Kids can grow a handy container of organic salad greens by the door to pick for dinner as lettuces like some shade. A secret to making great salads is less is more. Too many ingredients muddle the flavors and not all ingredients go together. First wash all the greens in a salad spiner, a plastic strainer kids can use to spin the leaves dry. Kids can taste each leaf to decide which type of greens will be the bases of their salad. Some lettuces and greens have complementary flavors and a mix of greens adds texture and visual appeal. Kids can add one or a variety of veggies that are especially yummy in salad, such as, radishes, carrots, broccoli, peas, celery, corn, or asparagus. Kids can slice or grate raw veggies, tasting each ingredient to make sure it doesn’t become too busy. Kids can also roast or grill veggies for their salad. For texture and protein, kids can add nuts, seeds, croutons, beans, or chickpeas. For sweetness, fresh or dried fruits can be added. Capers and olives add saltiness, pickles add sharpness, and peppers add spice. Just before serving, kids can dress the salad sparingly, as overdressing drowns the leaves and masks their delightful flavors. For delicate greens, kids can dress it lightly with organic vinegar or lemon and extra virgin olive oil. For sturdier greens or cabbage, kids can use a richer and thicker dressing with tahini or soy yogurt. Kids can toss the salad in a large bowl, making sure all of the leaves are coated very lightly with dressing and sprinkle sea salt from above to distribute it evenly. There are so many choices; kids can make a different salad every day with what is in season in the garden.
Kids can make the best use of their small space organic veggie garden and available light by growing vertically: terracing, trellising, and using hanging planters. Kids can terrace their veggie plants to capture the most sun and grow a bigger harvest by putting the tallest ones in the back and the shorter ones in front. Kids can arrange containers of herbs and veggies on three or four steps so that each plant gets plenty of light. Kids can design the garden itself at layered heights, using raised beds, planter boxes, and cinderblock boosters, so that plants of the same height will get enough light.
Another vertical garden technique is to use trellises, arbors, and lattices on walls. Many veggies love to climb up a trellis, such as cucumbers, peas, beans, and melons. Kids can grow fruits and berries on arched trellises, which support growth upward, across, and outward, producing more fruit. A sunny wall with a lattice is another way to grow veggies and maximize space. Trellising enables kids to keep their veggie plants clean with good air circulation.
Hanging planters from the eaves, window ledge, railing, gazebo, pergola, and the ceiling of a sunny room is another way to use vertical space. Hanging planters are usually limited in size so kids can choose smaller veggie varieties with a trailing habit. Strawberries, cherry tomatoes, herbs, lettuces, and bush beans grow beautifully over the edges of hanging planters. Kids can grow a vertical organic fruit and veggie garden anywhere and provide fresh organic food for the table right where they live.
Kids can grow abundant food in small spaces with techniques developed over the last century. In the 1920’s the philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, and his followers broke from conventional monoculture row planting and invented a gardening method called biodynamic, using organic compost and mulch for fertilizers and practicing companion planting. Biodynamic gardening also takes into account the influence of the sun, moon and planets when planting the garden. Building on this method and the French Intensive method of planting vegetables close together and using cloches to grow year round, Alan Chadwick created a 4 acre Biodynamic Garden Project at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the 1960’s that produced four times as many vegetables as a conventional garden, while needing less water and less maintenance.
Kids can grow their own biodynamic garden by creating a healthy garden ecosystem. Kids can view their garden‘s soil, plants, insects, and animals as parts of a single living whole. A self sustaining garden supplies all of its own essential nutrients for balanced growth, from organic matter for compost to micronutrients for healthy plants and requires the least amount of time and money in the long term. Using raised beds, planter boxes, and vertical garden containers filled with rich organic soil, earthworm compost, and a drip watering system, kids can grow an abundant harvest of fruits and veggies on the balcony or patio.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is part of a global effort to secure the diversity of our most important crop plants to ensure that humanity has food seeds in spite of wars, climate change, and natural disasters. The Seed Vault is the answer to the international community’s pressing need for the future of global agriculture as a bank for storing seeds to conserve diversity and food security for people today and beyond. Located near the North Pole in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, the Seed Vault is completely funded by the government of Norway and built to the highest standards. Tucked away in a frozen mountain that keeps the seeds cool at -18⁰C, a long tunnel, partially encased in a steel tube, leads 130 meters deep to the entrance of the vault rooms containing seeds from countries around the world. The seeds are carefully dried and frozen to preserve them for hundreds of years.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built in 2008 under the guidance of Cary Fowler, a long time champion of seed saving, who had worked over 20 years to establish an international seed bank. The heirloom seed savers movement, started over a hundred years ago, is concerned about the sustainability of the environment and the loss of thousands of vegetable plant varieties in the last century. Big biotech companies want to control all the seeds, and they are patenting and privatizing seeds, making it illegal for farmers to retain their own crops for replanting. The world’s leading food speakers see the garden as a self sustaining, self contained living being and the organic produce from ancient heirloom seeds as pure food.
