Harvest of the Month

Fresh herbs can easily be grown at home, and make for delicious additives to your favorite recipes. – Photo courtesy Middletown Nursery

One of the easiest things we can grow in the garden, or simply in pots on a sunny windowsill, is herbs. This month we celebrate the flavorful plants as Island Grown School’s Harvest of the Month. Many of the perennial herbs, such as chives, thyme, sage, and tarragon, are experiencing lots of new growth, and are ready to be harvested. Tender annual herbs such as basil, parsley, dill, and summer savory can be planted out in the garden now. Several local nurseries and farms are full of different varieties for sale; take advantage of this great time to plant a patch of your favorite herbs at home.

HoM_Poster_Herbs_June_2015_WEB copy.jpgFresh herbs can lend amazing flavor to salads, sauces, dressings, pizzas, pastas, and so much more. Think outside the box with herbs, and try things such as chive pesto, chopped arugula with your tuna fish, or cilantro leaves in your salad. Extra herbs can be chopped, put in ice cube trays with a little water, and used a few at a time when cooking. You can also dry extra herbs such as mint, lemon balm, or lavender to save in jars to use for tea.

Try making this Herbed Ranch Dressing to go with your next salad. It has been a huge hit in taste tests with the students at school.

Herbed Ranch Dressing

¾ c. plain yogurt
½ c. mayonnaise
3 Tbs. buttermilk powder
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. parsley, chopped
2 Tbs. chives, chopped
2 Tbs. dill, chopped
2 Tbs. tarragon, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
Salt to taste

In a medium-size bowl, whisk the first five ingredients. Add the chopped fresh herbs, scallions, and salt to taste.

Recipe provided by Robin Forte.

Emily Armstrong is the preschool coordinator for Island Grown Schools, the Vineyard’s farm-to-school nonprofit. For more information, visit islandgrownschools.org.

Courtesy of Island Grown Schools

Green is the color of late April, as the grass begins to grow and sprouts timidly poke through in the garden. Salad greens are one of the first things you can harvest from the wild or your garden, and are a celebration of the beginning of the growing season. Make sure to check local farm stands and markets for local salad greens, as some have already made their debut.

Packed full of vitamins, there are many ways to enjoy salad greens. Try a mix with varieties such as kale, arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, romaine, butterhead, or Swiss chard. Add any type of greens into a sandwich or wrap for some extra flavor or crunch. Discover which varieties your family likes the best.

If you are interested in foraging for greens to put into your salad bowl, find a copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants and ask a knowledgeable friend to help you. Right now, delicious edibles such as dandelions, watercress, and chickweed are growing like weeds everywhere.

Be adventurous with your salad making, and include toppings such as shredded purple cabbage, carrots, peppers, beets, sunflower seeds, or dried cranberries. Top it all off with a homemade salad dressing, which is easy and fun to make!

 

Herbed Yogurt Dressing by Robin Forte

 

½ cup watercress

½ cup parsley

¾ cup plain yogurt

⅓ cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsps. dill, chopped

2 Tbsps. basil, chopped

1 Tbsp. mint, chopped

3 scallions, chopped

1 tsp. lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Blanch watercress and parsley in a small pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain, rinse in cold water, and squeeze out excess moisture. Cool. Transfer cooled watercress, parsley mixture and all other ingredients to a blender, and purée until smooth. Taste for salt and pepper.

 

Emily Armstrong is the preschool coordinator for Island Grown Schools, the Vineyard’s farm-to-school nonprofit. For more information, visit islandgrownschools.org.

Courtesy of Island Grown Schools

There are small changes happening in the natural world around us that herald the return of spring. The buds are beginning to swell on the trees, shadows are getting longer as the light returns, and the birds are singing in the woods. In response to all of these changes, the chickens are starting to lay more eggs. With many families and farmers raising chickens on Martha’s Vineyard, we celebrate the spring and eggs as our Harvest of the Month this March.

Though $7 a dozen might seem like a lot to spend on local eggs, that equals a little over 50 cents a portion, which makes eggs the most affordable source of local protein available. Pasture-raised eggs are a great source of many nutrients and minerals, such as omega-3 fatty acids, and the proof is in the yolk. Birds who are free to forage for bugs and graze on grass will have rich, orange yolks. A fresh egg will have a yolk that stands up, and a firm white that does not spread much.

Whip up this egg-drop soup to warm you on a chilly March day.

