Summer of Service: Discovering soil, water, and animals in the garden

30 Jul

For our fourth year working with Summer of Service, a program of Seattle Parks and Rec, we’re joined in the garden and kitchen each day by eight youth who work and learn with us each day. In the mornings, we water the garden and harvest produce for our daily cooking projects. This group of young people is with us three days a week for six weeks, so they have the opportunity to progress in their cooking techniques. So far they have perfected vinaigrette, worked with fresh chicken eggs, roasted vegetables in the oven, grilled chicken and vegetable skewers, and baked zucchini muffins.

In the first three weeks, our themes spanned the garden: from soil, to water, to animals and insects. We learned about compost and worms, learned which plants need to be watered each day, cooked fish in our wood-fired oven, and practiced feeding the chickens. We pounded natural dye out of flowers, and dried flowers in books to preserve their color. We painted garden stakes, made butterfly feeders, and have begun a mural on the wall of our chicken yard.

We always have lively conversations with this group of youth around the lunch table, and we enjoy hearing stories about their favorite foods, as well as their fresh perspectives on gardening and cooking.

Meet our Summer Interns: Ashleigh

13 Jul

Hi my name is Ashleigh! I am currently a senior at University of Arizona studying Nutritional Sciences. I am originally from Seattle and am eager to be a part of bringing excitement about food to the youth of my hometown. In the future, I want to focus on Nutrition education within the community, helping to bring necessary skills in order live a healthy lifestyle. When I first came across the internship online I was so excited to find an opportunity combining everything that I am passionate about; cooking, food, kids and even now as I am slowly learning, gardening.

Asleigh 1
I first developed my passion for food while taking a cooking class at my high school. Although my family always placed an importance on eating healthy, this was the first time that I was able to experiment and be in charge of what I was cooking myself. I was able to try and learn so many new things, it opened a whole new world for me. I now am involved in teaching a cooking class at my University hoping to spark the same interest and excitement in my peers.


It has been an amazing experience so far this summer to see the kids get so excited about learning and trying new things. I was truly shocked to see how much the returning kids retained and knew about different nutrition facts/cooking skills and how fast the new students were able to catch on. I think GPS is truly a great hands-on experience that allows kids to be creative and have fun while also teaching them life skills that help them prosper.

Favorite Vegetable: Green Beans & Sweet Potatoes

Favorite Fruit: Strawberries & Mango

Favorite thing to cook: I basically live off of Stir Fry! Just throw a bunch of veggies + meat in a pan and Voila!

Favorite family cooking memory/experience: My memory is pretty simple on Sundays my family would all pitch in to make a bunch of food for the week. We would turn on music and all be chopping and cooking together.

June Summer Camp: Exploring the Pacific Northwest

8 Jul

Our first summer camp this year was all about the foods of the Pacific Northwest, from the hyper-local produce from our garden, to wild salmon from Lummi Island Wild. Our menu centered around the early summer bounty of the garden, including bean salad with our first cucumbers, popsicles with freshly picked raspberries, and green pea, mint soup.

The 14 youth who joined us had the chance to plan their own garden beds and select radish, lettuce, beet, and turnip seeds to grow for other youth to harvest later in the summer. They watered their seeds each day, and radish sprouts were popping up by the end of the week.

Art projects during camp included mosaic stepping stones for our flower garden, ladybug feeders, and a garden sculpture inspired by Pacific Northwest totem poles, which tells the story of our week at GPS. After full days of creativity, cooking, and tending to the garden, we all enjoyed “options time,” with activity choices like visiting the chickens, shelling dried fava beans, and making flavored ice cubes for water.

Meet our Summer Interns: Anna

6 Jul

Hi friends! I’m Anna. I’m currently a student at the University of Puget Sound where I am studying psychology and studio art. I guess you could call me an East coast transplant. I was born and raised in a small town just outside of Portland, Maine. I’ve been in Washington for three years and have loved getting to explore the upper left coast. Though, I do love New England and eventually see myself growing old by the sea.

Anna with her summer camp team

For as long as I can remember, the garden has held a special place in my family’s heart. I remember being to amazed by my dad’s ability to identify any plant or tree, whether in our garden or in the middle of a faraway city. I would spend hours outside spreading mulch and weeding with my mom, slowly realizing just how satisfying it is to look at a beautiful garden. I would look forward to the summer not because it was the time of my birthday, but because we would get to harvest veggies from our own garden, only to eat them that very night. I became so excited to see what the season would bring, how each month we would receive a new gift from the garden. As a family, we always sat down for dinner together, and this shared meal, KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAwhich we often cooked alongside one another, was something special. Now, years later, my brother has become an organic farmer and I find myself constantly inspired by the hard work and passion exuding from him always. Both he and my dad are constantly searching for new ways to cook their eggplant…or Swiss chard. And it is their exploration of good food and sustainable landscape practices that has quite obviously influenced me.

