Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Baldwin Park Community Garden - February

Several miles east of where I live and work lies a community garden that has been slowly taking shape over the past couple of years. Though in the past it has experienced various levels of neglect, it now seems to have gotten into its groove and looks spectacular. This garden is unique among community gardens because it serves not the general community per se, but several fourth grade classes from Baldwin Park Unified School District who visit once per month to plant, harvest and learn. During the rest of the month, the garden is looked after by volunteer Master Gardeners.

This past month I was invited to take part as a guest chef in a the "Nutrition in the Community Garden" program. Developed by the uber-fabulous Linda Hahn (pictured below), the goals of the program are to introduce kids to fresh vegetables, gardening and simple recipes they can prepare at home for themselves. Everytime I participate in her program I am impressed with the success that Linda has in engaging the kids. Her teaching style manages to be ebullient, concise and informative. She's amazing and the kids just love her program.

After a brief lesson on nutrition where Linda introduces and demonstrates the recipe of the month, she lets the 4th graders loose in the garden to harvest, wash and prepare the recipe. It's an exercise in controlled chaos. February's recipe was Salsa Fresca Salad with Nopalitos -- ingredients included tomato, corn, black beans, lettuce (harvested from the garden!), queso fresco, nopalitos, juice from a Meyer lemon and crunched up tortilla chips. Upon tasting the recipe, most of the children gave it an enthusiastic thumb up! (there were of course a few who wouldn't even taste it - but really, are we suprised?)

While I was waiting for the kids to arrive from their schools, I toured the garden pretending I was a paparazzi to the vegetable world.

Don't you just want to eat cabbage now?

Favorite grain of the Aztecs - banned by the Spanish: Amaranth

Even I was impressed that they had sunflowers in early Februaray!

And sweet peas too? Wow!