16 June 2009

Edible Schoolyard

Last Saturday, Alice Waters visited the Smithsonian Institution’s Victory Garden. She was signing her new book, Edible Schoolyard. For years as she drove to Chez Panisse, Waters passed a school she assumed was abandoned. It wasn’t, simply neglected. What struck Waters most were the children inside. About 15 years ago, Waters mentioned to a journalist she would like to see abandoned lots turned into gardens. Within a week she received a note from the principal of the “unabandoned” school. They met and discussed a garden. Several weeks later the principal had a volunteer. With that the Edible Schoolyard was born.

As Picasso would say, “All art is derivative.” A school garden is not such a profoundly original idea. In the early 1900’s school garden sprouted up as a way to actually feed children who were now being sent away to schools each day.

During World War II, Victory Gardens’ weren’t just for adults, children planted gardens around their schools.

But as often happens, prosperity reared its ugly and consumerist head and gardening fell by the wayside. Food became abundant, from our shores and beyond. Tomatoes, strawberries and lettuce were available year round. Schools began “renting” space to soft drink companies and candy manufactures while school lunches were sad affairs of spaghetti and canned fruit. Kids grew fatter and less healthy.

Waters set out to change that. The first Edible Schoolyard is thriving some 12 years later. It has hosted visitors from around the world, some hoping to replicate the idea, some, like Prince Charles, to marvel in its mission to create an Edible Education.

Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea is more of an extended essay with stunning pictures of the kids in their gardens. There are only a few recipes in the book, but it well worth the time to check it out.

Carrot-Raisin Salad

Wash and peel 10 carrots. Grate the carrots into a bowl. Add one cup of raisins and mix well. Eat the salad like this or serve it in a little lettuce leaf. If you want, you can make a little dressing by stirring 1 tablespoon lemon juice and some salt together. Whisk 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss with the carrots and raisins.
If you are looking for a kid-friendly recipe that even a grown - up would love, try this.

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