The North Bennington Graded School children in Amy Anselmo’s gardening program not only planted and harvested purple potatoes, they also grow a wide variety of herbs, lettuce, pumpkins, garlic, peas, tomatoes – you name the vegetable, they probably grow it. I teamed up with Amy to teach a lesson on nutrition and potatoes in the outdoor classroom located in the middle of the community gardens at the Park-McCullough House, a quick 5 minute walk from the school.
After a rousing discussion of the different colors of fruits and vegetables, and how the phytochemicals in those colors give us health benefits, the children spread out to snip herbs to mix into a bright and colorful potato salad. We rubbed basil leaves on our fingers to enjoy the fresh aroma, snipped the green stalks and purple flowers from chives, broke off pieces of parsley, and found out that fresh oregano smells just like pizza!
Each child chopped up yellow, red or purple potatoes into bite-size pieces, and mixed the potato, herbs minced wtih scissors, and yellow squash chopped with red bell pepper prepped ahead of time into a large bowl. Everyone took turns making the dressing, a mayonaise-free version that uses orange juice and lime juice to moisten the ingredients.
We talked about using all of our senses to experience the potato salad. We used our eyes to notice the colors, and our noses to sniff the aromas of the herbs, remarking that purple potatoes smell different than white potatoes. They enjoyed the sound of the crunch of the red bell peppers and felt the different textures of the vegetables with their fingers as well as their tongues. Children aren’t always willing to try a new food, but preparing that food and watching others enjoy eating the food, often results in everyone being brave enough for at least one taste.
Our recipe for the day included bright sunny skies, a shady outdoor classroom, enthusiastic children experienced in growing – and tasting – foods in their garden, colorful vegetables and many helping hands. One girl exlaimed that this was the best potato salad ever, while another told us that she’d never seen such a beautiful salad. As they skipped back to class, the garden that was recently filled with shouts of happy children fell quiet enough that I heard a bumblee buzz past me on his path through the flowers.