Cherry Tomatoes

This week, we finished up clearing out the old wooden beds in the Creekside gardens and feeling thankful for the cooler late summer days. We also had a fantastic visit from Lori Tucker-Sullivan and Mary Sullivan this week, masked up and socially distanced! We toured the Sullivan Memorial Garden, the late Kevin Sullivan’s legacy. The Sullivan family’s continued generosity and commitment to the program makes a great difference in our goal to bring more fresh fruits and vegetables to our students.

Late summer harvests are now coming in. We continue to see swiss chard, shishito peppers, hot dragon toe peppers, zucchinis and cucumbers. Most excitingly, the cherry tomatoes are ripening and we got our first pound of harvest this week!

Honestly, I used to hate tomatoes in all forms. I thought they were either too tart or too watery, without flavor. The magic happened when I first ate a cherry tomato ripe and straight off the vine. It was delicious, sweet, and flavorful and now I think of cherry tomatoes as garden candy. For the last two summers, I have grown tomatoes or cherry tomatoes in home container gardens. Not only do they save you a lot of money in the long run but tomatoes are so versatile and nutritious.

Cherry tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, A, potassium and iron. 1 cup of cherry tomatoes meets 21% of your vitamin C daily recommended intake! I love roasting cherry tomatoes until they are bursting then adding them to a rice bowl, as a side with eggs and toast or making a fresh pasta.

Weekly Recipe
Baked Eggs on a Bed of Roasted Cherry Tomatoes adapted from Cookie and Kate

Ingredients
2 pints of cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 cup basil chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt
black pepper
4 eggs

Directions
– Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit
– On a baking tray, add the cherry tomatoes, a few cracks of sea salt, black pepper and olive oil. Mix to combine and distribute in an even layer.
– Bake cherry tomatoes for 12 minutes.
– Remove from oven. Crack eggs into the baking sheet and add garlic and parmesan. Return to the oven for another 8 to 10 minutes until the whites are cooked but the yolk is still soft.
– Remove from the oven, sprinkle chopped basil and serve!

Surprise Pumpkins?!

If you follow our Instagram @dexterfarm2school, you probably heard that we have surprise squash (which we think now are pumpkins!) in the Three Sisters Garden. The pumpkins overwintered from the previous year and just sprung back up in the growing season unexpectedly. We are keeping an eye out for the squash bugs and are continuing to manage and mitigate them.

The Three Sisters Garden, which was constructed by one of the high school students as part of their IB project, housed squashes, beans and corn. The Three Sisters Garden was named after the Native American farming practice of growing these three crops together as they work harmoniously to support each other in the growing season. The corn stalks provide a way for the beans to climb, the beans fix nitrogen from the air into the soil to nutritionally support the corn and squash, and the squash provide ground cover to prevent weeds. A great example of companion planting! This agricultural technique has been practiced for centuries and throughout many Native American tribes including the Iroquois and Hopis. In addition, beans, squash and corn also complement each other in our own body’s nutritional needs – corn providing carbohydrates, beans providing protein and squash with vitamins and good oils from its seeds.

In the Kitchen-Garden Flex class, students learn about the history of the “Three Sisters” and Native American farming practices. We just love how the gardens can be a place of cross-curricular learning!

In other garden news, the pollinator raised concrete beds are completed and filled. Next up is to complete clearing out the old wooden beds for the new outdoor classroom space. The zinnias are still in bloom and are beautiful to look at if you ever are walking by! With these crazy torrential rains and humidity, our tomatoes were stricken with blight but fortunately the fruits are unaffected.

Weekly Recipe
“Magic Broccoli” adapted from Evan and Katelyn’s Youtube Channel

Okay, so you might be thinking, “Did she really just give me a recipe on how to stir fry broccoli?” Yes but hear me out!

I have to admit that was not a “vegetable person” prior to meeting my vegetarian boyfriend, my typical diet consisted of meat and carbs. I associated eating vegetables with just salads. I’m sure many of you can relate. In cooking more vegetarian meals, I had to find creative ways to incorporate vegetables into our home cooked meals so that I can trick myself into eating them (and actually enjoy it!).

