Garden Tacos

Usually when I introduce a lesson involving food the crowd goes wild.  Today the population was particularly demure.  I told a group of 1st graders that we would be making lettuce wraps.  They stared blankly.  I realized that I was not appealing to my target demographic.  I tried again “today we’re going to make garden tacos.”  Deafening enthusiasm ensued.  Silly Mrs. Kjessie, garden tacos are for kids.  Any self-respecting child raised in central CA knows how to get excited over a taco, not a “lettuce wrap.”  Point taken.  After doing 8 incarnations of the tacos and ranch, I noticed that sometimes they loved it and sometimes they just were not wild about it.  I observed a correlation between the lettuce variety and the higher approval ratings.  If we made the “tortillas” out of green leaf lettuce only about 1/3 of the kids liked them.  If we make them out of romaine, about 3/4 of the kids loved them and I even had one very adamant 6 year old say “Oh! Mrs. Kjessie, I just HAAAAAAAVE to get this recipe.”

So, here we are.

“The Salsa” aka

Garden Fresh Ranch Dressing

1/4 Cup Greek yogurt
1/4 Cup Buttermilk
1/2 Garlic clove
Fresh Herbs– We used a handful of Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary and Oregano
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar or maple syrup or honey

Strip fresh herb leaves from their stems and place in the bottom of a deep measuring cup or jar.  Measure out the rest of the ingredients on top of the herbs. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  

“The Tortillas”

  • Preferably Romaine lettuce, washed and dried.  Salad spinners are super fun.

“The Meat”

  • Harvest Carrots and Snap peas.  Wash thoroughly and then cut into small pieces.
  • Roasted Sunflower seeds

To Assemble:

Have kids hold their lettuce tortilla and spread ranch on the bottom, let them fill their taco with carrot & snap pea bits and sprinkle roasted sunflower seeds to top. Voila!


Garden Pass-it-on

This year, was the year of theDSCN0227 butterfly.  Chrysalis’ were everywhere causing near pandemonium at recess.  The garden would be flooded with children begging to hunt for caterpillars and cocoons.  Though I want all children to explore and dig in, there is some management that comes with hordes of children handling insects and wielding trowels.

The solution?  The Garden Pass.  Every recess 6 DSCN0226passes hang on the fence where children can obtain them on a first come, first serve basis.  The passes give them a sense of empowerment in the garden, clarity for the yard-duty about who is being supervised, and something to look forward to at recess for all diggers-of-worms and chrysalis fanatics.

To maximize the amount of children getting in the garden there is a second system that involves the 3rd grade teachers.  Six other garden passes rest in the hands of a third grade teacher.  Each month the passes are handed off to another class of 3rd graders.  At DSCN0222lunch time 6 children are chosen to come eat lunch with the GEM (Garden Education Manager) and then work on a project during lunch recess.  In some classes it is used as a reward system for good behavior, though in all classes every child has a chance to come out and explore.  The Coveted Garden Pass

The Garden Pass has been an excellent solution to the mass chaos.  The only downside is often during the enthusiasm expressed in the garden, passes end up leaving the child’s neck and finding their way into some far-flung part of the garden.  This means I much go on my own after-hours adventures, searching for Garden Passes in the nether lands of perennials or the apple tree forest.  However, I don’t mind joining in the fun, doing a bit of my own exploring!

Ants in My Pants (or irrigation really…)

Ant Life cyle: Egg, Larva, Pupa, Nymph, Adult (though most books just have 4 stages...)

Any time I see soil spewing out the sides of my green irrigation port, I sigh and dare not open the lid.  The first few time I encountered this it was gophers tunneling up to grab a quick drink, nibble through a wire, then bury into oblivion what was left of the nozzles.  This time, upon investigating the misplaced soil I found that ants were the culprits.  I sighed, but then took note, and evolved the situation into a good lesson!

The librarian at Canalino is awesome and dug up a number of ant books looking at the life cycle.  With the younger kids (1st grade) we recalled the life cycle of a butterfly and then introduced the life cycle of an ant.  The books had lots of photos of eggs, larva, pupa & adults.  We talked about the stages, and I played a little game having them shout out which stage it was after I called the number.


Me: “2nd stage”

Child: “Larva”

I then cautioned that they could only look with their eyes and not with their hands and we went to explore the colony.  We saw numerous adults carrying stages of eggs, larva & pupa.  The kids all wanted me to dig and find the queen (every class was obsessed with finding the queen).  I took a shovel and moved the soil around a little so they could see different stages.  They were all totally glued to it!

With older classes (3rd grade) we looked at the different species of ants (Carpenter, Fire, Leaf Cutter) and different roles (farmer leaf cutters, aphid herders, slave keepers, workers, soldiers, etc.)  It was really comprehensive and I could hardly tear the kids away from the books at the end of the lesson .

Best Part?  After the little “disturbance” we caused, the ants left to build a new colony and I got to fix the irrigation.  A win-win!

Kale Kraze

In the winter it is relatively easy to grow, but the complaint I’ve heard most often is “what do I do with it?”  This past week at Canalino we made massaged kale salad.   A rambunctious group of 3rd graders arrived in the garden so I directed traffic. First we all stood in a circle and put our hands on the person in front of us.  Then we gave them a gentle massage on the shoulders, this got everyone focused on the “massaged” portion of the activity.    The  kids harvested Purple Russian, Dinosaur Kale, and the last of the apples for the season.  They washed the kale and stripped it into one bowl, where the next kids cut it into strips with scissors.  We used an apple cutter for the apples and then snipped them into smaller pieces.  The highlight was the “massaging.”  To get the kale to wilt a little you rub salt into it.   Hand washing and the going over the spread of germs from mouth to hand is something I should have spent a little more time on…The enthusiastic kale massagers combined all the ingredients and two were chosen to divy it into sample cups.  The two helpers served the samples to other students during lunch in the cafeteria.  There were many wrinkled noses at the sight of greens in the sample cup, but most kids tried the salad after they learned that it was from the garden.  There were many positive responses to kale, and a few dramatic “spit outs.”  The most encouraging part was watching the two server students enthusiastically hand samples of their salad to other students.

Massaged Kale Salad

1 Bunch Kale (preferably Purple Russian Kale or Green Curly Kale)

½ teaspoon salt

1 Apple, cut in half then thinly sliced into half circles

1 ½ Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar

1 tsp Olive oil aka a sprinkling

Handfull of currants or 4 dry figs cut into pieces or 3 pitted dates cut into pieces *with the kids we used a handful of raisins

White Cheddar goat cheese cut into bits or gorgonzola crumbled *I omitted the cheese with the kids, but it could be a fun addition!

Strip kale from the stems and chop into thin strips.  Massage the salt into the kale 1-2 minutes.  The salt with begin to break down the kale and cause it to wilt.  While the kale is wilting, cut up apple, then toss apple, dried fruit and cheese in a bowl, dress with vinegar and olive oil, toss and enjoy!

The photos are from an activity @ Carpinteria Family School today where we made worm casting tea!

Adding Molasses to the worm casting tea

Unfortunately there were no photos from the Kale day, but these were taken this morning @ Carp Family School for their Harvest Party. The havest went into a big "Stone Soup" that every family collaborated on bringing an item. This was the garden's contribution!

Digging out the worm castings for compost tea!

Picking out the worm and sending them back to their home so we can use the castings!