We just had two fun Tuesdays in a row with a fifth grade class from Seattle Girls’ School. After a brisk one mile walk to our garden from their school, the girls warmed up in our kitchen while discussing what it means to eat “seasonal” and “local” food. Then we took a look at the most local food around: the last of the carrots and herbs growing in our garden.
On their first visit to Green Plate Special, the class of 20 girls practiced their knife skills while making winter squash and vegetable soups that we enjoyed together at one long table. Mincing was a favorite technique to practice (an no small amount of minced thyme could be found on the floor around the tables). As the class gathered to walk back to school, we were left with four empty soup pots, and they left with lots of new ideas about how tasty winter squash can be.
On the second week of our program with Seattle Girls’ School, we looked at the effects of a deep freeze on our garden, peering inside cloches to see how baby carrots and fava beans were holding up to the winter weather. In the kitchen classroom, we made spinach gnocchi, a first (and a new favorite) for many of the girls. To accompany our potato dumplings, we diced and roasted winter vegetables like beets, carrots, and baby potatoes, with garlic and lots of herbs. While eating together at the end of the program, one of the young cooks commented, “I don’t usually like roast veggies, but these are really good!”
Our fall 2014 youth interns have been breaking in our kitchen classroom since the beginning of October. They have been preparing for the start of fall programming by making snacks to keep in the freezer, canning and preserving the last of the summer harvest, and learning to be advocates in their schools and communities.
Our current youth interns, Gabriel and Eamon were the featured speakers at our Garden Gala on October 17. They shared stories about how Green Plate Special has impacted their lives as participants in past spring and summer programs. Eamon told a story about making an omelet for his grandfather’s birthday, using a technique learned at Green Plate Special. Gabriel shared that he learned to like mushrooms after trying new recipes using mushrooms at Green Plate Special, and this made him aware how important it was to have an open mind and try things even if he didn’t think he would like them.
The Green Plate Special internship program is in its second year. As interns, youth gain basic job skills, while supporting youth programs. Spring and fall interns serve as peer leaders during after-school programs, preparing snacks and helping with setting up activities. Summer interns work at the Green Plate Special Produce Stand, from June through August, selling produce to our community in Rainier Valley. We have two to three youth interns per season.
Thanks to all who joined us for our Garden Gala last Friday, October 17. It was a meaningful night for Green Plate Special, and we were overwhelmed by the generosity of all of our guests. We raised over $45,000 to support our youth gardening and cooking programs and to put the finishing touches on our kitchen classroom.
We heard inspiring stories from Green Plate Special board members and Executive Director, Laura Dewell, and listened to Gabriel and Eamon, our fall youth interns, talk about how Green Plate Special has impacted their lives. Guests were treated to garden tours, and enjoyed wood-fired pizza and seafood paella, and fresh salsa and taro chips from The Ruins, as well as beer from Fremont Brewing and wines from a’Maurice and Chinook Wines.
Thanks to our major sponsor, Point B Management Consulting, and the many local businesses, chefs, and volunteers who generously supported this special night.
Our new kitchen classroom is now complete and ready to welcome students! The 1,000 square foot kitchen classroom has five cooking stations, and four big work tables, with enough room for about 20 youth to cook together. Youth will whip up soups and omelets on induction burners, and store fresh picked produce in a refrigerator large enough to fit bins of collard greens and chili peppers! Our freezer is already full of tomatoes and tomatillos that will be used in cooking lessons throughout the winter.
A gathering space with a projector screen and piano is a place for learning, as well as enjoying each others company during breaks in programming. Youth can store their backpacks in cubbies, and pick up an apron just around the corner in the pantry area. Big front windows look out into the garden, and the large deck – with coat hooks and rubber boot storage – is shaded by our garden’s English walnut tree.
We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of the architects, contractors, consultants, electricians, and local businesses that made our kitchen dream a reality, including:
Here at Green Plate Special we often lose track of time in the summer. Between early morning setup, apple butter making, flower pounding, and madly harvesting, we are in the garden from dawn, nearly until dust. Sometimes we lose track of time so much, that our summer blog posts don’t happen until September!
This year, we piloted our first week-long summer camp with nine students from throughout Seattle. In five full days, we dove into cooking, with vegetable soups and tomato salads. We harvested fresh produce each day, and used much of it in our cooking. We did art projects, and learned about nutrition labels and sugary drinks. And, we had plenty of time to relax in the walnut tree and enjoy the sun.
At the end of the week, our youth had learned to try new things “even if they look gross.” They discovered new flavors and surprising vegetables, like tomatillos and eggplant. They took home vegetables from the garden, recipes, and the knowledge to create healthy meals at home.
Registration is now open for Green Plate Special’s fall after-school programs. The two seven week sessions will take place on Mondays and Wednesdays beginning on Monday, November 3 and Wednesday, November 5. Youth will gain hands-on cooking and gardening skills, including planting, harvesting, knife skills, and soup and omelet making. We also do garden-focused art projects and team building activities.
Youth of all backgrounds and abilities are welcome! We offer all of our programs on a generous sliding scale, to make them affordable for all families. We happily work with individuals to make participation possible.