Lessons From an Urban Garden: Chef Gigi's "Eat Your Own Biosphere"
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Lessons From an Urban Garden: Chef Gigi’s “Eat Your Own Biosphere”!

Lessons From an Urban Garden- Chef Gigi's Eat Your Own Biosphere

Kids in an urban garden often become kids in the kitchen.

What a great lifeskill to offer a child. Teaching a child how to grow nutritious, biosphere, healthful, whole food in an urban garden–and how to cook with them.

Related: The Strawberry Tree Jam Recipe

School aged children often find excitement when it comes to a fun, authentic living-learning opportunities. It’s up to us as adults to keep this excitement nourished and pass down our decades of heiloom knowledge to the next generation.

Close to two decades, I owned and operated a children’s culinary school in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kids Culinary Adventures. We anchored academics such as Math, Reading , Science, Geography, Social Studies, Art and Nutrition to the medium of cooking. This type of “living-learning” seemed to quickly interest and anchor solid academic educational foundations– and fast. Kids would come after school, excited to share conversations about how they actually understood their academic lessons better because they related and applied what they were learning to one of our cooking modules.Watching kids, “connect-the-dots”,  really became a remarkable moment for all of us at KCA to witness.

As urban gardeners, we have an advantage. We have the ability to pass knowledge though the fruits of our labor. Literally. The use of your garden, our knowledge — is deeply rooted weather you realize it or not. Urban gardening can greatly impact a young, developing learner. The garden is a place that stimulates and excites children as well as adults of all ages. The garden awakens all our senses–  taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing. The garden is a place where children and teens can partake in an activity from beginning to end. All results driven, and exciting. The outcomes of gardening are so rewarding in so many ways, and offers additional learning extensions. Organic herbs, lettuces, vegetables and fruits can be used use in recipes and meal planning.

For an additional drive, the anchoring of nutrition is a lifeskill one that should be passed from generation to generation. Preparing nutrient dense foods from our gardens with children could springboard into learning all kinds of things. For instance, if you take it one step further– teach canning. By teaching a child to bottle or preserve something will opened the opportunity to teach small business management concepts. Who says kids should begin with a lemonade stand? They can process a bushel of tomatoes to develop their own tomato signature tomato sauce, or delicious ketchup recipe for gift giving!

Children can develop a variety of food products- which can all lead to costing, fractions, profit and loss lessons, labor, packaging, selling! us… well, we can all begin growing a different sort of bloom…. a budding entrepreneur!

Younger children can grow items from seed and learn about the cycles of germination, as well as geological sciences. Think about it. Just the subject of soil can become a lesson module within itself! Urban gardens– no matter what size, can help children begin to learn where food comes from, and how to care for living and breathing organisms. Children can also begin to understand the world of benificial insects including bees. Kids can then begin to engage in highly charged social subjects such as organics, or the depths of genetically modified foods, which can lead to discussion on science and would hunger– which can also anchor empathy. Children can learn anything – it’s the way it’s delivered is what really assists them in memory and recall.

Most of us would agree, if children are involved in harvesting and preparing a meal they are also more inclined to  eat it. Children who grow and eat their own foods are more likely to experiment with flavors too– which can be helpful in discouraging them from being fussy eaters. Whether you live in an small apartment with a only a window-sill or a deck, or if you have a small patch of land, you can begin. Starting children by growing a seed in an eggshell is a great start to teach germination and composting. And – wait until you see their excitement. It’s amazing what a small sprout can accomplish.

“Eat your own Biosphere” is a class that I developed to teach a variety of lessons from germination to packaging food products. with an extension on cooking a family meal! The lesson can be as simple as growing herbs in an eggshell and creating a small biosphere for herbs to grow within.

Below is a portion of my lesson plan to get you started. I’ve also included a recipe for a quick- fire pasta sauce so the kids can use the herbs and make a family meal. Choose herbs thats are fast to grow such as parsley, oregano, marjoram, thyme and basil. its ok to supplement if they have not grown enough but make sure to use what they grew.

Go ahead! Take a portion of the garden indoors this winter and begin this living-learning module.You will have helped create a beautiful bounty of herbs, and stimulate thinking. Not only will you immediately anchor how food and flavors are grown & used in the kitchen; you will have found yourself harvesting a budding urban gardner by Spring !

Let me know if you have participated in teaching through your urban garden

– I’d love to hear back from you!

My recipe for a quick homemade pan style marinara-style sauce combining fresh tomatoes, organic tomato products and your little gardeners fresh herbs! Surely a great mealtime adventure! 

“Eat your Own Biosphere”- Quick-Fire Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

3 shallots, minced fine, about 1/4 cup

4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced fine

1/4 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered ( optional )

1 cup packed mixed fresh herbs, such as, oregano, margarin, thyme, and basil. Finely chopped. Reserving additional minced basil for garnish

1 cup packed fresh parsley, finely chopped. Reserving additional for garnish

8 large Roma tomatoes, deeded and diced

1 cup good quality low sodium beef stock

1 cup fresh or canned organic pureed tomato sauce

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon salt, for pasta water

1 pound thick spaghetti or other pasta

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

Bring a large 8-10 quart stock pot filled with salted water to a roaring boil. Cook pasta to manufacturers directions. Drain, and add two tablespoons of the olive oil to the cooked pasta.Toss to coat well and set aside.

Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of butter in a large- high sided saucepan. Add the shallots and mushrooms. Sauté over medium low heat until shallots are translucent. Add the garlic and herbs, sauté for an additional minute, stirring well to combine.

Once the herbs have release their fragrance, add chopped tomatoes, beef stock and tomato puree. Stir together, do not cover. Simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes, until mushrooms are tender, sauce has thickened and flavors have combine while stirring occasionally.

Serve over cooked pasta and top with fresh greater parmesans cheese and additional fresh chopped herbs! Now you can “Eat your own Biosphere” !

Variations:
Add approximately 2 cups of sautéed vegetables, such as eggplant, zucchini, red bell peppers and onions for additional depth of flavor. Try this sauce on Zucchini Noodles.Iyts delicious!

Serves approximately 4-6

Read next: How to Dry Herbs

About the Author

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Chef Gigi is recognized nationally as an expert in culinary education. She specializes in families and adults to help increase nutritional awareness and help take some of the stress out of being a busy-aware adult. Chef has coached thousands of children and adults how to shop, prep, cook and eat better. She has developed signature techniques while teaching two decades of hands on classes, private events, public speaking, writing, professional culinary demonstrations, television and radio engagements.Gigi, also was the former Academic Director who wrote and implemented the famed French Culinary School- Le Cordon Bleu’s, Hospitality Management Program. Currently, Gigi works as a freelance food writer, learning and development coach– while continuing as an instructional designer. Chef co-authored, “Learning with Little Lulu Lemon” and has appeared in a variety of media outlets including, Radio Disney and Bay Area local television broadcast with Spencer Christian, on NBC’s “View from the Bay” and CBS, “Eye on the Bay”. Regularly contributed to a monthly column, ” The Family Kitchen” for Bay Area Parent Magazine; a subsidiary of Dominion Parenting Media is the nation’s largest publisher of regional parenting magazines.In 2015 Chef Gigi went on to study at the National Association of Sports Medicine to further understand the impact of movement and nutrition on our bodies.Chef Gigi keeps bees, chickens and grows her own food. Chef contributes monthly to Urban Gardeners Republic with amazing recipes for the garden. Be sure to follow her here.