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The Food Party!

By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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I’ve Never Had Turnips Before

Uploaded: Feb 25, 2016

This week we Food Party! at a Mountain View grow & taste class at Monta Loma Elementary where the students are cultivating vegetables on school property and eating them as snack.

“I’ve never had turnips,” was a common response at Farm to Lunch. Not surprising feedback from 3rd and 4th graders, but how about you? Have you ever tasted the trending twang that is turnip?

Turnips are best when they are freshest; we are lucky in the Bay Area that they grow year-round. Get them at farmers markets or at stores where you know people buy them. Filled with vitamin C, residual sugar, and a touch of earthiness, vegetable-peel thinly to munch raw in salads. Or if you want to make them even sweeter Food Party! regulars, answer me this - what cooking techniques would you use to heighten the natural sugars of vegetables? New to The Food Party!? Then you have some extra reading, cuz, well, vegetables have a secret and you must find out what it is.

Bob Mencimer, chef for Mountain View Whisman School District (MVWSD) knows the secret. But wait, did I just say the school district has a chef? Wow. I don’t think any other public school district in our area does; the important position eliminated many moons ago by budget cuts and antiquated kitchens housing only ovens to reheat crappy commodity frozen foods still given to our children without much thought. Chef Bob’s got a new oven in his kitchen though, so hats off to MVWSD. He chose baking to bring out the secret, making Roasted Turnips and Turnip Greens with a White Balsamic Dressing.

The kids loved it.

Peninsula-based nonprofit Living Classroom sponsors Farm to Lunch, with support from the El Camino Healthcare District Community Benefit Program. They also sponsor Beyond the Bell, an after-school program where students plant the vegetables used in Farm to Lunch in more than 20 raised beds across the district.

- photo courtesy of Vicki Moore

Rockstar Mountain View / Palo Alto Garden Manager Patti Berryhill shares the ten winter vegetables to be harvested in coming weeks including broccoli, bok choy, Swiss chard, lettuce, beets, sugar snap peas, and potatoes. The school-grown produce is featured several times a month at all schools, so every student has the opportunity to graze from the garden.

Farm to Lunch week one harvested spinach into tossed salad, and week two transformed 23 pounds of kale into Kale Chips and kale salad. This week Farmer Patti harvested 21 pounds of turnip greens and 8 pounds of turnip roots. “Our first crop was planted in November 2015. The students help with all steps. Beyond the Bell does the garden work; when we harvest a crop, we immediately replant the bed.”

“Come get a taste,” Patti calls out to the children. “Harvested yesterday and eaten today.”

Many kids stop by to find out what’s going on. Some say no thank you, but most take a taste.

The reviews start coming in and the results are looking good.

A few say the turnips are a little strong, but even then they like the greens. Yes parents – they liked the greens. A number came back for seconds and thirds with reviews like “I want more, this is so good!” and “I would eat this every day.” At the end, 180 tastings are handed out (out of a school of 500 students), and I leave feeling soooo inspired.

Patti’s next goal is planting fruit trees. “We’ll do a community workday in the fall and always need volunteers.”

This enchanting program has a Wish List by the way. As they work to reduce waste and eliminate bottled water, the schools hope for a filtered water station where students can refill bottles brought from home. If you have any ideas, we’d love to hear them.

I still get tingles thinking about the program and the day. Kids like vegetables, and thank goodness there are efforts in our community helping them to discover this life-changing realization.

Chef Bob Mencimer, Ashley Morales on Noon Duty, Garden Manager Patti Berryhill
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Old Mountain View resident, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Feb 25, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Great to hear good news about our schools!

Posted by Turnip Guy, a resident of Ventura,
on Feb 25, 2016 at 8:34 pm

Try turnips diced medium with corned beef & cabbage, and with a pot roast.

Warning: hazard of intoxicating yumminess exists.

Posted by Margie Suozzo, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Feb 25, 2016 at 10:41 pm

I was at the kale chip and kale salad tasting. Yummy! And the same reactions from the kids. They LOVED both of Chef Bob's creations!! One girl said, "Oh, I'll try some, I harvested that kale yesterday!" Hats off to Living Classroom, connecting kids with the healthy food!

