Once again, summer is nearly over. I hate to complain, but this one has been especially cold and foggy. Or maybe I just chose the wrong weeks to travel and missed all the sun. Either way, the plants in my garden are struggling - there are a few flowers, some raspberries, brussels sprouts, apples and a few straggly carrots ready to eat. I have a feeling that more than lack of the sun in the sky, this garden suffered at the hands of my own son, who enjoys tormenting me by changing settings on the irrigation timer.
"Why don't you just stop being so lazy and get out and water with a hose?" you might wonder. And that is a very reasonable thing to ask, which brings me to some news. I just finished up editing and web publishing lessons for the Edible Schoolyard Project over in Berkeley, which is why I have excused myself from properly attending to my garden (and my kids) for the past few months.
Over the last 20 years the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley has done a wonderful job of building a school garden program that really works, and now, as the Edible Schoolyard Project, they are helping to build a larger edible education movement. By sharing resources and creating places for related dialogue - on their website, at their yearly conference and also at a lecture series they co-sponsor each fall - the Edible Schoolyard Project is empowering teachers, gardeners, parents and kids throughout the world to consider how their choices about food affect their health, the environment and their communities.
School gardens are one of those new-fangled-old-fashioned things that are back in style lately. In a garden classroom staffed with good teachers, students can learn valuable life skills and core curriculum subjects in a hands-on environment that offers more physical activity and room for investigation than a traditional classroom. Here are a few current articles that support this:
- Research from Cornell University says school gardens help children like to eat healthy food, perform better on achievement tests, build community and a whole bunch of other things.
- Two norwegian authors write in Evolutionary Psychology that a lack of "risky play", or what most children do outdoors in the garden, causes neuroticism or psychopathology.
- The center for Ecoliteracy explains how school gardens really do help our students.
On a recent weekend away from school gardens, I took my family to visit another garden, in search of good toast. Lately I've been serving lots of simple foods at my house, to save time so that I can work more (sound familiar?). Toast is one of them. It is a wonderful snack for children, and with a piece of fruit it makes a great meal for someone as old and stagnant as myself, especially after eating a hearty lunch or when expecting a substantial dinner. For this particular toast we drove all the way to the town of Freestone, a place with no fog, where the sun shines every day and people get sweaty without having to do much at all.
In this part of Sonoma county there is a beautiful garden, outside the doors of the Wild Flour Bakery, where berries sparkle like sugarplums and sunflowers grow larger than my husband. Inside the bakery, the scones are always delicious, the coffee adequate for outside the city and on the day we arrived, whole grain loaves full of golden raisins and cardamom (called the Occidental) were fresh baked and for sale - not something one finds every day. The woman behind the counter suggested we try one, "it makes really great toast," she said. And she was right - it does.
Slices of the best bread you can find
Here's the secret to toast - the butter brings fat, which enhances the flavor of the bread, and using unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of salt - as much or as little as you'd like. Put a slice in your toaster or toaster oven until it is just a little bit crunchy when you push down on the top, it is usually too late if the toast begins to brown - then the squishy bread inside is dry and not good. Spread some butter on top, make sure it melts, sprinkle on salt. Enjoy!