Friday, January 27, 2012

How to harvest broccoli

Okay, truth is, this week they were all Wild Child and Wild Child was so wild that I am still recovering and have zero energy for blogging.  But I probably don’t need to say what happened in garden class to the rest of you third grade parents since you are the ones at home scrubbing out the mud-soaked clothes and silt-swamped shoes… 

Unless your kids was in this group of kids who managed to move a bunch of compost without getting drenched:

But, in brief, here goes.

You know, this is just one of those things that I so hate to admit I didn’t know before I went to third grade garden class.  But I didn’t.  I never knew the correct way to harvest broccoli.  Not that I’ve ever had much to harvest beyond a few little florets.  But still.  I hope someday to need to know how to harvest broccoli.  And now I do.  (You cut it diagonally below the florets you want to eat but above healthy leaves so the stalk can send out some new florets.)

Broccoli with lemon butter

Make a pot of brown rice.

Harvest and cut up broccoli (florets and stems), steam.

Melt some fake butter (for the non-dairy types); squeeze out a lemon; mix “butter” and juice.

Mix broccoli, lemon butter, a big handful of sesame seeds, and some Bragg’s Amino Acids (Extra squirts for the kids who like it salty).  Serve over the rice.  Yum.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

We're all in this together

My favorite line this week: “There’s no such thing as your stick and my stick,” Bossy Boots huffs to Wild Child, who has applied his frenzied energy to the pruning job we are doing while waiting for the biscuits to bake. 

We are cutting back the tajetes lucida (Mexican marigold) bush, a job I have taken on annually, fearing it will take over the school garden the same way it has colonized all unwary areas of my own, proving second only to the blackberries in persistent, unwelcome spreading. According to wikipedia, tajetes is actually a very interesting and useful plant. We could be using the leaves in place of tarragon! In fact, we could have used them in our herb butter today. If only our herb butter had been butter… see recipe. But the kids are dismantling the plant quite effectively, in a many-hands-make-light-work collective sort of way. 

Unlike the picture I grabbed off the web (my camera is broken), our bush currently looks like a brown stick-bush, thanks to the recent freezing nights. So the kids are surprised to realize, as they cut back (to best of their ability given that we give them child-size clippers with limited capacity for cutting anything over a 1/2 cm diameter), that the plant is still very much alive.

"Hey, it’s alive in here,” Wild Child notes. “We’re not hurting it, are we?”
Assured that, no, they aren’t hurting it, just allowing it to grow back healthier, they attack with full abandon, each coveting the longer sticks. But Bossy Boots reminds them that this is a collective task. “There’s no such thing as your stick and my stick.” All together now.

Hot Biscuits on a Cold Day (Seriously, what could be better, since our “classroom” is outdoors?)

2 cups flour or gluten-free baking mix (For the wheat version, we used the bag of white flour b/c I didn’t notice the jar of whole wheat until it was too late. Half white/half whole wheat works well.) 
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
5-6 T Earth Balance or other fake butter
3/4 c buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients, cut in butter substitute, then stir in buttermilk. Knead, roll out, and cut out rounds with any old jar you have sitting around.  
Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes.

Herb Butter

DO NOT do what we did, which was keep the cream cold, chill the jar, and chill the marbles. Our butter was what my kids call a “big fail.” We served our biscuits with runny herb whipped cream.  Start with everything at room temperature.

1 pint heavy cream 
5 marbles 
A big handful of chopped (or pulverized if the kids prefer the mortar and pestle approach) herbs, whatever you like, we used parsley and thyme

Throw it into a jar and shake until you have butter. This is a GREAT activity if Wild Child has extra energy—just send her jogging around the field with the jar for a few laps. With our too-cold version, it made a great example of how we all much pitch in to accomplish a task, as everyone’s shaking arm had plenty of opportunities to get tired.

Friday, January 13, 2012

thank you, garden program

Overheard at my house this week:

Nine-year-old to six-year-old, "If you don't put the greens on your taco, you are missing out on a BIG TREAT.  Seriously."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tis the (next) season

Our garden teacher not only knocks herself out designing this soul-feeding program for our kids, she also has kids of her own.  And not just the two with whom she lives (off the grid, by the way, growing their own food, generally showing the rest of us how unnecessarily comfortable our lives are).  As for the others, well, I guess since they are sheep, not goats, they are lambs, not kids.
It’s lambing season, the stresses of which I only vaguely recall from my teenage reading of All Creatures Great and Small, a Yorkshire country vet’s account of his years stumbling around barns extracting stuck lambs from their mothers.  The whole venture gives me a sense of wet wool steaming in the cold, and wobbly legs.  (And since I was a midwife for a time, bright red afterbirth as well.)  

So the garden is fallow, we have a break from garden class for a few more weeks, and T is home on her land with the lambs, receiving field trips of wide-eyed school children yearning for a glimpse of a fresh-made baby animal.  There’s nothing like new life to start a new year off right.  We’ll hope for rain, and let this year take a few more weeks to get its wobbly legs working right.

And I will refrain from providing even one recipe for rack of lamb.