Some of the plants we grow in our youth garden, like me, have migrated to the DC area. And sometimes they need a little extra coddling from this erratic, and sometimes chilly, weather (also like me!). They are great for teaching about where food comes from, regional climate differences and seasonality. We’ve finally moved our friends out of the snug greenhouses into the rapidly warming garden and I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to them:
Native land: South America
Hobby at WYG: Sending out its fragrance to unsuspecting students in the Sensory Garden
Fun Fact: The leaves of this plant can add a lemon flavor to dishes and make a great tea!
Native land: Mediterranean Region
Hobby at WYG: Fooling people about what it actually produces…
Fun Facts: A curry plant does NOT produce curry spice. Curry is a mixture of spices. The leaves of this plant can smell like curry spice, but really it just produces a strong smelling oil that can be used for medicinal purposes.
Mango Tree: (tree on the left)
Native Land: South Asia
Hobby at WYG: Not producing mangoes yet :-(
Fun Facs: Allergens found in the oil of the mango fruit skin can give you an itchy rash, especially if you’re allergic to poison ivy. If you want to be safe, peel the fruit!
Chocolate Tree: (see photo above - it’s the tree on the right)
Native land: South America
Hobby at WYG: Getting kids excited about eating chocolate straight off of the tree until they learn how much processing a cocoa bean has to go through before it turns into a candy bar
Fun Fact: Chocolate is made from the seeds of the chocolate tree. However, in some countries, they also eat the fleshy fruit that surrounds the seed.
Native land: Asia
Hobby at WYG: Gifting us fruit for salad dressings!
Fun Fact: India cultivates the largest amount of the world’s lemons (16%) followed closely by Mexico
Native Land: South Asia
Hobby at WYG: Hanging out in the Poptart Garden - reminding kids that most of a Poptart is not actually strawberries…
Fun Fact: Sugar cane tastes delicious raw - you can chew the fibers and suck out the mild, sweet juice.
That’s all for now! We are so thankful for these awesome plants and the greenhouse space from the USNA to extend our seasons and our educational opportunities!
Native Land: CA/Mexico
Hobby at WYG: Researching!! (garden pest problems, plant history, educational methodology, legal guidelines, marketing strategies, you name it!)
Fun Fact: I never knew how asparagus grew until I started working at the Washington Youth Garden and now it just might be my favorite plant.
Hello there! My name is Emily and I’m the 2013 Garden Education Assistant. This season I’ll be working with the other WYG staff to make SPROUT field trips run smoothly and plants grow strong. I’m no stranger to the garden, though - I’ve been volunteering nearly every Saturday morning during the growing season for the last three years. You should come volunteer with us too!
Here are a few photos I took during my first week. I hope you enjoy them, and hope to see you soon out at the garden.
Tuesday, April 30th was a much-needed rain day. I caught this globe allium hanging onto some water droplets.
On Wednesday, May 1st in the afternoon we were visited by some 5th and 6th graders from Washington Middle School and went through a number of Garden Basics - including a stop to taste some delicious sorrel.
In the morning on Thursday, May 2nd, first graders from Two Rivers School visited to go on what they called a “Pollinators Expedition!” We explored the butterfly garden, played the pollinator game, and checked out these awesome pollinator displays.
Meanwhile, soaking up all that rain from Tuesday, our broccoli florets silently began to form.
It’s been a roller coaster winter and spring for DC bee lovers.
First we celebrated when DC passed the Sustainable DC Act, officially legalizing beekeeping in the District. (You can read here, starting on page 14.)
Then we mourned as many of the hives across our city were struck by colony collapse, a disorder that is not completely understood but is devastating hives across the nation. At the Washington Youth Garden, we teach kids that bees are in trouble. Unfortunately, this winter the trouble hit close to home.
Our hive was one of the approximately 40-50% of honeybee hives across the country that didn’t make it to spring. Nobody understands the full story about colony collapse, a malady that has killed off 30% of hives annually over recent years. However, you can read more about the environmental and agricultural concerns in this New York Times Article. You can also learn more on this recent episode of Science Friday.
We were looking forward to our 4th season with our hive: not only did they produce award-winning honey and pollinate our many flowering crops, they taught countless adult and child visitors that bees are our friends. We need them and they need our help.
Fortunately, we have great beekeeping friends who will help us procure a new hive and queen. So when you come out to visit us this season, be sure to pay a visit to our new friends. We’ll do our best to give them a good home and find ways to make our earth more friendly to our much-needed families of pollinators.
She’s walked the halls of congress. She’s met with our First Lady’s right hand man, Senior Policy Advisor and White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass. She has an undergraduate degree in Science Education and Masters in Nutrition Education.
And now she’s the WYG School Garden Coordinator! Why??
Bethany joined the Washington Youth Garden staff almost exactly one year ago as a part-time School Garden Coordinator to work at two of our Garden Science partner schools. Her position, grant-funded for a limited time, was a pilot effort in our evolving school garden partnership program. Both schools she worked with were so impressed with the work she was able to do with their garden spaces and their students that they allotted money from their own budgets to extend her position through the end of the school year. Clearly, the Washington Youth Garden got a treasure!
At a very belated birthday celebration, Bethany shared some of her inspiration for her move from influencing the lives of millions of children through her position at the Center for Science in the Public Interest to influencing just a few hundred lives through raised beds, simple recipes and lots of energetic hands-on science lessons.
Her reasons included a variety of factors: a need for a break from the hectic and stressful schedule of a lobbyist, healing from some difficult life circumstances, her long-time love of gardening, and a deep desire to continue “promoting healthy diets and good nutrition to children and young people.”