I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to work with Green Plate Special as it is unlike any experience that I have had. I remember being a camp counselor and loving every second of the interactions that I had with the kids, feeling like I could be a leader for them, but also being pleasantly surprised when I ended up learning so much from them. The structure and function of camp was hard for me as I felt like these kids were being bogged down with rules and expectations. Green Plate Special offers students with the creative freedom and autonomy that they, as middle school aged kids, truly deserve. And I find that pretty great.

Favorite vegetables: Broccoli and cabbage

Favorite fruits: Nectarines and raspberries

Favorite thing to cook: Risotto with shrimp and peas

Favorite family cooking memory/experience: Making any Italian food with my family, whether it be rustic Italian bread, eggplant parm, tri-color and anise cookies around the holidays, or just a great big pot of red sauce; I love learning about how my dad’s grandmother or parents would cook such meals and being able to relish in our Italian heritage

Produce Stand Starts this Thursday, June 18

15 Jun

Green Plate Special’s summer produce stand will begin this Thursday, June 18 from 11 am-3 pm. We are right around the corner from the Green Plate Special garden again this year, but we’ve moved across Walker to the corner of Rainier Ave S, outside the Parent Trust building.

Thursdays, 11am-3pm

In the final weeks of June, shoppers will find peas, greens, herbs, and berries, among other early summer produce. For weekly updates about what’s for sale, like Green Plate Special on Facebook!


Interns sell produce in summer 2014

Our summer produce stand is managed by our youth interns, who are alumni of Green Plate Special’s after-school and summer camp programs. Youth interns continue to use their garden knowledge from Green Plate Special programs to harvest, weigh, and package produce for sale. They also gain basic job skills by interacting with customers, calculating totals and counting change, and marketing the stand with colorful signs.

Please support Green Plate Special programs and youth interns by shopping at our produce stand this summer!

Soba Noodle Salad with FareStart

21 May
Tasting Sorrel and Chive flowers.

Tasting Sorrel and Chive flowers.

Late Spring is one of our favorite times here at Green Plate Special. Our garden is bursting with new growth and we have the chance to harvest some great veggies. We had the privilege of sharing our springtime garden treats with the young adults from the FareStart Barista training program. FareStart provides job training, leadership development, and life skills education for young adults aged 16-24 and provides them with work experience in the competitive coffee industry of Seattle.

We began our program with a garden tour. The students enjoyed tasting sorrel, lettuce, arugula, and spinach. As we munched on a dark red lettuce called Merlot, we discussed the lack of diversity among foods in conventional agriculture and how small-scale agriculture can provide exciting new options that we may not find in a grocery store. The participants were thrilled to interact with our hens which led to interesting conversation about commercial meat and egg production and how our chickens’ lives are different than chickens that are living on factory farms. We took some time to check out our worm bins and 3-bin compost system, and also talked about how proper disposal of food waste is not only Seattle law, but also a sustainable practice that can produce a great resource for our gardens and farms and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the kitchen, we practiced knife skills together with turnips, radishes, snow peas, and more from our garden. The participants created an excellent Soba Noodle Salad that was tasty and had one of the participants exclaim, “This is the healthiest I’ve ever eaten!” One participant who made it clear that they did not enjoy vegetables, was pleasantly surprised by how delicious the salad was and cleared their entire plate. As we wrapped up our meal together, another participant said, “This is the first time I’ve eaten at a table in many years, and I’m glad it was with you guys.”

Prepping fresh turnips from the garden for our salad.

Prepping fresh turnips from the garden for our salad.

Tossing our fresh Soba Noodle Salad.

Tossing our fresh Soba Noodle Salad.

Washington Middle School’s New Garden

15 May


WMS After-school 4-29-15 (9)
The first seeds have been planted and bean trellises have been raised in the new vegetable garden at Washington Middle School in the Central District! After months of planning by parents and teachers, and the hard work of many volunteers, the garden at Washington MS was completed in the end of April. Just a few days after the raised beds were filled with soil, Green Plate Special lead a group of 11 middle school youth through the garden’s first seed selection and planting, in partnership with the Huskies Out of School Time (HOST) program.

Youth selected broccoli starts, radish and lettuce seeds, sunflowers, potatoes, and herbs to plant in the four new raised beds. They learned about seed depth and spacing, and carefully planted their seeds in straight rows. A week later, the group built sturdy bean trellises of their own design to support a crop of Scarlet Runner Beans.

Over the course of seven after-school sessions, the Washington Middle School after-school gardening club will tend their garden, create signage for their garden space, and visit Green Plate Special twice for gardening inspiration and simple cooking lessons. This gardening program is also part of School’s Out Washington’s AYD STEM Pilot program to improve STEM teaching through after-school activities. Through learning about the growing process, engineering trellises, and measuring the boiling point of pasta water, students will experience science in new ways.

Planting the first seeds in the Washington Middle School garden

Planting the first seeds in the Washington Middle School garden

Trellis building at Washington Middle School

Trellis building at Washington Middle School


Trellis building with bamboo

Trellis building with bamboo



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