Edible Peace Patch Blogs

Check out our other blogs here: http://peacepatch.org/blogs.htm

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

First Time For Everything

Thursday October 9, 2014

As a social worker and mental health counselor my mind is usually focused on the human condition, not the world of plants. There is something perhaps metaphorical or analogous about seemingly endless life lessons that a garden provides or makes explicit for us. A garden strikes me as a potent ground zero for new beginnings or 'firsts.' For example today marked the first time for me as an official Edible Peace Patch volunteer. Additionally it was also my first time being in a position of teaching children. Ironically, the children I was teaching were first graders! It was also my first time teaching anyone about gardens, seeds, nature, and teaching outdoors.

The children were excited, eager, and yes, energetic!! As I taught them the lesson plan    "The Magic of Seeds" and what seeds need ( water, sunlight, nutrients, soil) and the potential of seeds I could not help but see the parallel or similarities between all the firsts going on in the life of a new fall season at Lakewood Elementary School Garden, the life of the children entering the first year of what I hope will be a rich and rewarding relationship with learning and my life-still experiencing new firsts at age 50!

May the newness and regenerative powers of first times and new beginnings stay with us always. The garden shows us they way.

Laura Clarke

Friday, May 23, 2014

Edible Peace Patch Featured Plant No 1: Powerhouse Papaya

Welcome to the first posting in a series I'll call the 
Edible Peace Patch Featured Plant. 
The first featured plant is one that can be found in many of our schoolyard gardens and is a consistent favorite among the children: 
Carica papaya

C. papaya is a plant-like tree that grows to be 5-10 meters (16 to 30 feet) tall. The leaves are deeply palmately lobed with 7 lobes and grow to be almost 2 ft long. It's leaves drop easily, leaving the characteristic leaf scars along the truck. The flowers are a waxy white and have 5 petals. The fruit is usually between 6 and 18 inches long, has rosy or yellow flesh, and dozens of slimy black seeds in the center. The fruit is ripe when it is soft to the touch and has an orange hue. 

Female flowers of the papaya. Papayas are naturally dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female trees. However, they can change gender quickly depending on environmental factors. This one's a female tree...for now.

Male flowers of the papaya. This ones the male, so pollen will be taken from these flowers to the female flowers, which will then develop into papaya fruits.

Growing conditions:
Papayas grow in frost-free climates, need lots of sunlight, water and nutrient-rich soil. They grow easily from seed, but don't transplant well. If you want to plant one from seed, try making a modified hugelkultur bed like those in our gardens and planting the seeds directly into the ground. Thin the weaker trees out as they grow. For more info on how to grow papayas, check this permaculture site out.
Below is a papaya at our Maximo peace patch:

The papaya plant's original home range stretches from southern Mexico into northern South America, but it is now grown in tropical regions around the world. The papaya ranks 3rd in total tropical fruit production worldwide (15.36% of the market) behind mango and pineapple (another favorite of our students).

What's so special?
For one, the tree's rapid, measurable growth makes it a go-to when discussing the plant life cycle with students. It's easy to find a plant with flowers, unripe, and ripe fruit all on the same tree. This also comes in handy when we teach the children about the parts of the plant, the role of flowers, and pollination.

Papayas are particularly nutritious, too. Besides being high in fiber and minerals, it is a wonderful source of the B vitamins and antioxidants including carotenes, vitamin C, and flavonoids. It's also a great source of the digestive enzyme papain, a molecule that's been isolated and used industrially for brewing, meat tenderizing, pharmaceuticals, and beauty products. That's right, ladies, you can slather mashed papaya on your face for an easy, rejuvenating facial.

You can eat the ripe fruit alone, in salads, or smoothies. The unripe fruit can be eaten raw (like in Thai papaya salad) or cooked. The young leaves can be steamed and eaten like spinach, and some cultures use the flowers in their cuisine. The seeds can be eaten, too, and are sometimes used as a substitute for black peper.

Personal notes: The high enzyme content makes papaya fruits ripen rather quickly, so grab a fresh papaya only if you're prepared to use it in less than a week. Also, I'll be honest, the fruit smells slightly like feet to me, and I've found the only way I can really enjoy eating papaya raw (besides in smoothies) is by smothering fresh slices in lime or lemon juice and sprinkling with salt.

