Saturday, January 30, 2010

Youth Garden, Take 1

“Nono, no. I’m driving the car and holding the broccoli so that I can eat it when I need more energy, and then see, there’s the transporters so that I can go into the zone where I pick up as much broccoli as I can so then it just appears when I need more because racing is hard and you need a lot of energy and broccoli is good at giving you energy and there’s the swimming pool in the middle of the racetrack. And did you know that your name is my name but mine’s in French?”

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in third grade. In retrospect, it was silly of me to assume that the person-sized broccoli stalk with a face, sitting in the driver’s seat, was driving the car. As Andre dutifully pointed out moments later, broccoli don’t even have thumbs. Too true, Andre. Too true. Thankfully, he, a member of Ms. Harris’s third grade class at the Center City Public Charter School in Trinidad, didn’t make me feel too stupid at my outlandish suggestion. It was, after all, our first day in the classroom, and everybody wants to make friends on the first day.

I’m the new guy at the Washington Youth Garden, an educational nonprofit based out of the National Arboretum (one of the true jewels of the nations capital), which has been inspiring children and families to explore their relationships with food and nature for way longer than urban gardening has been cool. Established in 1971, the WYG manages a one-acre vegetable garden at the arboretum and runs a variety of interdisciplinary, hands-on educational programming.

Specifically, I am working with the Garden Science program, which, in its 8th year of operation, includes an 8-week environmental science and nutrition curriculum in six 3rd and 4th grade D.C. elementary school classrooms.* An exciting new aspect of the program is one in which we construct vegetable gardens with the students, at their respective schools, to be maintained by our students. The program culminates in a trip to our garden at the Arboretum, where the students finally get to let eight weeks worth of suppressed energy and excitement come flooding out. They rampage around the garden, playing with dirt, picking up bugs, and of course, productively observing and working in the garden.

There are a great many reasons why the Garden Science program is a wonderful service to the greater community and an integral asset to the local/sustainable/urban/whatever you want to call it movement that is currently whipping winds of progress around the DC area. Environmental education. Informal learning. Inspiring hope. Nutrition education. Respectfully informing children that neither pizza nor shrimp are vegetables. Smiling. Empowering children. Planting seeds. The list goes on. Embedded among the myriad justifications of Garden Science is the simple fact that the WYG is doing good work for good reasons, and have been doing so for nearly 40 years. Shazam.

Personally, I am excited to have the chance to be working with kids in a gardensciencey-infused atmosphere. To see the smiles that light up their faces at the mention of growing seeds and visiting our garden. To suppress my smiles when their faces scrunch and distort with the desperate straight-armed fingerwiggle maneuver, so desperate to provide answers to our questions. To see the potential in each and every child in the classroom. To get to know the students, and give them something to believe in.

Right, so why do you care what I have to say? I’m getting there.

Relatively speaking, I’m a rookie in this game. For me, youth garden/science education is the latest stop on a ‘tour,’ of sorts, of work around the theme of food and agriculture. So, as I spend time in the classroom, getting to know the kids and re-assimilating to the 3rd grade wavelength, I’ll make my best attempt to exhibit one of the fundamental pillars of successful classroom behavior: sharing.

Throughout my stint at the WYG, I will be writing weekly(ish) updates on the progress, content, and any or all funny, heart wrenching, politically or socially applicable, fun, thought provoking, visually appealing and/or silly bouts of creativity–like Eric’s ApplejuicePiemachine, a complex contraption involving quantum physics and elaborate engineering that consists of an apple-shaped central chamber that can dispense apple cinnamon, apple pies, apple cider, apple juice, apple trees, and of course, apples, at one’s convenience…but I digress–that come from our regular classroom visits. I’d like to think of this as a kind of window through which one can get an insider’s view of the Garden Science project. I hereby invite you to join in on the fun.

If you have any questions, comments, general concerns, or inquiries into the feasibility of re-creating the ApplejuicePiemachine for commercial purposes, you can contact me at

*The Garden Science program serves two classes in each of the following schools:

Imagine Hope Community Charter School

Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School

Center City Public Charter School, Trinidad Campus

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vegetable of the Month

Green Beans !!!!!!

