Each week I’m hounded by my garden club students in the hallways and the classrooms: “Ms. Tarpey! Ms. Tarpey! What are we doing in garden club this week? Can you tell me? Please? Pleeeaaassseee?” I appease them with a sly smile and tell them, “You’ll find out soon enough! Patience!” I’ll be real- I’m mainly saying that for myself as most of our Garden Club sessions are slightly improvised or thought up on the fly during my down time between classes the day of. What we do depends on the weather of the given day or what I have left over from any classes or taste tests, so it’s hard to tell just exactly what we’ll get ourselves into each Wednesday.
On one particular Wednesday, I found myself with a huge bag of chopped carrots leftover from the maple-glazed carrot recipe I had prepared for the Harvest of the Month taste test earlier that day. One element of the HOM program is that for each seasonal vegetable tasted during the year it must be growing in the garden. As such, I figured that the day’s Garden Club meeting would be a great opportunity to solidify that Farm-to-Fork connection by checking out the carrots in the garden then having members prepare the maple-glazed carrots themselves!
Now that the weather has gotten slightly colder, we don’t get to go outside as often for Garden Club, so the students were ecstatic when they found out we were headed outdoors. Once we arrived, I challenged them to find where our carrots were growing. The Marie Reed school garden is beautiful– murals of butterflies and flowers everywhere (which Michelle Obama helped paint), tall milkweed spilling their pods in the pollinator sections, and colorful signs summer school students made last year. Unfortunately, it’s located on the eastern side of the building, soit only gets sun until around one or two in the afternoon. This yielded a much more challenging carrot hunt since the tops didn’t really grow to be much larger than the leaves of your average baby salad green spring mix. Nonetheless, the kids were amazed when they found those wispy tops and discovered that they were attached to spindly carrots when we pulled them up! We discussed the importance of sunlight and plant growththen headed back to our office to prepare the carrots.
I divided up the tasks so they each got to be responsible for one ingredient and we all took turns stirring. The room filled with the sweet smell of maple syrup and glazing carrots while our bellies rumbled in anticipation. Finally, the carrots were soft enough to dish out. Each student got a helping and, after we reviewed the rules of taste testing, excitedly began shoveling carrots in their mouths. One boy told me, “I didn’t like them when you served them at lunch, but I love them now!” I don’t know if his new found love was because he helped cook them, because it was his second time trying something new, or because he saw them growing in the garden. Most likely it was some combination and also because of a *slight* mishap with the maple syrup to carrot ratio which made for much sweeter carrots. Either way, I felt gratified knowing that even the most hesitant of students can come around to loving and celebrating carrots.