“Is that Asparagus? I love asparagus!” I heard this more than once yesterday at Lu Sutton Elementary School in Novato, California, as I was handing out samples of our Spring Asparagus Pasta Salad. As a part of our Joyful 12 School Project, we’re highlighting one new vegetable each week at school. This week, it’s asparagus.
What I love most about our project is that the entire school community is involved, from the school food staff, to teachers, children and their parents. It’s totally fun. Besides the samples we’re preparing with the School Food and Nutritional Services department, led by Miguel Villarreal, we’re cooking the vegetable of the week with kids and parents at the school with our partners at Bay Leaf Kitchen, the teachers are exciting kids about the vegetable of the week with our veggie fast facts and every member of the school receives free memberships to my Joyful 12 Online Vegetable Cooking Program, so they can keep the learning going back at home.
Just two weeks into our pilot, and I’m relishing in the stories and learnings we’ve already gathered.
- “It’s so important to try things!” a third grade boy said to me with the sweetest smile on his face as he took his sample this week. He had cooked with us the previous Wellness Wednesday
- Several boys and girls were very excited when they saw that I had the whole asparagus in my hand as I handed out samples. It helped kids identify quickly what was in the sample. “I love asparagus!” I heard this from various grades
- One 5th grader came over and said she wanted to help me take samples out to the other 5th graders; she is a Jr. Chef Helper, which is a cooking and mentor program Bay Leaf Kitchen is teaching the 4th and 5th graders of the school! That’s when our samples flew out the door!
- Ms. Kate Mansergh, 5th grade teacher, WOWed me with the facts her class had learned from their fast facts sheet I prepared. Here’s what they shared back with me:
- The number of varieties (300), and the number of edible ones (20)
- The colors asparagus come in (green, white, and purple)
- The word asparagus and where it comes from: the Persian word “asparag,” or sprout.
- How many inches it can grow in a day (up to 10 inches!)
So the next time you hear an adult say, “kids don’t like vegetables,” just know that we’re living proof that with a whole community teaching, tasting, and celebrating nature’s amazing produce, we can eradicate this cultural myth and grow healthy eaters together–one school at a time.
Get on the cool school food bus and make our Spring Asparagus Pasta Salad for your family tonight on Meatless Monday or any day of the week.
- Whole grain rotini pasta (or your favorite gluten free brand), 1 lb.
- Asparagus, 1 bunch
- Apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup
- Honey, 2 tablespoons
- Salt, 1 teaspoon
- Olive oil, ½ cup
- Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon
- Yellow onion (medium), 1/4
- Cilantro, ½ cup
- Bring a large pot of salty water (1/2 tablespoon salt for every 8 cups of water) up to a boil. Measure water according to package instructions.
- Bring up one additional pot of salty water to boil (1/2 tablespoon salt for every 8 cups of water), to be used to blanch the asparagus.
- Wash herbs and asparagus. Remove the woody ends of asparagus by snapping off with your hands, which is a great job for kids to help you with.
- Cut asparagus into thin rounds.
- Cook pasta according to instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Blanch asparagus by putting it into the salty boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Make the dressing in blender. Pulse until smooth; it will be a bright green color from the herbs.
- Toss cooked pasta, blanched asparagus, and dressing together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as desired. Chill and serve as a cold pasta salad.
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