Gardener’s Marvellous Medicine

The dreaded black bean aphids. The busy ants that ‘farm’ the aphids for their sweet, sugary secretions by ‘tickling their tummies’; according to Zofia! This week it was time for them to go. We made a homemade ‘pesticide’ to ward these creatures off our bean arch.

The recipe included a few drops of orange oil, a handful of garlic cloves, some hot chilli powder and a squirt of washing up liquid mixed in with a jug of water. “It’s not George’s Marvellous Medicine, this is Gardener’s Marvellous Medicine!” Tancredi joked as we set about spraying the plants with our concoction. We were very careful not to spray onto any flowering plants as we didn’t want to discourage any pollinators such as bees!

We also had some recycled newspaper to use in the garden. Any suggestions as to what for? “For the plants to read the news!” … an imaginative offer but sadly no, it was in fact to be shredded and added to the compost bin! The microbes, which break down the material in our compost bin into rich organic matter, need a balanced diet just like us humans. They need nitrogen found in ‘green’ materials such as food waste from the kitchen and weeds from the beds and carbon found in ‘brown’ materials such as dead leaves and woodchips. Since we’ve been adding a lot more of the ‘green’ materials into the bin recently, we decided to use shredded newspaper to add more carbon.

Lastly in the garden but certainly not least, we had some lovely broad beans ready to harvest. Washed and peeled, the fresh beans were sweet and juicy. What a treat!

 

Make

In the kitchen we got to work on preparing a very green looking crostini. We didn’t have any asparagus in the garden as it takes a couple of years before harvesting but they had appeared in the supermarket recently. As it has a short window for picking we need to make the most of it.  Only eating green spears grown in the UK means that they are cherished and appreciated much more then eating the much sadder variety flown all the way from Peru during the rest of the year.

Asparagus is one of the best natural sources of folate. Adequate folate intake is extremely important during periods of rapid growth such as pregnancy, infancy and adolescence. However the strong taste is not something that children are going to immediately be drawn to. So we will need to box clever with this recipe. Last time I made this was the morning of our wedding this time last year and it worked on our guests so I was excited to try it on these guys.

Ingredients

Good bread (we used ciabatta)

Asparagus spears

Frozen peas (we also used a few broad beans from the garden)

A lemon

Olive oil

Sea salt

Honey

Abergavenny Goats Cheese (Many children don’t like stronger goats cheese but this one is very mild, soft and creamy)

Thyme

Mint

So we prepared the bread for the kids as that can be tricky. The children used peelers to grate the asparagus tips. We made sure they didn’t get confused and throw those away! Then having boiled some peas beforehand we smashed the peas with the back of a fork. Next to the cheese we added some lemon, a squeeze of honey, lemon thyme from the garden and mixed it all together. Now time to build the crostini. Spread the cheese mixture over the bread or toast if you prefer, a spoonful of crushed peas in the middle and the shaved asparagus on top.  On top add a drizzle of oil, a pinch of salt, mint (we have an abundance in the garden and its great to see the kids recognize it and really get a taste for using it) and a final squeeze of lemon.

The children love the artistry involved in crostini making and these guys put so much passion into their creations. We all ate our concoctions greedily outside as is our tradition now surrounded by the washes of green of their rooftop garden. One crostini wasn’t enough and for many they had made a new friend. Until next year asparagus. Make the most out of the asparagus at home and let us know how it goes.

 

For more information on Folate, visit Health Ambition’s site here

An Energetic Afternoon

Our Grow-Make-Eat! session started off today with a spot of detective work… what needs to be done in the garden? “Watering!”, as usual, since it’s been a dry and warm couple of days; “Weeding!” well spotted, there are a few things in the beds that we didn’t sow or plant! Some potatoes and watercress we missed from last year’s crop had sprouted so we pulled those up to make room for the plants we’re looking after this term.

We thinned out the carrots and put the strongest plants into a tub full of sandy compost. We learnt about how the carrots grow bigger in sandy soil as they are the roots of the plant, and the roots stretch out to search for more nutrition. If we planted them in rich compost they’d be happy where they are and stay small and stumpy!

