Six Part Plant Fest – Kids Eat Veggie “Burritos”

Did you know there are six parts to an edible plant and they all have different health benefits?  Neither did I.  I went to a great event at my kids’ elementary school where the garden teacher discussed the parts of the plant, their use, and how we eat all parts by having the kids make salad burritos.  I thought they looked more like lettuce cups, but hey I was there to prep, serve and learn.  In case you’re wondering the six parts and their uses are:

1. Seeds – essential for reproduction.  Makes new plants.

2. Stems – part that carries leaves.

3. Roots – underground structure to hold the plant and soaks up water.

4. Leaves – offshoot of the stem, here “food” is made for plant.

5. Flowers – colored and usually scented.  Attracts insects.

6. Fruit – product that follows the flower.  Holds and protects the seeds.

Makes sense.  But I never really realized how we eat different and multiple parts of produce.  It was a tasty visual to understand the plant parts.  And many of the offerings came right from the school garden.  All the plant parts were chopped and grouped together so kids knew wheat they were eating.  The leaves started the burrito wrapper with big leaves of romaine.  At the stems table there was celery and green onion.  At the flower table there were nasturtiums petals to eat as well as broccoli tops.  The seeds were popular with an array of sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  The fruit was a variety of berries and sugar snap peas.  For roots there were carrots and radishes.  There were even sauces to choose and flavor your creation.  Kids realized too that on the same plant we can sometimes eat multiple parts.  This is helpful in thinking how to serve, prep and cook these parts as well for a diet in a variety of color, taste and vitamins.

The kids (and a few of us helpers) had a great time.  The only downside was there was only one to a customer.  Feeding 600+ students doesn’t lend itself to second helpings as many of the kids were hoping.  We make a lot of burritos and lettuce cups at home and this just gives me more ideas for using all the plant for a variety of textures and flavors.


Happy Halloween

cleaning pumpkins

Boo!  O.K. I must confess that I love Halloween.  I’ve always enjoyed this time of year, when the air is crisp and the leaves turn colors (at least a few in California) and there are pumpkins and pomegrantes to be found.  I’m one of those people that always dressed up.  As a kid my mom made fabulous costumes for my whole family – a can of pepsi (with a hat of balloons), Peter Pan (with a shadow), Sigmond the Sea Monster, a tomato (organic I hope) and many others.   My mom’s costumes set the bar high.  Now it isn’t as much fun with all the store bought creations.  Although I’m to blame too, as I never learned to sew.

Before my husband and I had kids we dressed up and went to costume parties.  I even went to work in my 20’s  as Frankenstein with complete face make-up and took the Muni to downtown San Francisco.  Did I mention I worked a stuffy insurance brokerage job?  Oh well, some laughed. 

My kids certainly love Halloween too.  In the past we kind of pushed a theme for costumes – monsters last year, insects the year prior, etc.  However 3 and 6 year old have their own ideas – an astronaut and Dan the Bakugan character (it’s a show and toy).  I borrowed a wonderful knight costume my son got from a theme birthday party and my husband worked all day on a cool pirate (complete with dreads and fake beard).

However the major event of the season is carving the pumpkin.  First there’s the experience of choosing the pumpkins – we like to go to a pumpkin farm/patch, rather than the stand on the side of the road with the jumpy.  This year both kids chose very large pumpkins.  My husband had his work cut out for him.  But he certainly rose to the occassion.  My daughter wanted “a face with 5 teeth”.  My son was intriqued by my husband’s idea (well he saw it on a home show) about an upchucking pumpkin.  He sounded gross, but I must say it was fun and unique.

My job of course is to roast the seeds.  The kids always say they’re going to get the goop from the pumpkins – why they’re shirtless.  However they start to get sticky and say it’s too yucky, so it’s mom’s turn.   Here’s what I do.  Everyone seems to like the salty and savory better than the sweet – although I make both.  There’s still a few pumpkins in stores waiting to be purchased – so we’ll continue to carve, cook and celebrate. 

carved pumpkins

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


the gook before you cook

(rom Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry page 203)

Each person has his own technique and recipe for toasting the pumpkin seeds. For a fun tasting party at school have each family bring in their own for children to sample and vote for their favorites. Incorporate extra seeds into trail mixes for a seasonal surprise.
Makes 5 servings per 1 cup seeds

1 whole pumpkin

For 1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon curry powder, or ½ teaspoon sugar and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.


Cut off top of pumpkin and scoop out insides. Separate out as much of the pumpkin strings and flesh from the seeds as possible. Some of the slime and strings you can’t remove will provide a crisp coating on the seeds.

In a small bowl, combine seeds, oil, and seasonings. Stir until coated. Spread out seeds in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Roast for about 40 minutes, until golden brown and dry, stirring with a spatula every 10 minutes during cooking.

Let cool on paper towels and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.