Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Spooky Fall Garden

It's not hard to find Halloween decorations in a Fall garden.  The spiders have been getting plumper, longer and more "spidery" all Fall from a diet rich in garden insects.  Their webs are enormous and hang from the apple trees and across the paths--usually at just the right height to walk into!  They perfectly place themselves around the garden for Halloween delight.

When the fog rolls in, a hushed silence fills the garden and the spider webs are outlined with dew.  They are really quite beautiful.  But it's also easy to see how many spiders we have and how outnumbered we are...

All of our Fall produce fits nicely into the theme of Halloween as well.  We have colorful orange pumpkins and overgrown zucchini.  Golden, red and brown leaves float down through the air and litter the ground with their Fall colors.

Spooky sounds are everywhere this time of year.  The fallen leaves make a delightful "crunchy" sound as you walk through them.  And they smell deliciously of brown sugar--especially as you walk through a big pile!  The wind blows through branches, bringing creaks and groans from the tall trees, and rustles the decaying sunflowers and corn stalks in a way that makes you feel as though you aren't alone in the garden after all...

And really, we aren't alone in the garden.  We are surrounded by insect life, Decomposers, Producers and of course our SOP Students--who are wonderful garden Consumers. So, for whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, enjoy the spooky sounds, beautiful sights and delicious gifts of the Fall garden.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Yummy Potato Leek Latkes

Every week the IslandWood garden is filled with students from visiting schools. And one of our favorite programs to teach is an experience called Soil to Snack. What is Soil to Snack you may wonder? The answer lies in the name... The students harvest fresh food grown right here in the garden soil, and then work with IslandWood chefs to learn how to cook a yummy snack!  Our students learn first-hand how delicious fresh food tastes, AND they learn how to cook healthy food when they return home. 

tasting yummy garden treats like broccoli flowers
The students start in the garden tasting different foods and harvesting ingredients for their cooking project.

harvesting potatoes...
...and leeks (or is it a garden octopus hat??)
Once they have harvested the ingredients, they head over to the kitchen to work with our IslandWood chefs and create a delicious (and nutritious!) garden snack.  Potato Leek Latkes have been a Fall favorite.  Here is the recipe so you can create this delicious snack at home!

Potato Leek Latkes

9 Potatoes (medium-sized)
3 Leeks
4 Eggs
½ c. Flour
2 ½ tsp. Salt
1 ½ tsp. Black pepper
½ c. Canola oil (or any frying oil)

1.   Peel the potatoes and grate them into a bowl lined with cheese cloth. Bring the ends of the cheese cloth together and twist to squeeze out as much liquid from the potatoes as possible. Then transfer the grated potatoes into a large mixing bowl.  (You can also press the liquid out through a colander if you don’t have cheese cloth). 
2.  Trim the root and leafs from the leeks and discard. Cut leeks once length-wise, then use scissors to snip leeks into fine shreds. Add to potatoes. 
3.   Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the whisked eggs to the potatoes and leeks and stir gently. 
4.  Add the flour, salt, and black pepper. 
5.  Stir all ingredients until well mixed and presto, delicious Latke Mix! 

With the help of an adult, heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet at a medium-high temperature until hot. Place large spoonfuls of Latke mix into the hot oil and press down on the top to form ¼ - ½ inch patties. Fry until the edges are golden brown, then flip and repeat (usually about 2 ½ - 3 minutes per side). Carefully remove the Latkes and place on a wire rack or paper towel to drain any excess oil. 

Serve warm and Enjoy!

Potato leek latke with herb sour cream, baked cinnamon apple sauce and kale chips.  With fresh garden tea to drink.  All ingredients found in the garden and prepared in the kitchen!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Garden Tea Party!

Team Cloud from Forest Ridge Elementary
What is one of the best ways to enjoy a rainy day in the garden?  By drinking warm garden tea of course!  Team Cloud enjoyed a fun afternoon in the garden tasting herbs and veggies and then deciding which plants would make the most delicious warm tea.

They gathered some rosemary...
And some thyme...

They even picked an apple and pulled a beet!  All of these ingredients were found in the garden and added to hot water to steep.  The beets were a fun surprise--they turned the tea pink!!

Cheers to yummy plants, hot tea and friends!

Team Cloud also took home one of our walking onions and a sprig of lemon verbena to plant in their school garden.  We hope they remember their fun day with us and enjoy their new plants.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Magic Beans

Scarlet runner beans growing up sunflower stalks
Inside these brown, decaying looking bean pods is something quite magical.  And it is really fun to show our SOP kids the colorful surprise inside!

While exploring and tasting the garden, some of our students noticed the dried, brown pods hanging from their sunflower poles.  The kids were certain that what we were seeing was "dead peas".  Hmmm, I wondered, perhaps we should harvest and take a look inside...

I wish I could have recorded the 'oohs' and 'aaahs' that were exclaimed as we opened the bean pods.

Beautiful, brightly colored beans emerged from very "dead-looking" pods and truly enchanted the children. The bright pink, purple and navy blue colors were unexpected to find inside such a dull wrapper.

And with this kind of excitement generated by the harvesting of bean pods, we must truly proclaim them "Magic Beans".

Scarlet runner beans!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Welcome back SOP!

It's hard to believe that the first month of school, and of our School Overnight Program is complete!  It's been a busy month at IslandWood and we are thrilled to have so many children in our garden.  Here is a quick look at some of the fun we've been having.

Team Lightning from Bryant Elementary
Team Lightning helped us put together some potting soil and were both surprised and delighted that we asked them to "get dirty".  One member of the team said, "This is sooo weird.  I'm being asked to get messy and dirty by an ADULT!!"  Our motto here is that it is always fun to play in the dirt.

Mikaylah from Team Rain with her "baby zucchini"
Many of our zucchinis outgrew themselves during the month of August, and they are now on display for the kids to see.  We have lined them up along the garden wall and they make quite an impression when the kids enter the garden. Team Rain thought they looked like zucchini "babies" and promptly adopted one to carry around while at IslandWood.

Members of Team Wave from Armin Jahr 
Tea is always a nice afternoon treat and Team Wave made a beautiful pink tea using beets!  They steeped rosemary, mint, apples and beets and enjoyed their warm garden drink in the greenhouse.

We are just getting started with the school year but look forward to a year full of garden projects and lots of good tasting, playing and learning together!