Among those vegetables that I disliked was broccoli. As a kid, I grew up with steamed broccoli, which was fine but not something I necessarily enjoyed. Then here comes Evan and Katelyn’s video on “Magic Broccoli”. I was skeptical but their enthusiasm for their broccoli was contagious. I tried it and now love broccoli especially as a generous topping over pasta. It may seem simple but that’s the beauty of it!

Ingredients (serves 4, 10 minutes)

2 heads of broccoli
1-2 tablespoons of minced garlic
pinch of salt (I don’t use much personally)
tsp of olive oil
chili flakes (optional for non-spicy families)

Directions
1. Rinse the broccoli and cut them up into tiny florets (I really mean tiny and bite-sized). This increases the surface area so that you get a nice crispy bite.
2. Heat up olive oil or vegetable oil on medium high heat in a large frying pan. Don’t overcrowd the pan or else you will accidentally steam it. Feel free to split it into two batches.
3. Add broccoli and salt, stir occasionally until it starts turning crispy
4. Add minced garlic towards the end of the cooking process as you don’t want this to burn. Add chili flakes to your taste.
5. Serve!

Here’s the YouTube video for those of you who are curious (and it’s family friendly!) I cook it a little differently but really follows the same idea.

Sources:
https://www.pbs.org/native-america/blogs/native-voices/meet-the-three-sisters-who-sustain-native-america/

https://www.reneesgarden.com/blogs/gardening-resources/celebrate-the-three-sisters-corn-beans-and-squash

What’s on Your Plate?

Here in the garden, we’ve been working hard on our new raised concrete garden beds by the pollinator gardens and tearing down the rotting wooden beds in Creekside to make room for an outdoor classroom space. We are very excited for these changes as it gives us a chance to immerse the students more with our gardens!

Healthy recipes and healthy eating have been on my mind recently. People talk about “superfoods” a lot, going “keto”, etc. Information seeking can be overwhelming and making the change to healthier living may seem more complicated than it needs to be.

Last year, students learned about healthy eating using the MyPlate guidelines. They cooked their own quesadillas, packed with veggies, with the aim of eating at least one vegetable they don’t normally do.

Healthy Eating Plate Guide

To improve the current MyPlate guidelines set by the USDA, Harvard School of Public Health created the “Healthy Eating Plate”. It’s a simple reminder of what we should strive for when we think of quality diets. Print it out and stick it on your fridge for an easy guide!

Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, www.thenutritionsource.org, and Harvard Health Publications, www.health.harvard.edu.

The Main Takeaways

  • Use healthy oils (canola, olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower). Use unsaturated fats, avoid transfats and saturated fats. Coconut oil is not currently recommended as a healthy oil as it is 90% saturated fat, while it does boost “good” HDL cholesterol, there are limited studies on its health effects.
  • Avoid sugary beverages, this includes juice (limit to a small glass a day!)
  • Focus on the types of foods. Choosing whole grains, limiting red meats and using healthier proteins like fish, beans, nuts and poultry, and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables!

Kimbap
Adapted from My Korean Kitchen

While I’m not Korean myself, my family is a huge fan of Korean cuisine. What’s great about kimbap is that you can customize it based on each member’s food preferences and it’s a fun activity to assemble it together!

It may seem like a lot of steps, but you can omit ingredients depending on what you want in it. You can also prepare more ingredients and store in the fridge for 5 days and use them for future kimbap. However, fresh rice works the best for rolling.

The only specialized equipment you need is a bamboo sushi mat, which you can purchase from Amazon for $8. You can find seaweed sheets and sesame oil in the Asian/International section of chain grocery stores. I have found yellow pickled radish in the refrigerated section where tofu is found but you can easily omit if you can’t find it.

Ingredients (6 rolls)

5 sheets of nori (seaweed sheets)
2 medium carrots
2 small cucumbers
2 eggs
8 oz ground beef (omit for vegetarian)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 bunch spinach
1 package of yellow pickle radish* (omit if can’t find)
2 cups short grain white rice (can substitute with brown rice)
2 tsp soy sauce
sesame oil

Directions

Cook Rice
– Make the rice. Rinse rice with water and add to a small/medium pot with 2 cups of water over medium heat. If using brown rice, I’d add another 1/2 cup. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cover the pot with a lid. Cook until soft, fluff with a fork once done and remove from heat.
– Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and a pinch of salt to cooked rice and mix inwith a wooden spatula or rice paddle.

