With cheerful smiles and excited waves, the group from West End House Boys and Girls Club rounded the corner of Holyoke Place and paraded straight into the garden. They gathered around the picnic table, thirsty for a morning of fun, hands-on learning—not to mention some water too! Last week, they left the garden with a challenge to try a new fruit or vegetable, and today, they returned with a chance to learn about the nutritional highlights of that newfound food.
A few students at a time had a chance to look up some interesting facts about their fruit or veggie in the Whole Foods Companion book. A couple girls had tried raw tomatoes for the first time and were shocked to find tomatoes in the fruit category. “Tomatoes are fruits?” “Mustard greens help fight against cancer, inflammations, and bacteria?” “Zucchinis are a type of squash?” The amazement escalated as we all flipped through the pages of the book together. Meanwhile, all the children had a chance to check back with the same garden bed they observed last week. In their individual garden journals, they have been tracking the changes in a garden bed of their choice with pictures, measurements of plant growth, and careful observations about changes in the leaves, flowers, and fruits or vegetables of the plant. Everyone was pleased to see some ripe strawberries peeking through the abundant strawberry bushes upon careful examination!
Next, we talked about food groups and the importance of a balanced diet and transitioned into a blind herb taste test extravaganza. Taste tests aren’t just for tasting anymore! Instead, each child had a partner and was asked to describe the touch, smell, taste, and finally, sight of each herb. With wafts of basil and spearmint flowing through the air, I heard whispers of creative descriptions while blindfolded, including, “It smells like candy!” “It feels like flower pedals.” “It tastes like salsa.” In terms of flavor, cilantro was definitely the hit of the day.
After all the blindfolded fun, everyone ran over to the compost bins and Fran taught us about why composting is important and how to maintain the compost. All the kids were eager to show us their muscle power by turning the compost. The next thing I knew, I was staring into beautifully mixed bins and we were off to harvesting some squash, turnips, and a few other miscellaneous vegetables around the garden. The kids left with a food journal sheet, challenging them to write down everything they eat and drink in an entire day. We’re excited for them to return next week for even more fun with food and gardening!
As Fran and I were surveying the beds, we happened upon a rather large plastic bag laying on one of the tool hutches. We looked at each other, not remembering leaving anything outside during the previous day. So we ventured over to examine the mysterious parcel. We poked and prodded the bag and peered at the text typed down the front. It was a bag of coffee grounds that someone had given us. The text described the chemical properties of the coffee grounds, how to use them in soil and how helpful they are for our plants.
So how are we going to use this gift of coffee grounds in our garden?
Well the coffee grounds contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, which are all essential elements for plant growth. Nitrogen, in particular, is useful in compost since bacteria need nitrogen in order to decompose organic matter. Once the compost is ready it will be spread on the beds to provide nutrients for our plants.
We can also spread the grounds directly on the beds. The other elements in the grounds are beneficial to plant growth. Earth worms highly enjoy coffee grounds, and as they move into the soil they help move the nutrients around the bed, aerating the soil as they go. However it is important to note that coffee grounds help increase the acidity of soil. Therefore we will be putting the grounds on the beds that contain acid-loving plants, such as our tomatoes, which thrive in acidic soils.
The question still remains, where did the coffee grounds come from?