On spreading the good news…of kale, that is

Greens from the Magnolia garden.

Greens from the Magnolia garden.

One of my mother’s favorite pastimes is getting my stepfather to unknowingly eat his vegetables–and enjoy them. Kale and beets are her current champions, but during summer’s bounty, she’ll creatively experiment with varieties of eggplant, tomatoes, and summer squash. Mom’s surreptitious cooking exploits have slowly chipped away at Cecil’s white-bread-and-bologna upbringing. He now reluctantly eats tofu and vegetable curry, enthusiastically enjoys a bowl of homemade chili (unaware of the finely diced kale and ground beets within), and I even saw him eating the seaweed from his bowl of ramen.

Mom and Cecil, loving husband and culinary guinea pig.

Mom and Cecil, loving husband and culinary guinea pig.

I am my mother’s daughter in a lot of ways, and this is one of them. Once, I brought black bean avocado brownies to an office party, waiting until the entire plate was devoured before revealing the identities of their secret ingredients, to the horror of some of my coworkers.

Garden goofballs.

Some of my favorite garden goofballs.

Although it was tempting, I decided to keep the secret ingredients to a minimum when preparing for our first school garden open house event. With the chaotic energy of the holidays enveloping the school in a Christmas-themed cloud, I thought it appropriate to host a celebration in honor of how far our garden program had come in the past three and a half months. Of course, the ulterior motive was to recruit parent volunteers and co-opt more teachers to the ways of the garden

Central to the occasion was the food, relatively healthy food. Prentiss made a delicious sweet potato cake; I made a salad with quinoa, dried cranberries, and a few pounds of garden fresh collards, kale, and broccoli leaves. And to entertain the Santa-crazed children, I had a craft table set up making holiday-themed potato prints (but actually y’all, this activity is not just for kids).

Lots of good food. And a raw potato, acting as a paperweight.

Lots of good food. And a raw potato, acting as a paperweight.

Potato prints.

Potato printing: surprisingly easy and addictive.

Overall, it was successful. Even though only one parent showed up, there was a good turnout of teachers and staff, a few community members, and all of the Jackson FoodCorps ladies. I especially enjoyed talking to the people who, though initially dubious of the whole “garden business,” were now excitedly asking questions about growing beets and making kale salads. Some of the kiddos picked giant bok choy leaves as party favors, a few of which were devoured before making it into the building.

Potato print champs!

Arts and crafts champs!

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As much as I enjoy manipulating people to eat vegetables, moments like these, when kids (and adults) independently make choices that benefit their health are far more gratifying. I think that allowing kids to make healthy choices on their own is the best way for them to form lasting healthy habits. The key is providing students with the means to make those choices, educating them about food, and encouraging them to step outside their comfort zones.

Eating their greens, and looking into the sun.

Eating our greens and looking into the sun.

It can also mean not being personally offended when an 8 year old sprints to the trash can to spit out that organic, locally grown radish or collapses in dry heaves at the sight of the school compost pile.  Cherishing the small victories are reason enough for me to keep doing what I’m doing. Because witnessing that same radish spitter-outer nibbling on kale stems of his own accord is, to me, on par with any Christmas miracle.

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9 thoughts on “On spreading the good news…of kale, that is

  1. When I was in elementary school, we had a garden that was enormous (or at least it seemed to be compared to my 7 year old self). It was awesome being introduced to how food is grown and appreciating vegetables at such a young age. It’s great that the students you spoke about are learning about health and food so young because then it will be fixed into their brains and hopefully stick with them longer. Plus, I honestly think healthy, vegetable containing foods are so much tastier! Maybe it has to do with that garden in elementary school…

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    • I 100% agree! That’s awesome that you had a school garden. I feel like it should be a vital part of every child’s education. Garden curriculum can include science, writing, art, music, etc. I hope what I’m doing with my students sticks with them.

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  2. I’ve always had trouble with brussel sprouts, my mother cooking them to mush. Will they in your garden grow and then be eaten.? The only recipe I like for them is roasted halves, topped with a dollup of yougurt and some nutmeg for color and flavor

    Sabbapoppibabapopster

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    • Yes, we’re growing brussels sprouts! We planted them a little late in the season, but hopefully we’ll be able to harvest some. We’ve been enjoying eating the leaves though. I love them roasted, too, simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper. My roommate makes a really good brussels sprouts dish where she shreds them and then braises them in some sort of dijon mustardy sauce. Check out the recipe that Esther posted in her comment, too! That salad looks amazing. Lots of fun things to do with this vegetable.

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  3. I’m a diehard brussel sprouts fan. I’m with you, Poppy, just halve them, toss with olive olive, sprinkle with salt and ground pepper, and roast. Turn the cute little halfsies over once they brown so you get an even roast. I have recently discovered that using a metal cookie sheet is a good way to roast veggies because it browns the side that touches the metal (I cover it in aluminum foil.) The salad is awesome, too.

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    • I had no idea that the Kingdom of Brussel Sprouts had so many citizens. I thought it was just a few wierdos that ate them. I assume that the nutritional value of BS is high, hes?

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