What had changed in the garden since last week? The wildflowers are getting even bigger and look like they’re about to burst into flower any moment now! The cabbage had bolted (bad news!) and had sprouted an enormous stalk of pretty yellow flowers! But hang on, where did those pretty broad bean flowers go? Zofia knowledgeably suggested that they had turned into beans. We looked carefully and there the young bean pods were! All very exciting, hopefully we can eat them in the next couple of weeks.

We also planted some Charlotte potatoes, which will be great in salads. Some interesting reactions when planting them in; “The sprouts are disgusting!” and “They look like babies!” Hopefully they’ll look more appetizing once they’ve grown new tubers…

In the kitchen we made some raw balls as the kids had really made such a great effort with all our weird concoctions of late. Moving away from chocolate and indeed our popular flapjack balls we decided to try a peanut butter and banana ball. Now I mustn’t forget to write the ingredients because for some reason the children LOVED these!

Before we made them we had little chat about palm oil and deforestation due the fact we had sustainable palm oil in our Whole Earth peanut butter. Encouraging children to read labels and lead their own investigations about what they eat is very important.

You can read more about the subject here.

http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/Whats_the_issue.php

So as always we blend the hard ingredients first. We have a Magi Mix at school but any food processor will do. So this time it was cashew and dried bananas first then all the rest till blended and the dates are pureed. We left some bananas a bit chunky.

 

Ingredients:

A pack of unsalted cashews (or a nut like almond)

A pack of dried bananas (We like these fair-trade sulphur free ones)

A table spoon of peanut butter (the good stuff ideally)

A handful of pitted dates

Some raisins

A small squeeze of agave syrup or honey

A sprinkle of cinnamon

We used coconut oil but I would omit it next time as it all came out too greasy!

 

A great afternoon snack and is a meal in itself!

A Berry Nice Breakfast!

With this term’s Grow-Make-Eat! Club well under way, the roof garden is slowly looking more green thanks to the children’s efforts. The broad beans sown during our winter holiday club and planted out by the spring term club are flowering beautifully.

Speaking of flowers, we learnt about pollination in the garden today. The children were interested to hear that humans, as well as insects and the wind can help pollinate a plant and we did just that with our strawberry plants. “It’s like the strawberry plants are kissing!” Ginevra remarked rather sweetly! We planted them up in hanging baskets and lay down straw to protect the developing fruits from the soil.

In the kitchen we made a delicious alternative to your usual toast and cereal breakfast; a strawberry, pear and  bircher muesli. First we soaked some Dorset Cereal in some apple juice so that they soften while we prepped the fruit. It is really important that you check there is no extra sugar hiding in either the cereal or juice. We like Dorset because they use 3 different types of grain and nuts such as brazil and almond which we had a hard time naming!

So we next topped and quartered the juicy new season strawberries, grated some pear and mixed it in with the muesli and a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt. We used soya yoghurt which provoked an interesting conversation about cows, milk, mothers, babies and just how much milk we should expect a mummy cow to provide a day. The best answer for me was “Enough for the cow, its babies and everyone on the farm!” Next we had to add some agave syrup (how much is a drizzle?), a sprinkle of cinnamon (let it fall like snow…not an avalanche!) and hey presto we had ourselves a mighty fine breakfast that seemed a real hit. One boy I won’t name was very sure he would make this concoction for his mother and bring it to her in bed. We look forward to hearing more of that promise!

That’s just one recipe but you can of course mix and match the fruits and nuts for a different bowl every day. When I asked for some ideas there was no shortage of offers; “blueberries, raspberries, apple…” Of course I had to spoil it… “Rhubarb?” …there were no takers there! What alien food was Justin talking about now. We decided that would be a a story for another day!

“Have you eaten a cabbage leaf the size of your face?”

Grow Make Eat has been exploding with new growth with all this lovely spring sun. Thanks to spring we are able to pluck the perfect amount of leaves from out large cabbage plant to make a rainbow Pick’n’Mix!!!

Understanding the characters of spring leads us all to understand the food we grow and why. To celebrate the new warmth of the season we planted Tomato seeds!!! This is a magical procedure which our GME team take great pride in as they are well experienced seed sewers now!

We encourage everyone to awaken all of their senses when conducting any great activity at Grow Make Eat. Some may not be fond of certain colours, textures nor flavours alas some find that they change there minds when 4 out of their 5 senses are loving it!!!!

 

Keep on GROWING!