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.
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
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.