Driving into the entrance of Owairaka Primary School in Mount Albert is a colourful and inviting experience as you are welcomed by their international signpost, pointing to all the places their multi-cultural student base come from, from all over the world.
I was there to check out their ‘Garden to Table’ programme attended by several Year 3 – Year 6 classes once a week, alternating between garden lessons and kitchen time.
There was a warm welcome into the kitchen by student ‘chefs’ and their teacher Virginia. All were busy compiling fresh Vietnamese spring rolls utilising ingredients they had grown in their garden. They were also cooking ‘Tongan pancakes’, a recipe which had been brought in by one of the students to share. Several local businesses also donate extra fruit and resources to the programme.
The fresh garden fare, sweet cooking aroma and buzzy-kitchen full of students and helping-Mums creates a truly delicious atmosphere in all senses of the word. The kitchen links directly to the dining room which is set up with tables and pictures all over the walls about the ‘Garden to Table’ goodness and lessons learnt from the important processes of the programme.
Virginia asked students Ermen and Mariah to take me over to meet Laura at the garden, where she was teaching along with the help of another Mama, the ‘garden’… was in fact, many gardens outside almost every classroom full of edible produce and brightly painted by all of the students.
There is an Indian garden, a Japanese Zen garden, a butterfly garden, potato bins, a pizza oven, worm farm, beehive, composting and chicken coup! Mariah and Ermen picked leaves off a broccoli plant and fed them to the most loved chickens in Auckland city, “Clucky, Turbo and Butter Chicken”!
Laura was running her half of the class through a broadbean harvest, with tastings and teachings of how best to eat them, both cooked and raw.
Then she rallied the troops to go back and eat for another part of the day’s ‘Garden To Table’ experience where both gardeners and chefs come together. The tables are set (with vases of fresh flowers also from the garden) by the kitchen crew, with all food produced from the day ready to taste and enjoy. Dipping sauces and dessert on top of the yummy main course? They have it ALL covered.
First there is a small speech about what’s on the menu that day, then a blessing, then the feast! All run by the students with gentle guidance from the GTT teachers and volunteer Mums.
I was invited to join them for lunch and had a chance to chat with the students who all LOVE the opportunity to be involved. You get the feeling they are on their way to becoming future ‘foodies’ and ‘green thumbs’ when you experience the quality of the fresh and delicious weekly menu… for example…
Owairaka Garden to Table fare (well a small taste of it!)
- Baked Mini Falafel
- Broadbean Pesto
- Messe’ Platter
- Taro Palusami (spinach, onion, coconut milk)
- Tahini Babganoush (pumpkin dip)
- Homemade Pita bread
- French Lentils with Garden Vegetables
- Kale Chips
- Vegetable Makhanawala
- Banana Smoothies
- Cabbage and Apple slaw
- Green Pizza
- Veggie Pizza… and much, much, MUCH more!
All recipes can be found on their website/blog https://owairakag2t.wordpress.com/ . This recipe list is extensive and continues to grow as the students’ knowledge and gardens grow too. Laura tells me there are twenty-one schools involved in the GTT programme, with plans to double that number in the future.
What a great future! Children knowing where their food is coming from and how to harvest, prepare and deliver that food to the table. Fresh, nutritious and delicious.
I’m so inspired, I want to go back!