Author Archives: Mandy Randolph

The Incredible Edible Stinging Nettle!

122 By Mandy Randolph

Springtime on Orcas Island means nettle time! Some people only consider nettles to be those pesky weeds that cause an irritating sting when brushed up against. My students at Orcas Island Elementary School know otherwise… they know that nettles are nutritious, tasty, and free!

A fresh nettle patch growing on Orcas Island.

A fresh nettle patch growing on Orcas Island.

Nettles are low in calories, but pack in a whopping amount of iron, calcium, vitamin K, and fiber. It has long been believed that ingesting nettles can combat the symptoms of hay fever and seasonal allergies. Try drinking two cups of nettle tea a day just prior to and during your allergy season and see for yourself! You do need to be careful when gathering your nettles. Wear long sleeves and pants. Use gloves and clippers to harvest. You can take the sting away from your nettles by drying them in the sun or simply by rinsing and soaking the nettles in water. The most certain way to take away all sting is to boil briefly.

A box full of freshly harvested stinging nettles.

A box full of freshly harvested stinging nettles.

After harvesting your nettles and before eating them, you could take some time to investigate them with a magnifying glass!

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Farm to Classroom students investigating stinging nettles with magnifying glasses.

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You can enjoy nettles in many ways, in soup, tea, sauces, and stir fry. We decided to make a nettle pasta dish in Farm to Classroom last week. Here is how we made our nettle pasta.

Stinging nettle pasta!

Stinging nettle pasta!

Start by mincing garlic and sautéing it in some olive oil. 20150312_113039

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Bring a pot of water to boil and add nettles to boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Remove the nettles with a slotted spoon and chop them. Add your pasta to the same water you boiled the nettles in.

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Add the chopped nettles to your garlic and sauté. Add a few pinches of sea salt if you’d like.

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Add the cooked pasta and mix thoroughly until combined.

Fresh stinging nettle pasta.

Fresh stinging nettle pasta.

Enjoy warm or cold!

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Here is an easy way to store your extra nettles for use later. Boil, chop, squeeze out excess water and form into a ball. Freeze the nettle balls on a baking sheet and transfer to a Ziploc bag once frozen. Then you can toss a nettle ball into soup, smoothies, sauces, scrambled eggs and omelets, you name it!

A batch of "nettle balls" before they went into the freezer.

A batch of “nettle balls” before they went into the freezer.

Go ahead and try some stinging nettles. My students enjoyed them, and you may too!

Happy students enjoying stinging nettle pasta. Seconds please!

Happy students enjoying stinging nettle pasta. Seconds please!

Eat your nettles!

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Garden Fresh Roasted Potatoes

122 Posted by Mandy Randolph

When I am not busy doing all things real estate at the T Williams Realty office, I enjoy my other career as an elementary school teacher. In my previous post I told you all about our great potato dig in the school garden. Well, just last week we finally enjoyed the fruits of our labor. All of the students at Orcas Island Elementary School helped to make and then eat some garden fresh roasted potatoes!

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Our yummy garden fresh roasted potatoes- just look at all those colors!

The potatoes were stored just the way they like; cool, dark, and dirty. They spent the past three months stored in cardboard boxes and covered with shade cloth in a rodent free, unheated garage. When we opened the boxes they were just as firm and glorious as the day we picked them.

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Kindergarten students digging up the potatoes in the school garden last fall.

In the classroom the children are divided into working groups: Potato cutters, onion dicers, garlic peelers and mincers, and the rosemary choppers. Yes, all of the groups will be using knives. Children and knives? At school? Yes! The students are taught safe knife handling skills starting in Kindergarten. The rules are followed closely because the children know that using the knives is a privilege that must be taken seriously or they will lose it. Kids LOVE to be helpful! Sometimes we adults forget to give them the opportunities. Not in Farm to Classroom– all students are taught to use tools and expected to do their part!

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Elementary students safely using knives in Farm to Classroom.

Once the cutting commences there are ooohs and ahhhs as the purple majesty and cranberry red potatoes are sliced open to discover that they are also colored on the inside!

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The stunning Purple Majesty potato!

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The Cranberry Red potato- red through out!

The onion group starts to complain of watering eyes. The peeled garlic (harvested from our garden) starts to fill the room with its distinct scent. The rosemary group is focused on cutting tiny pieces so it doesn’t “feel like we are eating the Christmas tree”.

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Carefully dicing the onion.

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Peeling and mincing garlic grown in our school garden.

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Focused on chopping the rosemary into teeny-tiny pieces.

With the chopping complete the potatoes, garlic, onion, and rosemary are tossed together with olive oil and some salt.

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A very colorful bowl of potatoes.

Off into the oven set at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Our garden fresh roasted potatoes are so delicious! The children loved eating them and you will too!

Farm to Classroom Recipe: Garden Fresh Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients:

5 medium potatoes

1/3 cup Olive oil

1-2 cloves of garlic

½ small onion

Rosemary sprigs

Salt *optional

Directions:

Cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes, dice onions and garlic

Mix potatoes in large bowl with olive oil, garlic, onion, rosemary

Spread out in one layer on a baking sheet

Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes

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The Great Potato Dig!

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Orcas Island School District is home to one fantastic school garden. You’ll find it right there next to the great maple tree in front of the big brick building that houses Orcas Island Elementary School.

The garden is maintained by the Elementary Children during a weekly class called Farm to Classroom. I have been teaching this class since its inception almost six years ago. It is a labor of love and a time of great discovery by all.

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Miss Mandy sharing a watermelon grown in the school garden with some eager students!

One of my favorite activities in the garden is the yearly “great potato dig” with the Kindergarteners. It is early October in the school garden and the potato patch is ready for picking! Enter 35 Kindergarten Students. First a quick lesson on potatoes. You wouldn’t believe how many 5 year olds don’t know that potatoes grow under the ground. You can imagine the delight on their faces once they realize that they get to dig for the buried treasure.

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Farm to Classroom students digging for potatoes!

The digging commences and soil starts flying from the children who dig with wild abandon. Some of the kids decide it is much tidier to pull the plant and pick the potatoes off the roots. Everyone is actively engaged.

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Beautiful red potatoes and the excitement of pulling out the entire plant with potatoes still attached at the roots!

Oh, the squeals of delight as they find their first potato! And then the variety of colors and potato shapes cause more shrieks of delight and several shouts of “Show me, show me!”

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Just look at our variety of potatoes. Red, purple, blue, yellow, and we even grew a heart shaped potato!

The potato patch was plentiful this year. We started a new patch in a well-seasoned compost pile. Added to that was a delivery of soil from San Juan Sanitation to establish a nice deep area of loose soil. We planted organic potato seeds of several varieties. What a fabulous combination. We will use these potatoes for cooking projects in the classroom this winter.

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“This one looks like a person!”

The children have put the garden “to bed” for the winter. The potato patch was gently tucked in with a cover crop of fava beans that will certainly provide another exciting opportunity for discovery next spring!

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Third and Fourth grade students prepare the potato patch for the fava bean cover crop planting.

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