Prepare Meat
– In a small bowl, add minced garlic, soy sauce, ground beef and sesame oil. Let marinate for a 15 minutes while you cook the rest of the ingredients.
– On the same pan, heat up 1 tsp of sesame oil and saute the the marinated ground beef if using. Once cooked and browned, set aside.

Prepare Carrots and Cucumbers
– Julienne the carrots and cucumbers, cutting them into small match sticks. Here’s a useful video on how to safely do this, don’t worry about making them super small like the pros, a general matchstick size is fine!
-In a medium frying pan, heat up 1 tsp of sesame oil and quickly saute the carrots. They should still be crunchy. Season with a pinch of salt. Set aside on a plate.

Prepare Blanched Spinach

– Boil water and prepare an ice bath. Blanch spinach, add to ice bath, then dry out some with paper towels. Season with 1 tsp of sesame oil and a pinch of salt.

Prepare Eggs
– Whisk eggs in a small bowl. Add to a hot frying pan, larger is ideal. Add the eggs and let cook until you feel like you can confidently flip it. You want the eggs to cook as a large sheet (imagine a very thin omelette that’s not folded). Flip and let cook for another minute.
– Transfer the eggs to a cutting board and slice into long strips.

Prepare Radish
– Cut yellow pickled radish into a long rectangles.

Assemble
– Lay out a sheet of seaweed on the bamboo sushi mat.
– Using a wooden or plastic spatula, add a thin layer of rice to the sheet (1 rice grain thick), leave the top 2 inches of the seaweed sheet bare. Add a grain of rice or two at regular intervals along the top edge of the bare side, this helps it stick when you roll.
– Assemble whatever filling you desire, I like to leave around 1.5 inches at the bottom for rolling.
– Roll with the bamboo mat, taking the bottom edge over the filling. Give it a squeeze to make a tight roll, then continue rolling till the end.
– Serve! Kimbap is typically is not served with a dipping sauce like in Japanese sushi rolls, but you can choose to serve with soy sauce.


Summer Vegetables are a Coming!

It’s been an exciting week for growing! We got our first zucchini, swiss chard and shishito peppers. The cherry tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes are coming in and will soon start to ripen. You can basically watch the pole beans grow with your own eyes, it’s as if they grow a few inches every day. If you haven’t heard from our Instagram, our zinnia flowers are blooming in the asparagus beds and they are beautiful!

On top of the vegetables in the garden, we have been working on constructing new concrete raised planter beds in the pollinator garden area. They will house either pollinator plants or can be used for squashes in the fall! We love our raised concrete beds in the Sullivan Memorial Garden and figured that we can reuse the concrete blocks to create new ones.

Here’s why we love our concrete raised beds:

  1. You don’t have to stoop down to work on the beds, they come with their own built in seats!
  2. Unlike wooden beds, they will never rot over time.
  3. Cost effective
  4. Less weeds overall
  5. Warmer soil for longer and even earlier in the season, which promotes growth.
  6. If you have clay soil underneath, which we do at the Sullivan Memorial Garden, the top soil you add to the raised beds provides better drainage for your plants.

Approximate Cost Breakdown for a single 9.3 feet x 4 feet bed

18 x Concrete Blocks = $20.88
1 cubic yard of top soil = $40
1 cubic feet of compost = $10
Total cost = $70.88

Premade wooden beds cost between $70 to over $250 and you still have to fill them!

Interested in creating your own? We found this video from Gardener Scott on Youtube helpful and he has useful tips for filling raised beds cheaply!

While you don’t need to meticulously level the ground you are working on before placing the blocks, it does help to level it by eyeballing it. However, we 100% recommend using a level to make sure that each block is level.

Weekly Recipe
Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls
by Cookie and Kate

Photo from Cookie and Kate

Spring rolls are a great way to incorporate a ton of summer veggies into your meals! They are easy and fun to make with your whole family! While this recipe isn’t authentic Thai Spring Rolls, I love that it has more veggies and you don’t have to spend the money on shrimp (but you can definitely add it if you’d like!)

What’s great is that you can adjust based on dietary needs (gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and nut-free).

