I started FoodCorps with limited gardening experience, and for the last two years, I have learned alongside my students that plants are complicated little species.
For my elementary schoolers (and myself), I try to keep it simple. Most plants have six parts: roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds. We spend months breaking it all down, studying the function of one plant part per week. After planting, growing, tasting, and jamming to the Banana Slugs, we always end our lesson units with a plant parts party. Here are some of my favorite recipes.
Plant Parts Smoothies:
Smoothie recipes should change with the seasons. Right now we have strawberries and thyme blossoms in the school garden, but in winter we’d be more likely to use frozen blueberries and honey.
Roots: carrot, ginger, or beet
Leaves: kale or spinach
Flowers: thyme blossoms or honey (it’s only sort of cheating)
Fruits: bananas, blueberries, strawberries, etc.
Seeds: chia seeds
Additional ingredients: ice (if not using frozen fruit)
Activity: Every student in the class should contribute something to the blender. If it’s a big class, have students add a single spinach leaf or strawberry to the blender. Mix it all up with a game of freeze blend (read more about blender lessons and freeze blend here!). Taste as a class.
Plant Parts Bibimbap:
Many food cultures have a staple rice and vegetable dish, so try to find one that’s culturally appropriate for your community. I prepared this recipe in the classroom with the help of a South Korean ESOL teacher. She spoke about the history of bibimbap, cooked some delicious rice and bean sprouts in advance, and led us through preparing the gochujang sauce.
Roots: carrots, sliced into spears
Stems: bean sprouts or shaved broccoli stems
Flowers: chive blossoms
Fruits: cucumbers, sliced into spears
Seeds: pre-cooked rice and sesame seeds
Additional ingredients: we made a gochujang sauce similar to this one
Activity: Hand out a paper plate and a plastic knife to each student. Pass out carrots and cucumber spears and have students dice the vegetables. Distribute stems and leaves and have students tear spinach into small pieces. Prepare the sauce as a class, and give each student a chance to stir. Add cooked rice to the plate, and allow each student to assemble their own bibimbap, giving them the freedom to choose which vegetables they want to mix in and which they want to keep off to the side. Spoon a little bit of sauce on top of each plate and taste as a class.
Plant Parts Pizza:
The possibilities are endless with a pizza. If you have access to an oven or a toaster, you can prepare a traditional pizza, but if you can’t cook with heat in the classroom, you can prepare your pizza cold on a tortilla.
Roots: onions, sliced into small pieces
Stems: cooked asparagus
Flowers: steamed broccoli florets
Fruits: tomatoes, sliced into circles
Seeds: pizza dough or flour tortillas (both from wheat seeds!)
Additional ingredients: tomato sauce, salt and pepper, and garlic powder
Activity: Hand out a paper plate and a plastic knife to each student. Have students mince onions and dice asparagus, broccoli, and tomatoes. Pass out spinach and have students tear the leaves into small pieces. Top your pizza dough or tortillas with tomato sauce and veggies, and allow students to design their own pizzas. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. If using a toaster or oven, cook the pizza. Slice into small pieces and taste as a class.