Edible Schoolyard NYC is an organization that partners with public schools to build gardens and kitchen classrooms to teach students about where their food comes from through hands-on learning. Their pilot school is P.S. 216, an elementary school in Gravesend, Brooklyn. At P.S. 216, Edible Schoolyard has converted a parking lot into a fully functioning organic garden, with accompanying education components for every student of the school, from Pre-K through 5th grade.
P.S. 216's Edible Schoolyard is not just a glorified herb garden—although you will find standards like thyme, sage, chives (regular and garlic), basil (green and purple), parsley, mint and epazote growing there. No, this impressive community garden boasts tomatoes of every shape and color, eggplant, Asian pears, summer squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, kale, sweet potatoes, onions, broccoli, corn, figs, stevia (100 times sweeter than sugar!), grapes, watermelon, lemon sorrel, red okra, collards, chard, sweet and hot peppers, radishes, mache, asparagus, and blueberries, to name a few. Not bad for a site that was only converted into a green space in October of 2010, a mere eleven months ago.
More on the Schoolyard, and how to win tickets to a dinner at P.S. 216, after the jump.
The garden and its crops are the jumping-off point for classes for all of the students of P.S. 216, whose experience with gardening varies from student to student. Working with Columbia Teachers' College, Edible Schoolyard NYC created a curriculum that meets New York City and New York State education standards. Vera Fabian, who works at the school full time as head garden teacher, and Mirem Villamil, head garden manager, organize all sorts of activities for the students. They can range from egg carton scavenger hunts that familiarize students with the garden, to investigations into the history, geography, and nutritional background of sweet corn. Oftentimes classes end in a tasting, giving students a chance to experience the freshest possible fruits and vegetables, from something familiar like watermelon to the more exotic, like garlic chives or lemon sorrel. Then there was the first grade class that picked and made salad together. For six students, this was their first time eating a salad of any sort.
In addition to being used in class, the rest of the food is put to good use in the school cafeteria, where a salad bar will soon offer up some of the garden's bounty. Cooking classes will start down the line, and last year the school hosted three successful cooking nights for parents and kids. The garden is also serving the community beyond the school: community members volunteer their time in the garden, and summer program students ran a farm stand selling produce to the community. One 87-year-old community member, who graduated from P.S. 216 in 1937, has a plot where he demonstrates for his neighbors what crops can be grown in small spaces.
Let's not forget that we were here for dinner. This week and next week, Edible Schoolyard NYC has organized benefit dinners. This week, dinner was a four-course meal cooked by chef Marco Canora of Hearth, with wine parings by Canora's partner, Paul Grieco, who directs the beverage programs at Hearth and Terroir. All of the cocktails and food featured ingredients from the garden, with some assistance from the Union Square Greenmarket, of course, and everything was completely delicious, including Grieco's all-Riesling wine pairing (with only another week or so in the summer of Riesling, he's just trying to get it all in). Click through the slideshow for a closer look at the P.S. 216 garden and what we ate for dinner.
Next week, Tom Colicchio is hosting a similar Edible Schoolyard fundraiser dinner at P.S. 216. Tickets are still available ($1000/head; available here), but we've got one pair to give away right here on Serious Eats.