Guest Post: Youth in the Garden – Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre IV

carrots Crouch

The Crouch Youth continue their success in the garden. Have a look at their harvest and hear their impressions of the experience.

Today I found a cucumber in our garden close to the squash. It is not ready but I am sure it will be ready by the end of next week!

Our squash has been growing very well. Multiple flowers have bloomed. We harvested one squash today it is about 10cm long and is a green-yellow colour. It looks delicious and probably will be too yummy!


Purple Beans
Today will be my last blog for this year’s Summer Splash. So therefore I must finish off in a colourful style featuring purple beans as my blog topic. The beans have been ready for a while but now they are perfect to harvest today. Picture a regular green bean, just purple! They taste the exact same as a regular bean too. These cute little fellas add the perfect amount of taste and style to any salad. I can’t wait to eat them!—Josh

The potatoes are growing very well, they are still very small but I bet by the

time we are done in the garden for the winter they will be very big. The Summer Splash program has been working very hard in the garden and all of the vegetables are looking very good. –Sierra

kale- CrouchAnd people say kids grow fast, well so do plants! The corn that was planted in June is huge! So I think by the end of August they will be done and ready to eat.–Alex

Michael Pollan talks about his new book

“Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”  Recently, I attended a talk at The Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto to see CBC’s Matt Galloway interview sustainable food champion Michael Pollan.   Many of you will recognize those words from his bestselling book In Defence of Food  – An Eaters Manifesto as well as,  “Eat Food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  Pollan’s voice is a prominent one in today’s discourse around food.  His new book Cooked  explores why our society has handed the control over what we eat to large corporations that process food and run restaurant chains. 

Summer Quinoa Salad underway

Summer Quinoa Salad underway

Now he had turned his attention to the act of cooking.  One of the most common reasons people give for not cooking is “I don’t have time.”  Pollan contends that we’ve carved out some time over the last 10 years to spend 2 hours per day online.  Where did we find that time?   Interestingly, we’ve taken it from watching TV and yes- from cooking.  The amount of time that people spend preparing their meals has dropped to 27 minutes a day.  That’s down by half since the mid-sixties.  This is less time, he points out, than it takes to watch an episode of Top Chef!   Clearly, cooking our meals has become somewhat of a spectator sport based on the number and variety of cooking shows and competitions on our various TV channels.

Why should we care?  There are so many reasons.  Statistics about diet-related obesity and disease abound.  In the book, Pollan poses this question to a veteran food industry researcher:   If there was just one thing our society could do to repair the damage industrially prepared food has done to our diet,  what would it be?  ‘Cook it yourself’ was the answer.  But his industry is banking on the assumption that most people will continue to rely on convenience foods, or as they call them, home-meal replacements. (Doesn’t that sound delicious?)  What we do know is that cooking skills are not being passed down from generation to generation.  Our Grow Cook Learn program aims to fill that skill gap.  Eating home cooked meals around the table give us more than just calories and nutrition.  It is a time to commune with the people we love.  “The shared meal is no small thing”, Pollan says “It is the foundation of family life, the place where our children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civilization:  sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating differences, arguing without offending.”  

I’m just digging into this book and I can see that when it comes to food, this is where our collective focus needs to be right now.  As we concentrate on the act of cooking, we engage more closely with our natural world.  We consider how and where our food grows, how much it costs and how it impacts the environment.  Pollan acknowledges that there is a continuum between ‘cooking from scratch’ and eating a meal out of box.  He encourages us to move toward the former by cooking “a few more nights a week than you already do, or devote a Sunday to making a few meals for the week, or perhaps to try every now and again to make something you only ever expected to buy…”  You could basic-vinaigrette-rs-1074710-xstart small – how about salad dressing?  As I read on, I can see that Michael Pollan’s own transformation is something I can relate to in my own efforts to make more time to cook and in the breakthroughs I see in our Grow Cook Learn classes.  We hope to see you in one of our upcoming workshops.  You might have a breakthrough of your own.

Looking forward to spring

We can’t wait to get our hands in the soil to begin a new gardening season.  Thames GreensSpring brings rebirth, new growth and many possibilities.  Last year, despite very dry conditions, our Community Gardeners produced amazing results.  We hope the weather will be more forgiving this year.

