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RECIPES: Planting culinary seeds

Fayetteville nonprofit Apple Seeds Teaching Farm helps grow children’s knowledge of healthful food with fun recipes by Sean Clancy | March 17, 2021 at 1:57 a.m.
Cale Nicholson, farm manager for Apple Seeds, harvests cucumber in summer 2020 at the Apple Seeds Teaching Farm in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo)

On a speck of property in Fayetteville, the nonprofit Apple Seeds Teaching Farm is using gardens to help teach young people about where their food comes from and just how yummy it can be.

"There was a real need to get kids connected back to where their food comes from," says Apple Seeds marketing director Tanya Collins.

Apple Seeds, which sprouted in 2007, is a two-acre farm in Gulley Park that grows fruit and vegetables and introduces children to good-for-you foods and cooking skills.

Last year, Apple Seeds grew 6,790 pounds of fruits and vegetables, distributed almost five tons of fresh produce to students and their families and reached 9,395 students through its educational programs, according to the group's 2020 Annual Report.

After going virtual during the pandemic, Apple Seeds has been making fun how-to videos of its recipes and leading online field trips of its space at appleseedsnwa.org.

"All of our recipes are designed for our core group — first grade through middle school. That's our sweet spot, but they are good for anybody," Collins says. "They all incorporate math, science, reading, teamwork and problem-solving. But everyone can enjoy it. I tell you, that granola recipe is absolutely delicious."

The aim is to help young people not only understand where food is sourced and make healthier decisions when it comes to eating, but also gain confidence through following recipes and making their own dishes.

"It becomes more of an adventure to explore and create," Collins says. "They feel mastery and they feel empowered. That's so important."

Apple Seeds program coordinator Bailey Stewart harvests mint in summer 2020 at the Apple Seeds Teaching Farm in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo)
Apple Seeds program coordinator Bailey Stewart harvests mint in summer 2020 at the Apple Seeds Teaching Farm in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo)

There's also the added bonus of kids discovering natural, nonprocessed, fresh fruits and vegetables they might not have tried otherwise when they visit the farm during Kids' Table Summer Camps, with limited numbers of participants and which begin in June, or in the Farm to Table cooking classes.

"Seventy-eight percent of students say they are willing to eat kale after trying it here," Collins says. "Why is that? It's not because it was a green lump thrown onto a plate, it's because they got into the garden and saw it growing and that it comes in various colors and textures. They picked it themselves, washed it and then they were walked through a recipe and made something themselves. The ownership throughout the process becomes like, why wouldn't I try it? I just did all this work, I definitely want to try this kale."

Apple Seeds also offers a Cooking in the Schools program, which is virtual until schools open back up, to teach students how to prepare healthful snacks and how to make good food choices.

The Growing My Plate program is a partnership between Apple Seeds, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and Healthy Foods Research Group, a department of Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute. The program, which is in its early stages, will feature virtual classes across the state with the goal of empowering students with cooking skills and nutrition knowledge.

And there's a taste-testing program, where students are given samples of Apple Seeds recipes to judge.

"We get the easy part. We just get to eat," says Kelsey Garcia, who teaches fourth grade at Butterfield Elementary School in Fayetteville.

Her class has tested two recipes — Pumpkin Kale Pasta and Broccoli Florets with Honey Dijon Mustard Dip.

Apple Seeds volunteers dropped samples off in individual containers and Garcia gave it to the students, who rated them in categories of taste, texture, whether they would make it at home and overall.

Recipes are included, and Garcia says one student made the pasta with her family.

"Being in fourth grade, they like to try to cook and do things on their own," Garcia says. "There is some science, home economics, things I wouldn't be able to do without Apple Seeds resources. The more diversity you have in the classroom, the more developed and well-rounded our students will become."

For information about classroom resources or virtual programs, visit appleseedsnwa.org.

Gallery: Apple Seeds Recipes by ADG Staff

We tried four Apple Seeds recipes and loved each one. Radish Pickles was our first attempt at pickling and the thin slices of radish turned out perfectly for topping salads, tacos or as a quick snack on their own.

We've kept a container of the sweet-n-salty Toasty Granola, which is gluten free, at our desk and eat it by the handful throughout the day. It also would go well atop yogurt.

The Mini Frittatas turned out light and fluffy and there were plenty for leftovers. The Super Green Mango Smoothie was not only super green — hello, St. Patrick's Day — but tasty.

The smoothie recipe is a good example of Apple Seeds' kid-friendly approach.

"Kids love smoothies," Collins says. "One of the things kids can learn from making smoothies is just how sweet fresh fruit is. We put very little if any sweetener in our recipes and when we do, it's only a little bit of honey. It's just vegetables and a little bit of fruit and the flavor is outstanding."

These recipes encourage experimentation. Don't have any radishes? Try carrots. Add dried fruit to the granola, or stir ¼ cup peanut butter into the wet ingredients before combining. Top the frittatas with diced potatoes, broccoli or mushrooms.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch: arkansasonline.com/317appleseeds2]

Radish Pickles

  • 10 radishes, washed and trimmed
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 sprigs fresh dill (optional)
  • Fresh water to fill

Cut radishes in quarters or thin slices. Combine all ingredients in a clean 1-quart glass jar. (We prepared ingredients in a bowl and ladled equal amounts into four half-pint jars before adding water.) Add enough water to cover radishes. Shake until salt and honey are dissolved. Keep in refrigerator for 24 hours before eating. Radish Pickles will keep in the fridge for one month.

Makes 1 quart.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch: arkansasonline.com/317appleseeds4]

Toasty Granola

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup unsalted seeds, like sunflower or pumpkin
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine oats, seeds, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl and set aside. Combine oil, honey and vanilla in a smaller bowl and stir to combine. Mix the wet ingredients into the oat mixture. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Makes 12 servings.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch: arkansasonline.com/317appleseeds]

Mini Frittatas

  • Olive oil or muffin liners
  • 1 large bell pepper (see notes)
  • 1 cup packed kale or spinach
  • 12 large eggs (see notes)
  • ½ cup milk or milk alternative
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup shredded cheese, optional

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat muffin tins with olive oil or use muffin liners.

Dice bell pepper into ¼-inch chunks. Cut spinach or kale into ½-inch strips. Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper until well combined. Divide the egg mixture evenly between the muffin tins, filling them about halfway (they will rise in the oven). Top evenly with the veggies and if adding cheese, sprinkle a bit on top of each. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until egg mixture sets.

To test if they are done, insert a wooden pick or butter knife into the middle of one. If it comes out clean, they are done.

Notes: We used 12 large brown eggs and ended up with enough for 14 Mini Frittatas. Half a large bell pepper was plenty for us.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch: arkansasonline.com/317appleseeds3]

Super Green Mango Smoothie

  • 1 cup zucchini, diced into ½-inch chunks
  • 1 ½ cups kale, stems removed
  • ¼ cup spinach
  • 1 ½ bananas, peeled
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 3 cups frozen mango
  • 2 cups water (see note)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for 30-40 seconds or until smooth.

Note: Frozen fruit works best; if your fruit is not frozen, use 1 cup ice and add water as needed.

Makes 4 servings.

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