Such a busy and fun term!
This term began with some festive decorations, lovely for this time of year. You may have noticed our nature-based decorations hanging from our pergola.
This all began by harvesting some of our delicious blueberries from our three, generous, thriving bushes. These bushes have been under a net for some time, protecting them from the Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni). With all this heat and very little amount of rain, the berries looked very dry and shrivelled. We thought we had missed our opportunity to enjoy the sour-sweet berries – but we found that after a good rainfall, the berries plumped back up, juicy and firm! They were delicious!
Here is a beautiful time-lapse of Blueberries transforming from flowers:
The question of seeds was posed. Do blueberries have seeds inside them? So we cut some open and took a closer look at them under our microscope and found that yes, blueberries do contain quite a number of tiny seeds. Barely noticeable when we are consuming them.
So this means that a blueberry is actually like a tiny suitcase for seeds!? There is a lovely book by Jean Richards on this topic, which you can explore on YouTube:
But are bananas a suitcase for seeds? Ask your kids! Exploring the origins of bananas prior to cross-breeding is quite an interesting read.
With this in mind, we explored other types of ‘suitcases’ for seeds, including inedible ones like pinecones, banksia pods, gum nuts, and even paper daisies – also known as everlasting daisies (Xerochrysum bracteatum) which are native to Australia.
Among other items, these are the materials the children have wire-wrapped into nature-mobiles.
We think they look cheery!
These dry, crispy daisies are beginning to throw out their lovely fluffy tufts as they release their seeds into the wind. Many plants are ‘throwing’ their seeds now as they surrender to the weather which has become too warm for them to bear. The children have collected seeds from sunflowers, dill, broad beans, purple king beans, calendula, coriander, spring onions, basil, and chia. But where to put these seeds?
In a combined effort of ‘origami’ and crayon leaf rubbings, the children made some beautiful seed packets of their own. We found leaves with interesting textures, serrated margins, and intricate veins including coarse ferny bracken leaves (Pteridium esculentum). Placing these under our paper, we used crayons to rub the paper until the intricate details underneath were revealed. Then, with artful paper folding, we created a small package that could hold seeds or other items such as notes, gifts, jewellery, or money.
Our huge Black Sapote tree (Diospyros nigra) is fruiting again. This is known as chocolate pudding fruit, and that’s exactly how it looks. We think it tastes like a mildly sweet avocado. You can see the harvesting debacle we had in our latest YouTube video. It all worked out in the end!
Our broccolini is past its best and is now swamped with feasting aphids. The aphids look just like grey dust to the naked eye. However, placing them under our microscope revealed an entirely different world. “Crabs” the children exclaimed as they recognised the similarities. The rigid bent little legs and broad stiff bodies. These little sucking pests were having a lovely time destroying the crops. We watched in awe as they clamoured over each other, many becoming stuck on their backs with their little legs waving in the air. Doh!
Speaking of creatures, one of our recipes this term involved ladybugs on a cracker! Children practised their ‘tunnel’ cutting to safely hold and guide their knives through the tomatoes and blueberries. Carefully, all the ‘ladybug’ parts were arranged onto a cracker. Thick, sticky balsamic glaze formed the ladybug ‘spots’, and sesame seed ‘eyes’ were delicately placed using the end of a toothpick. Delicious!
Our worms have been super busy procreating and providing us with plenty of worm juice in our three worm bins. Children have also been using a container to gather Snails and create a habitat (more like a snail day spa).
Mint is beginning to flower again and the children have harvested the potent leaves to utilize in a frozen berry smoothie. This smoothie contained a secret ingredient that bumped up the vitamin count but did not affect the flavour. See if your child can remember what it was (frozen cauliflower). We didn’t use mango, but it seemed to win the children’s choice award for favourite smoothie ingredients.
Mulberry-picking season is over now and the trees will put on some wild growth over the summer. A better time for propagation would be in April when the new stems have had a chance to mature somewhat. However, we used some mulberry cuttings to explore the idea of propagation. The large nodes are easy to locate (where the leaves attach) so the children could see where new roots would form when it is left in a jar of water. This new skill allows the children to grow their own food without spending any pocket money.
The roots from our citrus trees have been causing some issues in the garden. They are finding their way into our kitchen garden beds, causing our beds to become terribly dry, and devoid of nutrients and many of our current plants are suffering. These citrus trees may be removed in the coming year so we can thrive once again in our lovely learning space.
This term we’ve had some fun summer recipes! Ladybug crackers and frozen berry smoothies, please take a look at the recipes supplied.
Ladybug Cracker Recipe
1 Vita Wheat or other hard cracker.
1 Tbsp Cottage Cheese
1-2 Spinach or other garden leaves
2 Baby tomatoes
4 Sesame seeds
1 tsp Thick Balsamic glaze
1. Use a butter knife to gently spread cottage cheese onto 1 cracker.
2. Place spinach leaf on the cottage cheese. This is where the ladybugs will sit. Use spinach, or harvest a leaf from the garden. Basil, Mint etc.
3. Show children how to make a ‘tunnel’ over their tomato using their fingers, safely/slowly drive the knife through the tunnel and cut the tomato in half.
Place the tomato halves onto your biscuit to resemble ladybugs.
4. For the head, we will use one Blueberry, cut in half.
5. Spots. For the ‘spots’ use a toothpick, dip into the thick balsamic glaze & place 8 small drops onto each tomato.
6. Eyes. Put spots of glaze on the blueberries, where you want the eyes to go, then use a toothpick to place sesame seeds in place.
7. Optional. Use scissors to cut some chives to add as antennas, or other small leaves or petals to decorate your creation. Enjoy!
Frozen Berry and Mint Smoothie Recipe:
Makes 2 Liters = 10 serves, 1 cup per child.
500g Frozen Berries
1 Frozen Banana
2 Large spoonfuls of Full Fat Yogurt
10 Fresh Mint leaves
A handful of frozen Cauliflower (secret ingredient)
1L of Full Fat Milk
Big Squeeze of honey
Add all ingredients to a blender/bullet, Blitz for 40 seconds.
It has been a delight and an honour to know your lovely, kind, and very capable children.
May you all have a restful and fun Christmas 2023!
Nicole Young, Kitchen Garden Coordinator