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Mother Caroline Students Discover Growing

A Student Plants Collards
A Student Plants Collards
Standing in a misshapen circle in the center of the Dudley Greenhouse's community bay, 12 middle school girls share their favorite food memories. They share delicious stories about eating new foods during their travels, sweet stories about cooking with their families, and funny stories about sharing snacks with their friends at school.

It is the first day in the greenhouse for a new group of 5th through 8th grade girls from the Mother Caroline Academy in Dorchester, Mass. Girls from Mother Caroline have been visiting their four raised-bed gardens in the community bay of the greenhouse each week since the fall of 2011. The students grow vegetables in the greenhouse, learn about food systems and food justice, and visit Cooking Matters to learn to cook some of the vegetables that they have grown.

After the introduction and a tour of the greenhouse, the girls set to the task of planting a bed full of cucumbers. The cucumber bed is an experiment of sorts: in one half of the bed, they plant traditional green cucumbers; in the other half, a prickly yellow variety. Over the coming weeks, they will compare the growth of the two varieties to see which grows better in the greenhouse and which tastes better at the end.

While some of the girls finish up the cucumber planting, others move over to another of their raised beds to harvest the rest of the kale and collard greens planted earlier in the winter. Once the girls get the hang of snapping off the large leaves, the questions begin to flow. Can I eat this right now? What are the little holes in the leaves? Why do kale and collards grow on big stalks? What are these bugs all over the plants?! Squeals ring through the greenhouse as the girls discover aphids on the kale leaves and small spiders sauntering across the soil. Despite these setbacks, the girls manage to harvest a heaping pile of greens. At the end of the afternoon, each girl leaves with a fistful of collards or kale to bring home to her family.

The ladies from Mother Caroline Academy will continue to learn and grow in the Dudley Greenhouse through the end of their school year. For more information about the community bays at the Dudley Greenhouse, please contact Community Food Coordinator Danielle Andrews.

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