Spring Egg-Drop Soup

¼ cup olive oil

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 small scallions, chopped

4 cups vegetable stock

2½ cups mixed spring vegetables: asparagus cut into ½-inch pieces, sugar snap peas cut into ½-inch pieces, shelled peas, and chopped spinach leaves

2 eggs

1 Tbsp. mint leaves, chopped

1 Tbsp. chives, chopped

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat, add carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic and scallions, cook 1 minute. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add chopped spring vegetables and simmer until crisp and tender, about 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat eggs in a small bowl. Add mint and chives. Reduce heat to low and drizzle in egg mixture. Let stand 1 minute, then gently add lemon juice. Add salt to taste.

Emily Armstrong is the preschool coordinator for Island Grown Schools, the Vineyard’s farm-to-school nonprofit. For more information, visit islandgrownschools.org.

Courtesy of Island Grown Schools

Growing pea shoots on a sunny windowsill in February is the greatest antidote to chilly, snowy days. In defiance of the bitter cold, round little pea seeds send their white roots down into the soil, then shoot up into the air with a green stem and lush leaves. In less than two weeks you are rewarded with a sweet and tender pea shoot, to be eaten in salads, stuffed into sandwiches, or puréed into pesto.

Luckily for us, Martha’s Vineyard Organics, based in Oak Bluffs, grows pea shoots year-round in its greenhouses, and sells them at Cronig’s Market and Stop and Shop. They’re full of vitamins and antioxidants that support the immune system; try picking some up the next time you are at the grocery store.

We call pea shoots the “gateway vegetable,” because when we grow them in the classroom, children just eat them by the fistful until green juice is running down their faces. Try making this pea-shoot version of pesto, which is another kid-approved way to enjoy this delicious green!

Pea Shoot Pesto

Ingredients:

4 cups pea shoots

1 clove garlic, minced

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ tsp. salt

¼ cup olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor.

Serve with pasta, as a sandwich spread, or on crackers with cheese.

Emily Armstrong is the preschool coordinator for Island Grown Schools, the Vineyard’s farm-to-school nonprofit. For more information, visit islandgrownschools.org.

Courtesy of Island Grown Schools

In these colder months we turn to the pantry for our cooking inspiration: jars full of rice, barley, wheat berries, oats, and more. Whole grains are a great staple to use in baking bread, making hearty salads, and for warm breakfasts of porridge on a chilly day. When you eat unprocessed whole grains you are getting protein, minerals, and fiber that are converted into energy to sustain you through the day.

In 2013, Island Grown Schools began growing heritage grains with students in school gardens. We grew Turkey Red winter wheat, Duborskian-South River rice and two corns grown by native peoples in our region, Narragansett White Flint and King Phillip. Though we grew only small plots of these grains, this fall students were able to dry, shell, and grind corn into tortillas, and harvest rice and wheat stalks for seed to use next growing season. Students used their rice harvest in math class, and at one school they discovered that from just 15 plants they were able to harvest 2,580 seeds.

There are many ways to incorporate whole grains into your cooking. When baking, experiment with using up to half whole wheat flour in your favorite bread and cookie recipes. Prepare large amounts of whole grains such as quinoa and rice to heat up and enjoy throughout the week. Make a quick meal by mixing cooked wheat berries, quinoa, or rice with seasonal roasted vegetables, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

This January, choose whole grains in your kitchen, and harness all of the nutrition and flavor these mighty seeds have to offer. Try this:

Barley and Roasted Beet Salad from Harvest of the Month chef Robin Forte

Ingredients:

2 cups barley, cooked
1 lb. red beets, peeled, cubed, and roasted until tender
4 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. honey
½ tsp. allspice
Salt and pepper to taste
4 Tbs. olive oil
Chopped parsley for garnish

Roast beets in aluminum foil until tender, about 20 to 45 minutes depending on size. Combine all the ingredients, and top with fresh parsley.

Emily Armstrong is the preschool coordinator for Island Grown Schools. IGS works with children ages 2 through 18 to empower them to make healthy eating choices, learn to grow food, and connect with local farms. For more information, visit islandgrownschools.org.

Courtesy of Island Grown Schools
Courtesy of Island Grown Schools
Courtesy of Island Grown Schools

Each morning the frost-kissed grass becomes increasingly brown. Each day there is a little less sunlight, and leaves on trees are just a distant memory. Gardens look barren, but if you take a closer look you will often find dark green leaves of kale, collards, cabbages or Brussels sprouts peeking out from the under the frost. This December we celebrate a whole family of vegetables known as Brassicas, prized for their hardiness in cold weather.