But I think one aspect of her new career choice that resonated strongly with all of our staff was the desire to be the hands and feet serving children that may never otherwise have the opportunity to experience the richness of growing their own food, learn science by doing it or have a real understanding of the natural environment in which they live. While it is a privilege and extremely important to be making change at a policy level, it is a rich and rewarding experience to connect directly with the young constituents themselves. Bethany expressed it simply: now she goes into work and “knows she is making a difference every day.”
We are so thankful that Bethany needed to reconnect to the small-scale, individual impact that drives many of us to keep working for change. And we’d love for you to come experience some of that power to change, power to learn, and power to heal through our programs, volunteer days, and just spending some time outside seeing what’s growing.
In honor of the upcoming holiday, I am pleased to share a guest blog written by local Registered Dietician, Catherine Vitt. While we didn’t overwinter our own cabbages, the baby plants in the cold frame are doing splendidly.
St. Patrick’s Cabbage Day,
Charla and the WYG Staff
Guess what? Cabbage is on sale at a grocery store near you! Besides the fact that it is almost St. Patrick’s Day and this leafy vegetable is synonymous with the holiday, it also is in season and grown locally! This is a win, win, win:
Win #1: Cabbage is in season. Anytime a fruit or vegetable is in season, it tends to be more delicious than if it was not grown during its natural growing season. Have you ever tried a peach from your grocery store in the winter? Ick! It lacks flavor and sweetness, not to mention the mushy texture.
Win #2: Cabbage is a grown locally in both Virginia and Maryland. This means you can obtain this product freshly picked, help the environment by choosing a product that does not need a load of fuel to reach you, and lastly, support farmers in our community.
Win #3: Cabbage is cheap. This is my favorite win! Produce in season tends to cost less than when it is out of season. Today I can purchase cabbage for $0.49 per pound. That’s 1.5-2 times less than what you would pay by weight for a snack food such as chips or cookies. It drives me crazy when I hear folks say it’s too expensive to eat healthy; with a little supermarket savvy and some seasonal knowledge on produce, you can help your wallet and your health.
What are you waiting for? Here are two of my favorite slaw recipes, from www.Eatingwell.com.
Spicy Chipotle Coleslaw (adapted from Creamy Avocado White Bean Wrap recipe)
Whisk vinegar, oil, chipotle chile and salt in a medium bowl. Add cabbage, carrot and cilantro; toss to combine.
Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, vinegar and sugar in a large bowl. Add caraway seed (or celery seed), if using. Season with salt and pepper. Add cabbage and carrots and toss well.
Catherine Vitt, R.D. works for Evolent Health and loves to sneak vegetables into anything and everything (including brownies!).
Bethany, our School Garden Coordinator, sent me her adorable parent newsletter, “Digging in,” written for the pre-K classes she teaches weekly at our Garden Science partner school. It included the following fun (and very delicious) Rainbow Rollups Recipe that I’ve attached at the end of this post.
Meanwhile, I also read an article called Opening Pandora’s Lunchbox that is one of the best adult versions I’ve ever read for the whole vs. slightly processed vs. very processed food discussion we have with our older student program participants. Whole foods, foods that are not modified from their original forms (i.e. and egg or a carrot), are great to eat, but do narrow down your dietary options quite a bit. This article teases out the (sometimes scary) differences between mildly processed food (defined in this article as something that you could reasonably replicate in your own kitchen) and a very processed food, like corn syrup or a pop-tart. I love that the garden provides such a natural and positive starting ground for talking about and tasting healthy food!
Rainbow Rollups Recipe
About 4 large Kale leaves (we prefer Tuscan or Dinosaur Kale to other kale varieties, but any variety can be used), washed and spun dry
1 large carrot, peeled or scrubbed
1/2 of a jicama, peeled
1/2 of an avocado
1/4 of a head of purple cabbage
About a dozen grape tomatoes
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
3-4 tbsp. low-fat cream cheese (whipped cream cheese is easiest to spread)
3-4 whole grain flour tortillas
Fold kales leaves in half lengthwise and cut or tear out large center ribs. Stack de-ribbed kale leaves on top of one another lengthwise and, beginning with end closest to you, roll the leaves into a thick cigar-shaped roll. Using a sharp knife, cut the rolled leaves lengthwise into thin strips or “ribbons”. Place kale ribbons into a large mixing bowl.
Use a box grater to shred the carrot into thin strips. Thinly slice jicama widthwise from top to bottom several times. Working with several slices at a time, stack and cut lengthwise into matchsticks. Cut cabbage into thin strips with a sharp knife. Slice tomatoes several times crosswise into rounds.
Add carrot, jicama, cabbage and tomatoes to mixing bowl with kale ribbons.
Squeeze lemon juice into mixing bowl. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to bowl and gently mix all ingredients together.
Cut the avocado into cubes.
Spread approximately 1 tbsp. cream cheese on each tortilla (be sure to spread cream cheese all the way out to tortilla edges). Place 1-2 scoops salad mixture on each tortilla. Top salad mixture with several avocado cubes.
Roll tortillas up tightly and use cream cheese (on tortilla edges) to seal rolls closed. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes, or up to overnight (allows time for rolls to soften, which helps keep them closed after slicing). Prior to serving, remove rolls from refrigerator and unwrap. Using a sharp knife, slice lengthwise into 1/2”-1” rolls.
Serve and enjoy!
p.s. If you read our posts about how to get your kids to eat more vegetables, you might enjoy this recent article from NPR about other proven methods of improving children’s eating habits!
It’s not every day that the Washington Youth Garden (WYG) staff gets to hang out with hundreds of people that are passionate about urban gardening in DC! It’s like a professional development spa…or a cup of motivational coffee…or maybe just a great event!
But we weren’t just there observing and learning, we were giving, too. Here’s a little taste of what WYG was up to and how you can access the information we shared.
If you weren’t there this year, don’t miss Rooting DC 2014. We’ll see you there!