This fall, students at PS 57 in East Harlem have taken full advantage of the beautiful weather and fresh produce growing in their school garden.
Who would have imagined that a small courtyard in the New York City would produce a vibrant pumpkin vine with over 50 cheerful blossoms? Not the students at PS 57 as they hop, skip, and play in their overflowing garden. Julia, our enthusiastic Hort educator and school gardener extraordinaire often hears exclamations of “Look at the size of that leaf!” or “Whoa, what is that plant?” She considers herself lucky to visit twice a week to tend the crops, lead hands-on lessons, and teach about healthy, nutritious vegetables.
Not only do the students get their hands dirty to dig, plant, and grow produce, they eat it too! On a recent visit, students prepared sautéed pumpkin blossoms stuffed with herbed ricotta, with chives and basil harvested fresh from the garden. Classes of 25 students, were divided into work groups: a). Pumpkin Blossom Partners b). Chive Chopping Committee c). Bureau of Basil Selection and the d). Chamber of Chard.
The Bureau of Basil Selection cautiously harvested herbs for the Chive Chopping Committee, who in turn washed and minced nimbly to mix with fresh ricotta. Meanwhile, the Pumpkin Blossom Partners gently washed the flowers, checked for rogue ants and carefully removed the flower’s stamen. The Chamber of Chard worked simultaneously to find the biggest, most impressive leafs for the healthy side dish.
Once each division reported their task complete, the pumpkin blossoms were stuffed with the herb ricotta filling and lightly sautéed in olive oil. The sautéed swiss chard and garlic provided a healthy, palate pleaser – surprisingly more popular and nearly stealing the show! None of the students had ever eaten a flower before, but by the end of the class, they were in love!
The following week, students set to work harvesting the rest of the herbs to store and dry. Bunches of rosemary, sage, thyme, and lavender were wrapped in big bundles and hung throughout their classrooms – a unique take-home in a few weeks. Though the garden was put to rest for the winter, the kids have fond memories and tasty herbs to share with their friends and family.
If you want to visit the Garden of Dreams for yourself, it is on East 115th Street, between Park and 3rd Avenues. Happy Harvesting!
Do you want to eat like a 3rd grader? Check out their recipe below:
Pumpkin Flowers with Herbed Ricotta Recipe
- One dozen fresh pumpkin blossoms
- 1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs. Fresh basil, chopped
- 1 Tbs. Fresh chives, chopped
- 1 pinch o’ salt
- 1 pinch o’ pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil for sautéeing the blossoms
- Mix ricotta cheese with finely chopped garlic, chives, and basil
- Stuff the filling into the pumpkin flower
- Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan
- Lightly sauté the flowers for a few minutes until golden and crispy
- Enjoy with a friend!