Hello, my name is Jonathon Gliss and I’m the youth intern at the Washington Youth Garden. I introduced myself in my last blog called “BEST SUMMER JOB EVER!!!!!!! Since I want to go to school for culinary arts and since I loved to cook. I decided to have a Vegetable of the Month section. I will pick the vegetables and give you some recipes for them. The vegetable I have chosen for this month is green beans. I hope you enjoy. But before you do, please read the background information below.

Green beans belong to the plant family called Leguminosae. Researchers discovered that they originated from a common bean in Peru. The green bean was introduced to other parts of the Americas by migrating Indian tribes from that region. The green bean was first introduced to Europeans in the 16th century by Spanish explorers returning from the New World.

Green Beans and Radish Salad

Green beans

Radishes, trimmed and sliced

¼ cup oil

¼ cup vinegar

2 clovers of garlic, pressed or finely chopped

1 teaspoon mustard

Steam or boil beans until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Allow beans to cool down. Combine beans and sliced radishes in bowl. Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add dressing to beans and radishes. Season to taste and enjoy!

Veggie Medley

Green beans (whole)


¼ cup of chopped onions

2 tbsp of butter

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp of thyme (dried)

1 tbsp of parsley (dried)

¼ cup of balsamic vinegar

2tsp of salt

2tsp of pepper

Take a skillet and coat it with butter. Sauté string beans, corn, garlic and onions in a skillet for eight minutes. Then add thyme and parsley. Reduce the heat on low. Add balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Season to taste and enjoy!

Green bean Casserole

1 can of Cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 tbsp ground black pepper

4 cups cooked cut green beans

1 1/3 cups French fried onions

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup chopped red pepper

Stir the Cream of Mushroom, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, shredded cheese, beans, red peppers and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Bake at 350°F, for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining onions. Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

Green Bean Salad

1. 5 cups cut green beans

2. 1/2 cup vegetable oil

3. 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

4. salt and pepper

5. salad greens

6. 4 to 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Cook green beans; drain and let cool. Combine green beans with oil, vinegar, and seasonings. Serve green bean salad on salad greens and sprinkle with crumbled bacon. This green bean salad serves 6 to 8.

Garlic-Sesame String Beans

2 pounds of green Beans

2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter at room temperature

1 Tablespoon Garlic minced

2 Tablespoons Sesame Seeds


Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan.
Wash the string beans and cut off the stem ends. When the water has reached a rolling boil, plunge in the string beans and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes, until they are firm but crisp. Heat the butter in a medium size-skillet. When it is foamy add the garlic and sesame seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is slightly browned. Add the string beans and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the string beans are coated with the garlic and sesame seeds.

Friday, January 15, 2010

winter at the Arboretum

Even though it's pretty sleepy around here, the Arboretum is just as beautiful over the winter. Here are some pictures from our recent wanderings through the conifer collection, which is our program director Kaifa's favorite collection.

Above: the metasequoia grove.
Above: the coolest tree ever - a blue aster weeping cedar.

Above: see, the Anacostia can look nice!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Grow Rack Video

Learn How To Build Your Own Grow Rack!!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Better In Season

written by Jonathan Gliss, youth intern

Fruits and vegetables are extremely nutritious and you should try to eat a wide variety every day. The new food pyramid guide-suggests eating 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit a day. Regardless of what type of vegetables or fruit you eat, where it came from, or how it was grown, to maintain good health it is important to know these key facts. Many fruit and vegetables help you fight off sickness while others help you maintain your memory. For example kale and carrots are packed with beta-carotene, an important nutrient for good vision. Oranges are full of vitamin C, which helps fight off the cold and flu. Greens, like broccoli and cabbage help to stop cramps of legs and arms.

Even though all vegetables are beneficial to your body and mind, I heard a saying that wraps it up the best. An anonymous farmer once said, “Eating any vegetable at all is good, eating organic vegetables is better, and eating local/seasonal vegetables is best”. The reasoning behind this is that if you get a vegetable or fruit that is not in season, it usually means that it traveled hundreds of miles before arriving at your market. They are probably, not fresh. Can you believe that some vegetables are picked immature so they won’t spoil as fast? Not only does this affect the fresh taste and aroma of your fruits and vegetables, it causes vitamin degradation and nutrient loss. If you buy locally and in season, there is a better chance of the veggies/fruits being fresh and healthier for you.

Coming Soon.......Vegetables of the Month, With Recipes!!!!!