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Kids grow Bananas

Kids in Southern California can grow bananas in their yard by getting a pup from a neighbor’s banana plant or a banana corm from the nursery. Kids have been eating bananas for 10,000 years. An instant energy booster, bananas are rich in fiber, loaded with essential vitamins, and high in potassium and iron.The banana plant is not a tree, but the largest herbaceous flowering plant with about 1000 edible varieties. Bananas are tropical plants and grow more slowly here than in the tropics. Because some varieties grow to 20 feet tall, dwarf varieties growing to about 12 feet are best for fruit picking. Kids can choose a Dwarf Brazilian or Dwarf Namwah for sweet tasty bananas that grow well in Ventura County.

The banana has a corm instead of a trunk, which is a stem of the plant that stores nutrients from one growing season to help to grow roots, leaves, and flowers for the next growing season and has a rhizome that sprouts shallow and extensive root systems, like ginger or turmeric. Banana plants spread rapidly with their underground roots and need to be pruned to one or two stalks. It takes about 18 months for a stalk to start flowering. The curved fruit grows on the long flowering stalk and the bananas form in clusters called hands. Kids should wear old clothes to harvest them because sap from the bananas permanently stain. Each stalk will only bear fruit once and should be removed after a few replacement stalks grow.

Bananas like rich organic soil, lots of water, and heavy feeding when they are growing, spring through fall. Plant them near a warm south facing wall to protect them from winds and frost. Kids can prune the dead leaves and use them with lots of compost for mulch to hold in the moisture. In the winter, when they are dormant, water the bananas very little. Each flowering stalk holds 6 – 8 hands of bananas that ripen from the top. Kids can pick the ripe hand of bananas, leaving the green hands on the stalk to lengthen the harvest and not have too many ripe bananas at once.


Kid Chef Broccoli Soup

Winter is the perfect time for a hot cup of soup. Using winter veggies from the garden, kids can make a healthy soup to take to school in their thermos or to have at home for an afternoon snack. Broccoli is rich in vitamins, minerals, omega-3, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients; plus it lowers the rates of cancer. Steaming is the best way to cook veggies, as steaming retains their flavor, texture, and nutrition. Kids can chop an entire organic broccoli with the stock included, 1 organic red potato, 1 stalk celery, and ¼ cup red onion. Steam the veggies for 10 minutes or until tender keeping the broccoli flowers a bright deep green. Set aside the broccoli flowers. In a sauce pan melt 1 tbsp organic vegan butter, stir in 1 tbsp organic whole wheat pastry flour, brown a minute, and stir in ½ cup organic almond milk. Put the broccoli stems, potato, celery, and onion in the blender with 1 cup veggie steam water and mix until smooth. Add the almond milk mixture, ½ tsp sea salt, and ¼ tsp ground cardamom and blend. To serve, pour the soup into bowls and place a broccoli flower on top.

Kid Chef Ghana Stuffed Yams

Yams, dioscorea, originating in Africa called “nyami”, are root vegetables growing under perennial herbaceous vines, and come in over 600 varieties. They are cylindrical with rough brown bark-like skin and yellow flesh; some varieties have white, purple, or pink flesh. Over fifty years ago, U.S. supermarkets and producers began using the term “yam” to distinguish between types of sweet potatoes, which come from South America, but true yams can be found in African grocery stores. Fried yam is a beloved African snack and side dish. Basic ingredients in West African cooking are onion, fresh ginger root, chili and tomato with a Five Spice mix of cubeb black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and ground ginger. Traditional farming methods are used to grow fresh herbs and vegetables in garden compounds with homes dotted around them, making most Ghanaian food organic, locally sourced, sustainable, and unprocessed.

