Local produce recently took on a whole new meaning for a group of seventh graders from Knollwood School in Fair Haven recently.
The students enjoyed salads prepared by a professional chef using ingredients they had produced and provided at an Oct. 30 event.
Working with their teacher, 21st Century Skills, Technology, and Innovation Coordinator Chris Aviles, the Knollwood School seventh graders had grown herbs and vegetables in their school’s greenhouse.
The produce was harvested by another of Aviles’s classes, and provided to Corporate Chef Steve Escobedo of Maschio’s Food Services, the supplier of student meals for Red Bank Regional High School.
Using the kitchen at the Church of the Nativity, down the street from Knollwood, Escobedo prepared creations with the produce as the students looked on. The green peppers were incorporated into a wheat berry salad by Escobedo, and herbs the students had cultivated — basil, rosemary, and parsley — were ingredients in a bulgar wheat salad.
Escobedo explained the health benefits of herbs and vegetables to the students as he chopped and diced and folded their contributions into his recipes.
“Parsley contains vitamins and minerals, and basil helps fight stress and infection among other things,” he explained. “Rosemary aids in memory, so if you have an important test in class coming up you might want to enjoy some rosemary chicken the night before!”
The highlight of the event, of course, was the tasting of the end result. The students enjoyed the samples of both salads.
FH Grows, the student-run business initiative that produced the herbs and vegetables, was begun by Aviles in an effort to better teach his seventh graders about careers and entrepreneurship. Students learn to be stewards of the environment as they grow vegetables and herbs and sell them to local parents and restaurants through their website,fhgrows.com. FH Grows also teaches students how to use the vegetables and herbs in healthy dishes they can make at home.
“I want my program to be as real and as relevant as possible,” said Aviles. “This means getting students out of the classroom and into the real world, where they can learn from experts and apply the skills they’re using in the classroom. The meals that students are making include produce that they have grown together as seventh graders. I’m hoping they realize that if we can do it at school, they can do it at home. Nothing is stopping them from planting their own gardens and making their own healthy meals at home.”
Aviles was very pleased with the results of the first event with Chef Steve Escobedo.
“While there were a lot of ‘moving parts’ and relationships to manage in order to make today a success, it was all worth it,” he said. “Chef Steve will be returning every two weeks to cook with classes of seventh grade students.”