Members of the Brassica family are planted at different times throughout the growing season. For example, kale can be planted in early spring and continually harvested through most of the winter. Other Brassicas, such as cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli, will grow for a while and produce a head which is its one harvest.

Through our work with nearly every school-aged child on the Island, we have yet to meet someone who did not like a kale chip. Easy and fun to make, they are a crunchy, savory snack that even self-professed non-vegetable eaters will enjoy. Most children even relish in telling us that they love to eat broccoli, often just steamed and added to pastas, salads, or curries. Next time you are looking for an exciting side dish, try drizzling cauliflower or Brussels sprouts with some olive oil and roasting in the oven until lightly browned.

Try making these family friendly kale chips at home:

Kale Chips

Ingredients:

A bunch of kale, washed

Olive oil

Salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Pick all of the kale leaves away from the stem. Tear them up into chip sized pieces.

3. Place kale pieces into a mixing bowl and drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil and add a dash of salt. Massage kale pieces until they are dark green and lightly coated in oil.

4. Spread kale pieces evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet and place into oven. After 10 minutes, take out the kale chips and give them a stir. Place back in the oven until crisp, but not burnt, about another 10 minutes.

For more serving ideas, shopping tips and recipes visit our website: islandgrownschools.org/harvest-of-the-month.

Sweet potatoes are the November Harvest of the Month.

November is the time of final harvests, putting the garden to bed for the winter, and cooking warm, comforting foods to keep out the chill. This month, we celebrate sweet potatoes, one of the last crops to come out of the garden, and a food that can be stored in a cool, dark place (like a garage or pantry) through most of the winter.

Sweet potatoes are an incredibly interesting plant to grow in the garden. They grow from slips, the shoots that are cultivated from a mature sweet potato. Some gardeners grow slips just by placing a sweet potato in water, and then removing the resulting shoot for planting. Once you plant the slips, they produce beautiful, lush vines that fill up the garden bed. Sweet potatoes need at least four months of warm weather to grow, and it is well worth the wait. The real fun comes when you dig up the sweet potatoes, often to find huge, interestingly shaped orange roots hiding under the ground.

A star in the kitchen and on the table, the sweet potato can be enjoyed in many delicious ways: roasted whole and served as a side to any meal, cut up to make oven fries, sautéd with onion and pepper for hash, or baked with apples and cinnamon for desert. This month we are serving up sweet potato and black bean salad to students at all seven of the public schools on the Island for our Harvest of the Month taste test. Try making it at home:

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad recipe by Robin Forte

2 large sweet potatoes, (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 can black beans drained and rinsed

1/3 cup olive oil

4 Tbs. fresh lime juice, plus the zest

1 large red pepper, chopped

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

3 Tbs. honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350. Toss cubed sweet potatoes with 2 Tbs. olive oil. Roast in the oven until tender, 10-15 minutes. Cool. In a large bowl combine the cooled, cooked sweet potato, red pepper, cilantro and black beans. In a small bowl combine lime juice, lime zest, honey and remaining olive oil. Add the honey-lime dressing to the sweet potato mixture plus salt and pepper to taste.

Cranberries growing at Vineyard Open Land Foundation. —Photo courtesy Emily Duncker

This October, we celebrate the cranberry: one of only three fruits native to North America in commercial cultivation. There are reports of people growing 150-year-old cranberry plants on perennial evergreen vines in acidic bogs year in and year out. Cranberries have a long history on our Island, one that we are looking forward to exploring in the classroom with students.

New this year to our Harvest of the Month program, we will feature a local grower or producer for each crop of the year. This month, we feature Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF). VOLF is hard at work harvesting cranberries from the bog off Lambert’s Cove Road, which they have been restoring in recent years. VOLF grows Early Blacks, a heritage variety of cranberry. They are available for sale from VOLF, at Morning GloryFarm, Cronig’s Market, Tisbury Farm Market, and Alley’s General Store.

Experiment with ways to enjoy fresh cranberries: crush them and add to seltzer, add in the last few minutes of cooking oatmeal, make a savory cranberry/jalapeno salsa, or bake them with squash. Fresh cranberries are really only available in October and November, but the good news is that you can just toss a full plastic bag into the freezer to use whenever you crave that tart and refreshing taste.