Kids can substitute orange sweet potatoes for the hard to find yams. Preheat the oven to 400°. Wash 4 organic yams or sweet potatoes, prick with a fork, and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for 45 minutes. On a separate baking sheet, place 3 organic red peppers, drizzle with organic extra virgin olive oil, and bake along side of the yams for 20 minutes. Sauté a diced organic red onion in a saucepan in 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes, stir in 1 deseeded and minced red chili pepper, 1 tsp fresh minced ginger, 2 organic minced garlic cloves, and 8 cups of mixed organic baby stir fry greens. Add ½ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp cayenne, ⅛ tsp cloves, ⅛ tsp nutmeg, ⅛ tsp cinnamon and 2 tbsp water. Cover and steam until spinach has softened. Remove the baked yams and peppers from the oven. Chop the peppers, discarding the cores and seeds, and add to the spinach mixture. Stir in ½ cup chopped cilantro. Cut down the middle of the yams without going all the way through and divide the spinach mixture stuffing it into the holes and allowing some to spill over the sides of the yams. This dish is traditionally served in Ghana with roasted plantains.

Water is Life

Natural ecosystems, when healthy and functioning well, are vital to the economy. Healthy watersheds, wetlands, floodplains, and river systems store and cleanse our water supplies and control floods naturally. Nature’s services recharge groundwater with the natural flow of rivers and their floodplains; coastlines are replenished and soil is enriched. Kids can harvest water right where they live and use the water for their fruit and veggie gardens by attaching a rain barrel to the down spout from their roof. By using native plants rather than a lawn, contouring the landscape, making curb cuts from the street, and building swales, homeowners can harvest an abundance of rainwater on site.

However, the ability of freshwater swamps and river floodplains to store water, mitigate floods, and break down pollutants is stopped by levees and dams. Instead, floodwaters rush down the canals, reducing groundwater, removing the natural cleansing process, erasing habitats for birds and fish, and causing downstream flood risks. Rivers bearing high loads of nitrogen from chemical fertilizer runoffs that wetlands might otherwise absorb have contributed to the creation of more than 400 low-oxygen dead zones in coastal bays and estuaries around the world. Soils depleted of microbes and organic matter due to conventional agricultural practices no longer hold moisture for the plants and crops. Rain water runs rapidly over pavement that covers urban and suburban landscapes and, instead of soaking into the land, floods homes and pollutes creeks and bays.

Our engineers bulldoze, dike, and drain away Nature’s services by constructing dams, canals, and treatment plants to block and divert rivers. Dams and reservoirs used to store water, divert about 35% of river flows, trapping billions of tons of sediment that would have been carried to the sea to replenish the coasts, as a result, productive deltas, from the Nile to the Mississippi, are losing ground to the sea. The freshwater plants and animals are headed to extinction five times faster than the land species. Blending engineering, ecology, and economics into a holistic approach that recognizes the value of Nature’s services, our engineers can work with nature to rejuvenate watersheds and floodplains, and replenish rivers, soils, and groundwater.

Kids Drought-Resistant Veggie Garden

Kids can make the best use of moisture during times of water shortage by using several different organic solutions. Healthy garden soil itself holds moisture with its organic plants and compost. The organic matter in the soil also attracts earthworms and microorganisms to feed nutrients to the plant and produces humus to hold it in place. Kids need to fill their raised garden beds with rich organic soil from the nursery or local soil company.

Evaporation from above the soil can be reduced by mulching to keep moisture where it is available to the plants. Kids can spread mulch on top of the soil and around their veggie plants, in the form of shredded leaves, compost, or worm castings. Shade cloths and wind breaks also reduce evaporation by blocking the afternoon sun and preventing wind damage, depending on local conditions.

Instead of planting in rows, kids can plant their veggies close together surrounded by soil walls to pool the moisture. This close planting of veggies leaves little room for weeds and maximizes the garden space, and kids can rotate the crops by planting starter veggies when they harvest to keep away pests and diseases. Self watering containers, buried water pots, garden towers, and spiral gardens create microclimates for water saving and abundant harvests in small areas.

