Edible Omaha

CHILDREN'S GARDEN

KIDS

Cultivating Creativity
By Summer Miller
Photography by Carole Topalian

Gardening with children can be a wonderful experience. All it requires is a few tips, a little creativity and willingness to get dirty. At Edible Omaha, we’ve compiled a list of garden ideas, resources and tips to make this year’s growing season a great one for you and your kids. A theme garden is a wonderful way to engage kids in lessons about healthy eating habits, the alphabet or their five senses.

Grow Your Own Pizza

If you have the space to spare, planting a garden in the shape of a pizza slice is a fun and easy way to get kids excited about digging in the dirt and helping with dinner. Use sticks or whatever you have around the house to stake the area, then plant vegetables and herbs that would go on your child’s favorite piece of pizza—oregano, basil, garlic, tomatoes, onion and peppers are a great place to start. Remember, this is about letting go and having fun, not about perfection. If your children want to plant some cheese to see what will happen, let them. When the time comes to harvest the fruits of your labor remind your children that they grew the food you are eating. Then celebrate with a pizza picnic by your garden.

Plant an Animal Garden

Many plants have animal-related common names like zebra grass, lamb’s ear, elephant ear, bee balm and the butterfly bush. A quick Internet search will yield lots of plants with animal names. Better yet, suit up in safari gear and take your children to the nursery in search of wild animals. Animal gardens are wonderful conversation starters with children.  “Why do you suppose that grass is called zebra grass?” Animal gardens are even great on rainy days.  Gather some popsicle or craft sticks and draw the animals needed for your plant zoo as homemade plant markers. The next sunny day, head outside to identify your plants and put your freshly decorated markers in the ground.

Explore Your Senses

It could be argued that every garden is a sensory garden, but taking the extra effort to help children explore their sense of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell can teach valuable lessons all season long.  Assuming your children won’t taste every leaf and blossom, feel free to mix food and nonfood plants. Herbs are a natural choice for the taste part. Try to select those that your children might want to sample, like mint in iced tea or basil on pizza. At the nursery, let your children choose their favorite colors and beautiful bloomers to help them learn about sight and smell. Remember to select opposing textures, like lamb’s ear for something soft and prickly and succulents for something rough. Sound might seem more difficult to come by, but on a windy day, the breeze blowing through tall grasses can create quite the symphony.

Pot Your Garden

Not everyone has the backyard for a garden, but that doesn’t mean the opportunity is lost. Potted herbs on a windowsill or porch work just as well, especially when using food themes. Grow peppermint, dry the leaves and drink peppermint tea. Strawberries, lettuce and even tomatoes (if you have plenty of light) will work well in potted gardens. Keep in mind that potted gardens tend to dry out quickly and will require daily watering, especially during peak summer months. When purchasing pots, don’t forget kid- and adult-size watering cans.

Support Your Community Garden

If pots or plants in your own backyard are simply not an option, or even if they are, you might want to join in the fun of a community garden. Some counties, such as Douglas County, Nebraska, have organized programs where those eager and with access to the Internet can search for a garden in their neighborhoods. Call your county extension office and ask if someone can help you find a community garden in your neighborhood.

Douglas County is home to more than 50 community gardens.  Such neighborhood spaces create opportunities for those who live in apartments, have too much shade in their yards, or have neighborhood covenants that prevent vegetable gardening. Members pay a fee to rent a garden plot for the growing season. Signups usually begin in March and go through April. Those inspired to start or join a garden in Douglas County can go to this web address, DouglasCounty-NE.gov/gardens/community-garden-info, to find a host of information, including tips and resources specific to gardening with children. Search the site to find a garden in your neighborhood, access toolkits and checklists to start your own garden, or search an address to see who owns the land and if it has been tested for lead.

Check Out Books and Online Resources

Your local library is a great resource for kids gardening projects. The Omaha Public Library recommends two books for those who want to research a little further on gardening with children. Kids’ Container Gardening: Year-round projects for inside and out by Cindy Krezel and The Family Kitchen Garden: How to plant, grow and cook together by Karen Liebreich, Jutta Wagner and Annette Wendland. The latter provides seasonal recipes and month-by-month planting guides. For those who want to check out a website or two visit www.KidsGardening.org , www.MoreNature.info or www.SproutRobot.com

Summer Miller is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Every Day with Rachel Ray, Eating Well, AAA Living, The Reader and more websites than room to note. She lives with her husband and two children in Elkhorn, Nebraskawhere she spends most of her time thinking and writing about food. You can contact her at miller.summer@gmail.com

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SPRING GREENS SALAD WITH HONEY-GINGER DRESSING

Serving: 4–6

Salad:

1 pound asparagus (about 1 bunch), washed and trimmed

6 cups mixed fresh spring greens

5 scallions, sliced

1 cup chopped fresh vegetables (carrots,

celery, mushrooms and/or radishes)

Dressing:

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon rice

vinegar, divided

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon honey

Salt and pepper

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Add asparagus to boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer asparagus to an ice bath. Drain.  Mix greens, scallions and asparagus in a large bowl. Add vegetables. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, lemon juice, ginger, honey and salt. Drizzle dressing over salad, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Adapted from www.MarthaStewart.com

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SPRING ASPARAGUS VELOUTÉ SOUP

Serving: 4–5

6 cups water

1 pound asparagus (about 1 bunch), washed and trimmed

2 cloves garlic, chopped

¾ stick unsalted butter

¾ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

This recipe is by Sara DeMars Cerasoli, who wanted to create a recipe that represented her cooking style and pays homage to her alma mater, The French Culinary Institute.

