped


1. Half, pit and peel the avocados and cut into chunks.

2. Clean radishes and tomatoes and cut into small chunks.

3. In a bowl, stir together avocado, tomatoes and radishes.

4. Chop 1/4 cup fresh cilantro and add to avocado mixture.

5. Stir in 2 tsp lime juice and 1 tsp olive oil.

6. Stir together lightly and enjoy with tortilla chips.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Radish with your chips? « Growing Gardeners - June 9, 2010

    […] This makes me dream about a day when kids can harvest and make daily snacks straight from their own gardens. (Get the radish salsa recipe here.) […]

  2. Confessions of a school gardener « Growing Gardeners - November 23, 2010

    […] we planted a Salad Garden. We held “Salad Days” in the garden, where kids plucked fresh lettuce leaves, made dressings and nibbled their creations. […]

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