Ingredients (makes 8 spring rolls)

  • 2 ounces rice vermicelli or maifun brown rice noodles*
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup torn butter lettuce, ribs removed
  • 1 cup very thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh mint
  • 8 sheets rice paper (spring roll wrappers)

For the peanut sauce

  • ⅓ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari (for gluten-free) or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons water, as needed to make the texture you desire

Sauce for nut-free homes: Sweet Chili Sauce

  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • juice of 1 lime

Instructions

1. Prepare the ingredients. thinly slice the red cabbage, peeled carrots and peeled cucumbers.
2. Cook the rice vermicilli as per directions on the box.
3. Make sure your filling ingredients (all the vegetables) are nearby
4. Fill a plate or shallow bowl with water and immerse the rice paper for a few seconds on each side and place on a flat surface. Don’t worry if it’s not pliable yet, it will as you fill it.
5. Fill the rice paper first with the lettuces to make a bed. Then rice noodles, place any “sharper” vegetables on the side of the noodles parallel to how you will roll, and then the herbs. Do not overfill or else rolling will not work.
6. Fold by first folding in the short sides like an envelope, then a long side then rolling it to finish. Try to keep it tight without breaking the sheet.*
7. Make the sauce (either peanut or sweet chili sauce, or both!) by mixing all the sauce ingredients together!

*Rolling the wraps can be quite tricky so don’t get discouraged. Biggest tip is to not overfill and not to over water. Use all of your fingers to try to keep the filling compressed as you roll.

Rain Gardens and Garlic!

It’s mid-July and it has been hot, hot, hot! Despite the heat, the vegetables have been thriving. We are starting to see zucchinis, cherry tomatoes, and peppers coming in. On top of that, we harvested our garlic. Some of which are almost as big as our fists! They won’t be ready for eating yet as we have to let them dry for a few weeks.

In other news, we finally finished our rain garden project in the Sullivan Memorial Garden! We have been dealing with occasional flooding and we thought that a great way to manage it is to build a rain garden. In the rain garden, we have planted a bunch of native flower species that can attract pollinators to help our vegetable beds! We included Coneflowers, Black Eyed Susans, Blue Lobelias, Foxgloves, and Golden Alexanders. We were also able to take some existing lilies and hostas from the old pollinator beds and successfully transplant them into our rain garden. With our varieties, are looking forward to seeing the blooms in future years!

What is a Rain Garden?

A rain garden is a shallow depression filled with flowers and shrubs. Rain gardens are a great way to reduce pollution from water run-off, like fertilizers, from getting into our local water systems. The plants in your rain garden help to absorb the excess water and fertilizer. As the plants grow and mature, the rain garden will work more efficiently every year. They are low maintenance and also a great way to reduce the amount of water you use for your yard or garden!

In planning our rain garden, The Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office gave us advice and connected us with resources to bring our vision to life!

Did you know?

That the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office is offering free one-on-one virtual consultations to design your rain garden? Visit their website here for more information.

Weekly Feature Recipe
Jools’ Asian Style Salmon by Jamie Oliver

Garlic is a great way to flavor all kinds of things but may favorite way is to use it in sauces. Here I’m featuring a salmon recipe by Jamie Oliver. I love Jamie Oliver’s recipes and he makes a special emphasis to bring great, easy and healthy recipes to families. I encourage you to check out his website (linked above) for tons of free recipes!

Salmon is a great protein source and it’s rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids and B-Vitamins. Studies have indicated that Omega-3’s can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Children are recommended to eat 1-2 servings of fish a week and salmon is a great low-mercury fish option. It’s personally my preferred fish!

Ingredients (serves 4)
2 cloves of garlic
6 cm piece of ginger
1 lime
6 tbsp of reduced sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoon of oil (preferably sesame, but you can go with any oil)
1 lbs of salmon filet
2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
Skewers for grilling

Instructions
1. Peel and crush the garlic and peel and grate ginger into a bowl. (Tip: peel ginger with a spoon).
2. Grate the zest of the lime (only the green skin) and mix with the ginger and garlic.
3. To the bowl, add the soy sauce, lime juice, honey and oil and mix .
4. Cut up the salmon into cubes big enough to skewer
5. Add salmon to the marinade sauce you just mixed and let sit for 10 minutes.
6. Preheat your grill and prepare a tin foil pan
7. Skewer the salmon, making sure they are not too close together.
8. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the salmon is cooked. Brush with the remaining marinade.
9. Transfer to a plate. Enjoy! Serve with brown rice or other sides!


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