In medium soup pot, bring the water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to a boil. Once the water boils, add the garlic and the asparagus and simmer for 1 minute. Remove the asparagus from the water and place in a bowl of ice water to cool quickly. Do not discard asparagus cooking liquid.

In a small saucepan, melt butter. Blend in flour, continuing to stir and cook slowly until completely incorporated. While stirring, cook for another 2 minutes without browning the mixture. Turn off heat. This mixture is now called roux.

Bring asparagus cooking liquid back to a simmer and slowly whisk the roux into the cooking liquid. Both roux and cooking liquid must be hot. Whisk quickly until everything is incorporated and smooth. Once completely incorporated, continue whisking over medium heat for another 2 minutes. Turn off heat. This smooth, velvety liquid is now called velouté.

Remove velouté from stove and put into a blender along with the cooked asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Blend. Stir in lemon zest and lemon juice. Serve.

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ASPARAGUS FRITTATA

Serving: 4

1 pound asparagus (about 1 bunch), washed, trimmed, and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces.

1 tablespoon water

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

6 large pastured (fresh) eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Preheat oven broiler.

Cook asparagus by placing in a 2-quart microwavable dish with water; cover and cook on high for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large oven-proof frying pan over medium high heat. Add onions, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 3 minutes. Add asparagus; reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes. Crack eggs in bowl and whisk until combined. Pour into pan with asparagus mixture and cook until almost set, but still runny on top, about 2 more minutes.  Sprinkle cheese over eggs and put in oven to broil until cheese is melted and browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven with oven mitts and slide frittata onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

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GRILLED ASPARAGUS

Serving: 2–3

1 pound asparagus (about

1 bunch), washed and trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh, seasonal herbs

Lemon juice

Preheat grill. In large, resealable plastic bag, mix olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh herbs until combined. Add asparagus stalks and shake to coat. Grill over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender, turning once. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve immediately.

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Food for Thought Spring 2012

Food provides nourishment for the body, and I believe what we eat matters. Each day, we make food choices, and those choices are powerful votes about what is important. Personally, I choose locally produced foods because they taste better and have the power to create healthier bodies, strong communities with vibrant economies and a healthier planet. I believe knowing where our food comes from and who produces it is a powerful thing.

Therefore, I am thrilled to welcome you to the inaugural issue of Edible Omaha where we will celebrate our local foods, farms and community, season by season. Edible Omaha seeks to create connections, build relationships and introduce you to the ones who bring nourishment to our tables.

Healthy communities work to ensure that all have access to fresh, local, healthy foods. In recognition of that element of a vibrant community and through the support of advertisers, complimentary copies of this magazine are available each quarter throughout the Greater Omaha metropolitan area. For a complete list of distribution locations, please visit edibleomaha.com.

Locally owned by copublisher Lucy Wilson and myself, Edible Omaha is a member of Edible Communities Inc. Cofounded in Ojai, California by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian, Edible Communities is celebrating its 10th year in publication. Along with our 68 sister publications across the United States and Canada, we are the proud recipient of the 2011 James Beard Foundation Publication of the Year award. From the beginning, Carole, Tracey and the entire Edible Community made us feel welcome, and Lucy and I are eternally grateful for their unwavering support and generosity.

The support from our local advertisers, contributors and volunteers who believe in our mission make this publication possible. We encourage you to thank the advertisers with your patronage. Our talented contributors each gave more than their roles typically require as we were getting up and running. We also appreciate the many experts in the local food movement who made introductions and offered advice on many topics.

Finally, I must thank our families. They have contributed in ways too numerous to detail and sacrificed many nights and weekends to make this dream a reality.

Spring is a time for growth and renewal. It is a time that shows us the promise and potential of things that can be different. Our stories spotlight new beginnings in a variety of ways, and we hope they encourage you to engage with the local food community in a new way. We also recognize that food in this country is incredibly complex, and our labeling systems often confuse more than clarify. One of the best ways to combat this complexity and ensure that your food choices align with your personal values is to know your food producers, many of whom are advertising in this issue. Feeling good about your choices is important.

As author Michael Pollan has suggested, eating well-grown food from healthy soils at a price you can afford is key. So don’t get hung up on the labels. Eat local, eat fresh and know your farmer.  It can be that simple and tasty!

Amy S. Brown, Copublisher and Editor

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