As we plan our new Grow Cook Learn sessions we can’t help but reminisce about our experiences over the past year.  Our cooking sessions brought community gardeners, old friends and new friends into the kitchen to  connect the dots between the garden, fresh food  and living well.

Our Pumpkins and Squash class demystified these seasonal treats.  Because there  are so many varieties and each has their own their unique taste and GCL 138texture, we decided to do a tasting.  I think we all found new favourites.  Dianne served up spaghetti squash plus a fantastic casserole made with butternut squash, apples and onions. The great lesson here was that this casserole became part of a warm salad with greens and goat cheese and also an easy creamy soup made in the blender.  The class demonstrated the versatility of this affordable vegetable.

Chef Chad demonstrated how to make biscuits during our soups and stew class.  Then it was our turn.  The hands on experience is valued by all.  Chad is Chef, a Community GCL Chad with ParticipantsGardener and valued volunteer ready to share his experiences in the garden as well as the kitchen.  We all love coming together and having the chance to talk about cooking and gardening with our classmates.  The best part (besides the sampling!) is when we come back to the next class to find that so many are incorporating new foods and trying out their new found skills and recipes at home.

Our Grow Cook Learn program gave the opportunity for small corporate groups to come into our Knowledge Garden at Riverforks to help with a little weeding, ask lots of questions and the best part of all, do some harvesting.  When you get a group of people out from behind their Sept 7 w CIBC Mellon signdesks to get their hands in the soil the dialogue shifts from reports and deadlines to new conversations about eating fresh food, enjoying the outdoors and sharing with our community.  Another great story from last season was about a group of employees from CIBC Mellon the came together to grow fresh food for the London Food Bank. We are looking forward to hosting more community members as we come together to  Grow, Cook, Learn!
























CFAs are spreading the Grow Cook Learn philosopy

LCRC and the Community Food Advisors (CFAs) spent the last few weeks with Lynda who facilitates positive parenting sessions (MAPP) at various locations around the city of London.

We love to get out in the community to spread the Grow Cook Learn philosophy.  Our topics were Cooking with Kids, Healthy Eating on a Budget and Vegetarian Cooking.  During our sessions, the same themes came up again and again.  We are all looking for time-saving strategies and great ideas for incorporating fresh, whole foods into our diets.  We all agreed that home cooking is the key to saving money and eating healthy food that tastes really good.  Not only that, the home kitchen is a place where we can pass important knowledge on to the next generation.  It’s where we have those discussions about where our food comes from and how to make our own healthy meals.  Children are often more willing to eat foods they had a hand in preparing.  The kitchen is a hotbed of learning!  Children are reading, organizing, and doing math and science.  Many of our participants had great ideas to share.  Who doesn’t love to talk about food?

On the menu:  smoothies, apple dip and fruit parfaits.   Featuring some reliable staples: plain yogurt, milk, apples, frozen fruit, maple syrup (or honey), homemade granola and cinnamon.

Smoothie Time

It’s Smoothie Time! 

Smoothies are very versatile- about a cup of fresh/frozen/canned fruit, 1/2 cup of milk, 6 oz  of yogurt and voila!  A healthy and delicious drink.    Many of you like to include some healthy additions such as ground flaxseed or ground oatmeal.  It’s up to you.

The apple dip was a real hit:  Combine about a cup of yogurt a teaspoon of maple syrup or honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Just make it the way you like it.  It’s our new favourite snack around here!  (Thank you to our friend Dianne for inspiring this simple and delicious recipe.) You can then layer this mixture with granola and fruit for a colourful breakfast or dessert.  Perfect for little hands to dig in and help.  Creativity in the kitchen is part of the fun.  Have a look at these beautiful parfaits from CBC’s Stefano Faita.  The jars are a nice touch.  Granola is very easy to make at home.  You can control the sweetness (we used maple syrup) and the ingredients based on likes/dislikes/allergies.  Some of you may wish to make it without nuts so it’s safe to send to school.  There are lots of recipes out there, find one that  suits your tastes and ingredients you have on hand in the pantry.

Thank you to our CFAs, helpers and friends:  Lynda, Linda, Christine S., Christine L., and Swathi.  Our heartfelt appreciation goes out to the parents and kids for your participation.