Kids can place rain barrels under a rain gutter to collect and channel the rain water to their veggie garden. Runoff can be reduced by using permeable materials for pathways, driveways, and patios, such as gravel, wood chips or pavers that allow the rain to soak into the ground, with runoff channels into planting beds. Kids can install a drip irrigation system with a timer set to water in the mornings to get the right amount of water directly to the roots of the plants at the right time of day. Finally, kids can choose the right vegetable variety to plant for their climate and location at the right time of year for the best water use.

Kids 6 Steps to Prevent Disease

  1. A healthy diet prevents many diseases. In the 1980’s, Americans started to eat more and more convenient, cheap processed foods, high in fat, sugar, and salt with chemical additives, fillers, and dyes. This American diet caused a dramatic rise in diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
  2. Heart disease, the number one killer in the United States, can be prevented by eating organic whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Because of processed foods and fast food restaurants, Americans are eating twice as much fats as they ate 50 years ago. Kids can plant an organic fruit and veggie garden to have easy access to fresh, inexpensive food.
  3. Foods in their original form are the healthiest. Kids can choose their favorite fruits and veggies to grow in their garden and learn to cook from scratch. Kids want to eat what they grow and gain self confidence when they can prepare a dish for their family. Family recipes can bring folks together cooking in the kitchen.
  4. Being active is good for the whole body. Many kids spend about seven hours a day using electronic devices indoors. Inactivity can weaken the brain and body parts. American Academy of Pediatrics advise limiting kids’ screen time to less than two hours a day. Gardening activities include both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Kids can have fun adventures and get healthy exercise working in the garden.
  5. Kids can prevent diseases like colds and flu by washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or preparing food. Contaminated food sickens hundreds of millions of people each year, especially from raw fish, raw meat, and raw eggs. Cleaning kitchen counters, cutting boards, utensils, and hands helps prevent sickness. 
  6. Human made toxins in the environment pollute the air, soil, and water. Pesticides are put on our conventionally grown food and sprayed in our cities. Families can avoid these and other human made chemical poisons by using natural cleaning products, air and water filters, and eating organic food from their garden.

Kids Red Wriggler Worm Bin

Nature’s master composters, red wriggler worms excrete a highly nitrous fertilizer called castings, the highest quality compost in percentage of nutrients and micro-organisms. Red Wriggler Worm castings enrich the soil by providing the best nutrients for water retention, air flow, and minerals to enrich the garden soil and grow extra healthy organic fruits and veggies. Worm castings are packed with bacteria, enzymes, and minerals that are essential for plant growth and are immediately available to the plant. The humus in the castings extracts toxins and harmful bacteria and fungi from the soil to fight off plant diseases, as well as stimulating plant growth and the development of microorganisms in the soil. Worm castings allow plants to grow while acting as a barrier in the soil to heavy metals and extreme pH levels. This fertilizer increases the ability of the soil to retain water, reduces the acid forming carbon, and increases nitrogen levels without burning the plants. Use it freely to germinate seeds, as a soil conditioner, and as a fertilizer in the garden, for house plants, container plants, raised bed gardens, and for all types of plants and trees.

Gardeners can raise earthworms by building worm boxes or buying an earthworm bin at the local garden center. The bin should have air holes in the lid and holes in the bottom through which water can drain into a tray underneath. Place a bedding of coconut coir in the bin and add organic vegetable kitchen scraps, coffee grinds, egg shells, shredded cardboard and dried leaves. Spray the bedding with water to make it moist. Place the bin in a shady protected spot, like against the house foundation or in the garage. Bury kitchen scraps in the top layer every few days, keeping the bin moist. Do not feed the worms citrus, tomatoes, meat, or herbs. Worm bins smell like rich soil. About six months after starting a new worm bin, gardeners can harvest the compost and place fresh bedding for the earthworms. Check every three months to harvest more castings. Worm castings reinforce the base biology in the soil. Kids can add castings when planting new crops and as a top dressing every 1 – 3 months for “the champagne of soil amendments”.