Try this recipe for roasted cranberries with thyme. It’s delicious stirred into rice with toasted pecans, piled on top of roasted squash, or as a side dish with roasted meats.

Roasted Cranberries with Thyme

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh cranberries

2 tsp. olive oil

2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

1 Tbs. honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all ingredients together and stir until well combined.

Roast on a baking sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes until soft and slightly caramelized. (Recipe adapted from Bon Apetit).

We would love to hear any cranberry stories you have as we begin to build our curriculum around this fascinating crop. Find us on Facebook at Island Grown Schools or visit our website islandgrownschools.org.

Local tomatoes from Ghost Island Farm in West Tisbury.

We are back where it all began: the tomato. Three years ago Island Grown Schools started a Harvest of the Month program to highlight a locally available crop each month of the year in school cafeterias, restaurants, and grocery stores. The goal is to help children, their caregivers, and the broader community learn more about healthy, seasonal, whole-foods eating while supporting local farms.

HarvestofMonth_Tomatoes_September_2014.jpgThe first-ever crop we featured was the tomato, the late-summer treasure of the garden and farmer’s market. From extra-sweet little cherry tomatoes, to multicolored heirlooms, to large slicing tomatoes, there are so many different types to try. Full of antioxidants, lycopene, and vitamins A and C, these sweet fruits are a healthy treat. This month in the schools we brought in different types of tomatoes to try with students. Children as young as 2 years old were voting for their favorite tomato, usually the Sungold cherry.

There are so many ways to incorporate fresh local tomatoes into your cooking. They are a great staple for making many different types of salsas and sauces, and for adding to soups. Fresh chopped tomatoes can be used for kabobs with cheese and cucumber, or can be tossed with basil and balsamic for an instant side dish. Visit a local farm stand or the farmers’ market to pick up a variety of different tomatoes, try each one, and decide which is your favorite.

Have a bumper crop of tomatoes? Try making this Slow Roasted Tomato recipe by Harvest of the Month chef Robin Forte.

 

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • A sprig or two of fresh thyme leaves, picked and finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Put tomatoes cut-side up on a large four-sided sheet pan. Sprinkle tomatoes with the minced garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Season lightly with salt and ground black pepper. Roast in the oven 6 to 8 hours. Cool. Will store in a sealed container in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Emily Duncker is the preschool coordinator for Island Grown Schools. IGS works with nearly every school-age child on the Island, ages 2 through 18, to empower them to make healthy eating choices, learn to grow food, and connect with local farms. For more information, visit islandgrownschools.org.

Ripe strawberries spell summer on Martha's Vineyard. — Courtesy Emily Duncker

A freshly picked strawberry, juicy, ripe, and warmed by the sun, is the taste of the summer solstice. This month we celebrate strawberries as June’s Harvest of the Month. They are one of the first fruits to be ready in the garden and their sweetness is such a welcome treat to mark the beginning of summer.

Strawberries are a perennial crop, fairly easy to grow in the garden, and will come back every year with just a little bit of work.

Strawberry plants fall into four categories: June-bearing, Ever-bearing, Day-neutral, and Alpine. June-bearing varieties produce one very large crop towards the end of June and are the best if you’d like a quantity with which to make jams. Ever-bearing varieties usually produce two smaller sized crops, one in June and another later in the season. Day-neutral varieties, a personal favorite, produce a small amount of strawberries throughout the season, but stop briefly when it is very hot. Lastly, Alpine strawberries produce a continuous supply of very tiny but incredibly delicious strawberries.

To ensure success with strawberries year after year make sure to weed the bed and control the runners they send out. There’s even a special “strawberry planter” that you can pick up at garden stores to grow plants in a container on your patio.

Try this Strawberry Vinaigrette recipe from Harvest of the Month chef Robin Forte the next time you make a salad.

Strawberry Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

2 cups strawberries, sliced

1 Tbs. sugar or sweetener of your choice

1/3 cup vinegar (white, cider, red wine, rice, sherry, or white balsamic work well)

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Combine strawberries, sugar, and vinegar in a sauce-pan, cook until berries are soft (3 to 5 minutes). Cool slightly, puree strawberry mixture in the blender and slowly add in olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For more information on Harvest of the Month and Island Grown Schools, visit islandgrownschools.org.

Emily Duncker is the Preschool Coordinator for Island Grown Schools.