December 2016 Harvest of the Month: Spinach

Posted by on Dec 2, 2016 | Comments Off on December 2016 Harvest of the Month: Spinach

December 2016 Harvest of the Month: Spinach

On Thursday, December 1, 2016, City Schoolyard Garden, in collaboration with the Charlottesville City Schools (CCS) Nutrition Department and Local Food Hub and with the help of amazing volunteers, celebrated Harvest of the Month with the over 2,800 CCS students.  For December, we celebrated spinach, a crop that is seasonally available in Virginia.  Over 40 pounds of spinach was sourced from Phantom Hill Farm in Louisa County, VA.

On the morning of, they were given these clues over the announcements: “This vegetable is a deep green color, and if you eat enough of this leaf, your tongue may even turn green. It grows low to the ground and can survive all winter and be eaten in spring.” When they finally got their hands on the spinach, some nibbled on it, some gobbled it whole, and some wanted to try it with the support of a fellow classmate.  For the elementary students, they tasted it plain and raw.  The enthusiasm and excitement for raw and fresh spinach puts Popeye’s ole can of spinach to shame!

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During this month’s Harvest of the Month celebration, taste tests were conducted at Charlottesville High School and a pilot taste test was conducted at Walker-Upper Elementary (5th and 6th grade).  At CHS, CSG Garden Coordinator, Peter Davis, was joined by Local Food Hub‘s Lisa Reeder and they passed out spinach samples to students during lunch.  Two vinaigrettes, a nectarine vinaigrette and a blackberry vinaigrette (with vinegars sourced from Virginia Vinegar Works), were made available in spray bottles for CHS students to spritz on their spinach.

20161201_104657At Walker Upper Elementary, CSG set up a table during the four lunches and provided two vinaigrettes to dress the spinach.  One was a basic balsamic vinaigrette and the other was a vinaigrette made with a nectarine vinegar, also sourced from Virginia Vinegar Works. Over 250 students, on their own volition, came to the table to sample spinach with their choice of vinaigrette. Some eagerly came to the table, some were encouraged to come by their friends, some wanted to try both vinaigrettes, some licked their plates clean and asked for another sample, some wanted to eat it plain, some asked for the recipe… The experience that resonated the most was when many of the students shared their memories of Harvest of the Month from their elementary school days, since Harvest of the Month does not continue into the 5th and 6th grades.  “My favorite part was the riddle. It was so fun to try and guess it,” one 5th grade student shared.  “My favorite was the kale,” said another 5th grader.  Watching their eyes glow as they recalled their memories of Harvest of the Moth reminded CSG of the true and lasting effects of the program. The principal overseeing the first lunch (5th graders) asked the group, “Who tried the spinach?” (See photo on left.)  The question was followed up with,”Who would like to try that again?” (See photo on right). It all happened too fast for an actual count, but the response was overwhelmingly positive.

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“Well, the 5th graders are easy. They’re more willing to try stuff.  It’s the 6th graders that are tough. It’ll be a hard sell. Sometimes it’s cultural. Some people aren’t used to eating raw greens,” warned an administrator during lunch. CSG’s Program Coordinator Kim Nguyen braced herself and awaited the blatant rejection by the 6th graders, reminding herself to not take it personally.  But to her surprise, towards the end of the last lunch (which was packed with hungry 6th graders), while she packed up the supplies and was getting ready to leave, she was met with an applause by all the 6th graders at the lunch. Walker-Upper Elementary left a lasting impression, summed up by an image of two passing 6th grade boys, with nods of approval and a set of thumbs up.

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