I hope you've learned a little something about this powerhouse fruit growing in our gardens. 
Stay tuned for the Featured Plant No 2: Pineapple!

Garden Program Coordinator

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Last Week of Spring Garden Education


This week is the final week volunteers are out in the Peace Patch schoolyard gardens teaching students. 
The lesson is a continuation of last week's--measuring changes in the garden plants. We started last week by getting the students to ask questions about the garden. This week we looked for answers to the questions by observing changes in the plants, and we said our goodbyes and harvested food.

What will happen to this? 
It will become corn!

What is this? 
A papaya!

How much will this grow? 
A few weeks ago this was only the size of a marble. 

Asking questions is the first step in the scientific method and arguably the most important aspect of science itself. Many people mistake science as a search for answers. Nothing is ever proven right in science...theories are only proven incorrect or insufficient. We must retain our childlike curiosity so that we can continue to ask the right questions at the right times, and so that we may learn more about ourselves in the process.

I am grateful for having the chance to teach the students at Lakewood Elementary this semester because it has reminded me to nurture the childlike excitement that arises when I see a new bud on our squash plants, find a mysterious insect on the tomato, or try my first bite of a new vegetable. It's reminded me why I am both a child and a scientist at heart. 

Until next semester, 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Join Harvest Festival 2014!

Spring 2014 Harvest Festival

Thursday, April 24th, 2014
4 – 6 pm
Between 3 & 5 pm, visit the Peace Patch Gardens at:
Campbell Park / Fairmount Park / Lakewood / Maximo / Melrose / Sanderlin

Then join us for a free
4 – 6 pm


The Enoch Davis Recreation Center
1111 18th Avenue S., St. Petersburg

See you there!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Join Our Earth Day Workday

The Edible Peace Patch Project
invites you to join our
Earth Day Garden Workday
Saturday, April 19th
9 am - 1 pm

We'll be meeting at Campbell Park Elementary, 
1051 7th Avenue South, St. Pete, 33705

Morning refreshments will be provided.
Bring along your family and your gardening tools!

See you there!

Photo of mushroom at Campbell Park Elementary Peace Patch by Noah Schlager

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring has sprung...and so has the pollen.

Hi folks, 

After a rainy spring break week, we are back in the garden. It's amazing how much it had changed in such a short period. The main development: flowers. Flowers on the tomato plants, flowers on the dill, flowers on the weeds. It seems like everything is blooming save the lettuce and kale. No wonder I've been sneezing like crazy.

Coral Honeysuckle

This is convenient because the lesson this week in the peace patch gardens is all about pollination

Sam, Kaitlin, Cory and I had a group of Pre-K students out in the garden this afternoon. We taught them all about pollination, showed them examples of pollinators (bees, butterflies, etc.), and we picked flowers, of course. Unfortunately, I was too carried away picking apart flowers with the kids to remember to take pictures of all of us...but I did get some snapshots of what's blooming:
Female flowers of the papaya. Papayas are naturally dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female trees. However, they can change gender quickly depending on environmental factors. This one's a female tree...for now.
Male flowers of the papaya. This ones the male, so pollen will be taken from these flowers to the female flowers, which will then develop into papaya fruits.

Green onions. This is the beginning of a classic, round allium blossom. 

Eggplant flower and young fruit, the product of successful fertilization.
Tomato flowers. A lot of nightshades (ex: tomatillos, eggplants, potatoes, peppers) have this flower shape.
Wood sorrel. You can't forget the weeds--they attract pollinators, too! Sorrel doesn't taste half bad, either.
Beach or dune sunflower.
Until next time, 
ponder over a flower or two.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The seeds that we all planted a few weeks ago are coming along very nicely! The recent rain is making them so happy :)
Little cucumber seedlings above.

Here are corn seedlings in the Three Sisters bed, soon to have other seeds planted!

Today we had the great opportunity to have some Lakewood High School students come out to interview and film us in the garden with the kids. 

The lesson plan today was about the parts of a plant. Hank, Avery, Wes, and I had a big group of kindergartners and they were really excited to learn, especially about flowers and fruits.
Avery teaching about the roots of a plant.

The kids were very intrigued about the baby pineapples growing on the plants!

I think the papayas were the favorite of the boys :)

Can't wait to see the progress next week!