Just before the serious cold weather arrived (in the Fall of 2014) the Bright Beginnings kindergarten team harvested the garden bed the previous kindergarten students had planted in the spring. The main focus was the collection of beets, although there were some terrific carrots dug up at the same time. It was wonderful to see the joy and excitement exhibited in the kids as they used a small shovel to gently loosen the soil and then pull up the root crops. Each vegetable collected was then proudly paraded on the way to the collection bucket. Clearly, the gray, cold morning did nothing to make the harvesting experience less meaningful and joyful.
The root crops, and the beets in particular, were then well washed and brought to the cafeteria the following morning at the kindergarten breakfast time. There Tony Lewis, one of the kindergarten teachers and a professional cook, showed the young students how beets can be sliced quickly and evenly using an instrument called a mandolin. The resulting slices were then placed on baking sheets that were covered with parchment paper and then they were salted. The beets were baked dry in an oven for half an hour and then delivered on plates to all six kindergarten classrooms.
For adults and students the really interesting part came with taste testing. All students were asked to try at least one beet chip and that goal was accomplished. Teachers were careful to make the process of eating and experiencing a new food positive and desirable. With few exceptions the students loved the beet chips. Some were very vocal about it, others just quietly consumed their chips and smiled their approval. One student liked the chips so much that she kept dashing back to the classroom plate for more (by the handful). There will definitely be students who will taste and consume vegetable chips like these in the future. They were a hit.
Note: The author had the chance to watch four of the six classroom groups try the beet chips. Not one of the students claimed to have experienced beet chips previously. After this experience many of the students are now beet fans. Beets are rich in nutrients and fiber. They have anti-cancer properties and appear to reduce inflammation and blood pressure.
Link to a video about harvesting and processing beets into chips
by Mitch Craib - St. Albans City School Wellness Coordinator