Friday, October 16, 2009

Sweet Potatoes!

It's been a long time that we've been waiting to harvest our sweet potatoes. They require anywhere from 100 to 140 days to mature, depending upon their variety. Ours were somewhere in the middle. We were holding off until we had the perfect setting in which to harvest them and it was well worth it - our visiting SPROUT group from Tree of Life Public Charter School were besides themselves with excitement.

While all vegetables are exciting to harvest, there is something particularly magical to children about pulling unseen roots and tubers from their home in the dark, rich soil. Our viney sweet potatoes seemed like a jungle, which added another element of wonder.

The children learned about sweet potatoes (they are native to the Americas, while yams are native to Africa) and how nutritious they are (loaded with Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber). Then we set to work digging. Youth garden adult staff members used pitch forks to loosen up the soil, being careful not to puncture the sweet potatoes we couldn't see. Then the children spread out and dug around until they found the buried treasure, usually letting us know they have found something by way of a very loud but excited scream.

Since we let our sweet potatoes stay in the ground for a long time, some were as big as footballs. Most were a manageable size though. We gave the largest one to the children to take back and have in their classroom and will donate the rest to a local soup kitchen.


Hello, my name is Jonathon Gliss. I'm 17 years old and I am a student assistant at the Washington Youth Garden. During the summer I was the first Youth Intern at the Washington Youth Garden. I weeded, harvested, and helped with a lot of the garden projects, and even was the camp counselor for the children at The Seed to Supper Program. I had never had a job like this and didn't know what to expect.
I got involved with the Washington Youth Garden through an organization I was in called The Ports Town Youth Council. The Ports Town Youth Council, is an organization run by Rev. Gail Addison. PTYC members are children selected by their schools or community leaders to act as the voice of community youth in their homes, neighborhoods, schools, churches and civic organizations. We are partners with Kaiser Permanente and their Healthy Eating Active Living Initiative. So this summer we all had to find summer jobs that deal with our health. Since I wanted to get a degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service management, I was chosen to work at the Washington Youth Garden.

The first day I got here I met Chris Turse (Garden Coordinator), and Kaifa Anderson-Hall (Program Director). On my first day I had weeded a whole section at the end of the garden. By the end of the day I was so sore. I was sure that this would be a long boring summer. But as the first week went by, things started to grow on me and I was loving the Garden. My second week I met the Seed to Supper kids. I instantly connected with a few kids. I taught them and they taught me. Teaching them about plants and vegetables was a joy. They would always have a question or clever comment and I think that's what made it so fun. Sometimes I think the children listen to me better than they did the adults. I also had the opportunity to work with Chef Carla Hall who was a contestant on Top Chef. She has supported the Seed to Supper program for four years. On my last day I got to do something I never thought I would do. I gave a cooking demonstration for the kids. It was so cool and they were so amazed. I made a vegetable medley. They loved it and kept asking for more.
The Washington Youth Garden helped me do something I always dreamed of doing. This has been the coolest job I ever had. I have decided to come back and work here part time until I graduate in May. This has changed my life for the best. I have done things that will help me and benefit me when I go off to college. So I would like to thank the Youth Garden for everything they have done for me.