The world’s largest seed bank of plant breeding for dry areas, ICARDA, located in Syria, sent 116,000 different seed varieties to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault before the fighting broke out in Syria and gunmen took over their Seed Bank headquarters. In September, 2015, ICARDA retrieved 38,073 seed varieties from its box at the Seed Vault to replant in carefully managed plots to grow and harvest fresh new seed for their farmers. This May, the melting of the polar icecap was much greater than expected due to climate change. The entrance hall to the Seed Vault was flooded. The water did not enter the well structured Vault, but now the Norwegian government is building drainage ditches on the mountainside and waterproof walls inside the tunnel entrance hall. Inside the mountain, the structure of the vault is safe and scientists are researching permafrost in Svalbard. If a nation’s seeds are lost as a result of a natural disaster or a man made catastrophe, the seeds saved in this Arctic Vault can be used to regenerate them.
With a simple rimmed heavy gauge aluminized- steel baking sheet, kids can roast, bake, or broil a delicious, healthy one-pan meal in minutes. The low sides and flat surface of a sheet pan allow the heat to seal and crisp the outside of the ingredients, drawing out the natural sugars, keeping the insides tender, and intensifying the flavors. The rim of the pan seals in the flavorful juices and reduces the chance of hot liquid spilling as the pan is removed from the oven. An entire meal can be prepared quickly on one commercial-quality pan making the clean up simple. For a party, the ingredients can be prepared ahead on the sheet pan. Kids can simply pop the pan in the oven at any time and still enjoy the party.
Kids need to cut the foods to about the same size and thickness so they will all cook evenly spread in a single layer on the sheet pan. Most veggies need to be brushed with organic oil or tossed into an oil based marinade before cooking on the baking sheet. Kids can add different ingredients in batches to allow for different cooking times. Heavy metal tongs are perfect for turning over the ingredients in the pan and for transferring foods to the serving platter.
Textured aluminized-steel rectangle sheet pans with at least a 1 inch rim distribute heat evenly for perfect browning. When acidic ingredients, like tomatoes, are cooked in pans made of aluminum, copper, or unseasoned cast iron, trace amounts of molecules from the metal can leach into the food. Aluminized-steel does not leach into the food, is very strong, can resist damage from cooking, and keeps its shine. Nonstick pans are easy to clean, but they are toxic to your health and to the environment during their manufacturing process. The fumes from a smoking nonstick pan can kill a pet bird in the kitchen. No scouring or abrasive cleaning products are needed as they scratch the surface of the pan. For easy clean up after baking, roasting, or broiling, kids should line the sheet pan with parchment paper before cooking and afterwards wash the pan by hand in soapy water.
Kids that grow organic veggie gardens can become good stewards of the land, growing their own independence and self sufficiency. The soil is alive! Every cubic inch of healthy soil is a miniature world of beneficial living organisms that feed all living things on our planet. This micro-universe takes the organic material in the soil and turns it into useable food and nutrients for the plant, which grows veggies rich with nutrients for kids. When a plant seed begins to grow the first thing to emerge is the primary root to absorb food and water from the soil. Beautiful veggie root systems aerate the soil and feed the microorganisms that feed nutrients to the plant. Roots bind the soil, hold the plants in position, and draw water, minerals, and nutrients from the soil to feed the plant. Kids can feed the soil with living compost to increase the biodiversity of soil microorganisms. Many of the microorganisms form intimate relationships with roots to increase their ability to utilize water and nutrients. Fungi break down dead organic matter in the compost to release valuable nutrients into the soil. Some plant roots and fungi grow together. The fungi radiates through the soil and forms a velvety covering over the plant roots, greatly increasing the contact with the soil and passing the minerals and nutrients to the plant, while the fungus absorbs sugars from the root cells. Kids can mulch their garden with organic materials to add essential elements contained in the dead plants and make them available to the next generation of plants. Kids can make their plants healthier and able to resist pests and pathogens by feeding the soil compost and mulch. Studies have shown that kids exposed to soil develop a stronger immune system, fewer allergies, and perform better in school.
Spring is the perfect time to start a clean eating diet as local Farmers Markets are filled with abundant fresh colorful organic produce. Seasonal, locally grown fruits and veggies are the most flavorful and nutritious. Kids that grow their own veggies can hardly wait to eat them. Kids can kick the addiction to sodas and junk food filled with chemicals, preservatives, and additives. At the Farmers Market or local farm stand, kids can learn about their food from the farmers that grow it. Overweight kids can lose weight just by switching from junk food to organic whole food. Kids discover that real whole food, fresh from the garden, is sweeter and more satisfying than the food corporations’ processed and packaged foods which have been made with too much salt, fat, and sugar. Processed convenience foods and fried fast foods have caused wide ranged health problems including diabetes and obesity. Studies show that kids who eat home cooked meals from scratch with their families around the dinner table are happier, as well as healthier. Kids can pack their lunch boxes with healthy snacks, like whole fruits and nuts, to fuel their day. Kids can make their own fresh fruit juice or infuse water with pieces of fruit rather than sugary fruit drinks or sodas. Real food is made from ingredients kids can find in nature, like whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, herbs, and veggies. A clean eating diet means cooking healthy by steaming, roasting, or grilling rather than frying. Kids can start an organic veggie garden in pots on the patio this spring. Kids can cook from scratch with whole organic ingredients and lose weight, gain energy, and feel great.