Posted by Candice Stark, a resident of another community,
on Feb 26, 2016 at 7:27 am

As a kid, what could be better than being outside, digging in the dirt, and getting to eat the food that you have grown! Kudos to Living Classroom and El Camino Hospital and the Mountain View School District for creating and supporting this awesome program! (Full disclosure .. I am on the Board of Living Classroom and I know that it was a major effort to get this program off the ground!)

Posted by citizen, a resident of another community,
on Feb 26, 2016 at 8:03 am

Last year the school Board approved spending money on kitchen equipment. It seems like the School Food Service Department is utilizing the equipment! Many school districts just don't get that food makes a difference. Love to see this in our schools.

Posted by Educator, a resident of another community,
on Feb 26, 2016 at 12:59 pm

This is fantastic. Kids will eat what they grow!

Posted by Farmer Patti, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Feb 27, 2016 at 9:19 am

Thanks so much, Laura! Kids do love fresh veggies!They tell me that time and again. I reward my after school kids with letting them harvest and eat sugar snap peas right off the vine! Chef Bob and his staff are a real joy to work with. They enjoy telling vendors who call them up to sell them veggies that they will be getting a delivery of fresh veggies grown by the kids in school gardens. This is a win-win-win for everyone! This week, we'll be harvesting beets and beets greens. I can't wait to see what Chef Bob does with them.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Feb 27, 2016 at 9:52 am

Farmers Patti in da' house! Send us pix from the next events. So many good things for other schools districts to learn by what you folk are doing.

Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Mar 1, 2016 at 10:01 am

I've had turnips ... for me, it depends how it's prepared; sometimes it's a little bitter. I think my preferred form is pickled. But I recently discovered Tokyo Turnips, and those are quite good. :)

Posted by Debbie Mytels, a resident of another community,
on Mar 1, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Great to hear about Mountain View's school CHEF! I just saw Michael Moore's new movie, "Where Next to Invade?" in which he travels to half a dozen European countries to see how they do things differently than in the US.

One of the best segments is about school lunches in France where the kids have a daily hour for lunch, prepared by a chef. The hour-long meal is considered a regular course in the school curriculum, all across the country! They have vegetables, an entree, a "cheese course" and dessert -- and they always eat off china plates, with glasses of water (no soda), and learn to serve each other at the table, family style.

Moore showed the school kids full-color photos of some American school lunches: piles of glob with corn and crumbling brown stuff (meat?) and grayish things looking like extruded pieces of rubber (potatoes?). The French kids said "Eeeww!" It's such a telling vignette! Go see the movie !

Posted by BARB, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Mar 4, 2016 at 11:39 am


Posted by LUNCHLADY, a resident of Gemello,
on Mar 4, 2016 at 11:51 am

Chef Bob ROCKS the district with his great tasting food.
this is the best thing to happen to school food.
His menus are awesome and 85% of the menu items are made from fresh meats & fresh veggies.
NO frozen processed junk. "CLEAN FOOD made in house at the central kitchen. I have lived here in mountain view since 1968.
we grew up with fresh local stuff it about time we get back to the basics of fresh.
Farmer Patti is the BEST thing ever. She helps the students plant the veggies and harvest them. The students love to eat what the grow.
the farm to lunch program is GREAT the kids are trying green food.
thanks for keeping my children healthy.

Posted by Farmer Patti, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Mar 4, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Today we did over 350 servings of a Kale and Beet Green salad Chef prepared with a White Basalmic Viniagrette. The kids and staff were so surprised that they liked it! Many kids came back for seconds (and thirds, and fourths, and fifths). They were asking when we would be coming back. A huge thanks to Chef Bob and his wonderful staff, the Beyond The Bell kids at Theuerkauf and Crittenden and the volunteers who helped serve today!

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Mar 6, 2016 at 5:17 pm

Thanks Farmer Patti for the update and congrats on such success. Keep us posted here at The Food Party!

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