Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sprout and About: Weeding through the Goods!

Salad bar beets, full of taste and healthy pride.
What's your favorite veggie, and what's your favorite way to prepare it? This has been the question for many a young farmer to deliberate upon during week 4 of summer programming whilst assisting in the relentless weed removal. With the beginning of August fast approaching, summer reminds us that it is a fleeting and fast paced season for many northern New Englanders. The long days encourage you never to blink away a moment, and the incessantly enlarging peas second the notion. But blink the Laraway kitchen has not, for they have been packaging and processing all the young farmers have been harvesting, which includes over 50 raring to be eaten beets. While not always the easiest to deal with, beets provide nutrients (and deliciousness!) throughout their whole. The greens easily replace a kale or spinach in a recipe, and the namesake root is relatively versatile depending on tastes. While often seen in boiled form in salads, or pickled as in the kitchen choice pictured, we had several adventurous youth try a raw beet freshly washed. While it didn't seem to be a favorite among the red mustard leaves, carrot, and peas options, it was described as "sour and crunchy." It does provide many of those eyesight enhancing nutrients that carrots are praised for, as well as the iron found in other leafy greens, so find a recipe of your choosing! Even the purple stains are worth it.

Submitted by Hannah Bober, VYDC AmeriCorps State member

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sprout and About: If You Cant Take the Heat... Avoid the Spicy Greens

Since the snow has melted and the beds were prepped, there has always been something to pick in the Laraway gardens. Thankfully it’s expanded recently to include things other than weeds and those pesky potato bugs! The 3rd week’s summer programming featured one of the first groups focused on harvesting for the kitchen. While the lunchtime salad bar has had a pretty strong supply of freshly picked greens since June, students helped to supplement it this week with multiple trays of snow and snap peas. Not to be outdone, the zucchini plants produced several fruits at an alarming alacrity. Many vegetables lose nutrition over time after being removed from the plant due to their continued respiration, so the kitchen staff have been doing their best to take advantage of the fresh produce as it’s ready. This turns into quite a feat when you consider the requirements of keeping over 60 active students (and the staff) energized through the summer heat. Even with all the planning and creativity available, there are still times when some harvests have to be processed for the future. Luckily for the remaining garlic scape crop, school director Julie Landry is an experienced canner and pickler. Below are pictures of the adventure, preserving our fresh harvest for months to come!
Photo courtesy of Julie Landry

Photo courtesy of Julie Landry

On a similar note, be sure to stay tuned for our up and coming berry muffins! This month, according to the three local Vermont partners that make up the VT Harvest of the Month program, is Berry Month! Some of our young students have been exploring the berries we have available on campus (including those nutrient dense currants!) and will be making muffins at summer’s end. Previous Laraway VISTA Marcella Houghton led the students on a campus berry tour this past week, and it’s assured these muffins will be a creation you don’t want to miss!
Photo courtesy of Marcella Houghton

Submitted by Hannah Bober, VYDC AmeriCorps State member

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sprout and About: Perennials and Pie Promises

Many a smiling face turned to the sunshine during the second week of summer program, as the rains subsided (most of time) to a few hot and humid days. Our students weathered the weather and worked hard on several different projects around campus including tree mulching and staking, vegetable garden upkeep, and perennial bed maintenance. The perennial bed in front of our school building has been running more than amuck since early spring, but students have turned it into a beautiful and very recognizable home to apple trees, currant bushes, monarda (also known as bee balm), baptisia, black-eyed susan, lilies and several other flowering plants, including mint. The kitchen has even harvested some of the mint to use in future recipes. The perennial beds do double duty in more ways than just mint though. The black and red currants (both old and newly planted) have nice edible fruit, good for both using in recipes and eating off the bush. Currants (the black more so than the red) are well-known for their nutritional and medicinal benefits, with a demonstrated ability to defend the body against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases. They also have one of the highest anti-oxidant ratings of any fruit, are high in vitamin C and provide essential nutrients & minerals that are missing from most people’s diets. Our apples are in their first year of producing fruit and although the young trees don’t yet have branches sagging from the weight of a good harvest we can imagine a year of Laraway’s own apple pies, jams and our annual cider-press. For now, we can enjoy the colorful and much more elegantly coiffed garden, no imagination necessary.

Submitted by Hannah Bober, VYDC AmeriCorps State member
Bee balm in the garden

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sprout and About: Get out the Mud Boots!

Although thoughts of summer usually accompany an image of a sun shining bright, the first day of summer programming at Laraway instead featured a flash flood warning. The afternoon alert didn’t stop students and staff from kicking off Farmer on Site though! Each week the Farmer on Site program will feature a different activity for the student groups, all focused around land stewardship and outdoor education. While some mornings are beautiful, the first day decided to test the spirits of the outdoor adventurers.
Rain coats were donned and some hands got muddy as students gathered to check out the garden, pull out some tenacious weeds from the squash bed, and add mulch to the newly planted plum and black locust rows. In a show of efficiency, the group had a system of wheelbarrow rotation that even Henry Ford would be proud of.  As handful by handful of mulch was placed around the base of the trees, the sprinkles continued. The garden (and weeds) have especially enjoyed the very rainy past month we’ve had here, and the Living Willow structure is delighted enough to start showing some leaf buds! 
While the weather decided not to cooperate in the most conventional of ways, the beauty of the rain reflects in Laraway’s garden and freshly mulched young trees.

Submitted by Hannah Bober, VYDC AmeriCorps State member

*Sprout and About is a summertime segment in addition to Laraway Happenings focusing on the goings-on of campus throughout the season.