It’s a hot summer day, and students have just harvested the last green beans and peppers from their school gardens. They are looking for some new recipes so they can taste the fruits of their labors. But where to start to find simple, easy ideas to sample and prepare the green beans and peppers they’ve grown?
The Network for a Healthy California’s Harvest of the Month newsletters focus on 35 different California grown fruits and vegetables and provide an array of tasty, easy-to-make recipes for the classroom and even “Taste Testings” to teach students fun, nutritional and educational ways to enjoy the fruits and vegetables grown in each season.
In “Exploring California Green Beans: Taste Testing,” the lesson allows students to taste the vegetable while learning more about its nutritional value and its characteristics. Students are instructed to research and print Nutrition Facts labels for different green bean varieties. Then they participate in an activity comparing fresh, cooked and canned beans, tasting the fresh to record color, texture, smell, sound and taste. They look at the nutrition label for fresh beans and record the sodium, sugar, calories, and vitamin content. They do the same for cooked and canned green beans. It’s all part of a fun and engaging process to help students learn about the properties of green beans prepared in various ways.
The Harvest of the Month educator newsletters contain recipes that teachers and students can follow to prepare appetizing snacks. For example, students can make a healthy recipe for Pico de Gallo using the tomatoes and peppers from their summer garden. The Harvest of the Month newsletters also emphasize the positive correlation between students’ healthy eating habits and performance in the classroom.
When students return to school later this summer, they may begin planting vegetables that will be harvested in the fall and winter. Crops that are good for fall planting including cool season vegetables like broccoli, kale, chard, peas, and root vegetables such as carrots, radishes, and beets. (Check out the School Year Planting Options on page 4 of this handy guide, Introduction to Annual and Perennial Plants.)
In the “Taste Testing” of beets, groups of students start with one cup each of fresh, cooked, and canned beets, along with one cup of cooked beet greens. They are also given the printed Nutrition Facts labels for fresh beets, cooked beets, and cooked beet greens, all of which can be found in the online Educators’ Corner. Students then do a variety of activities to explore the similarities and differences in the different varieties, including how they are nutritionally different. They can also create a delicious beets and mandarins salad from a recipe found in the newsletter.
The Harvest of the Month educator newsletters are a great way to bring the school garden into the classroom through taste testings and healthy recipes featuring fruits and vegetables grown throughout the year. If students are growing and harvesting cruciferous vegetables like cabbage in winter, there is a recipe for Cabbage Confetti with pineapple chunks, a treat for most kids. As students head into spring, there are fun and appealing recipes for spring’s fruits and vegetables such as berries, asparagus, peas, and carrots. The recipe with snow peas and fresh mint, along with a little brown sugar, is sure to be a favorite among kids.
In addition to letting students enjoy the tasty “fruits” of their labor in the school garden, Harvest of the Month classroom activities can help kids eat more fruits and vegetables and help them learn how to establish lifelong healthy eating and physical activity habits.
For more classroom taste testing resources, check out Healthy School Environment’s Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education.