Sunday, February 28, 2010

Plans for the Vegetable Garden

Whether it means carrying hyacinths around the classroom and sharing their delicate fragrance with your friends or spending the weekend pouring through seed catalogues, we all find ourselves dreaming of Spring.

This weekend, we formalized plans for our edible classroom, the Bloom! Potager. In March, the children will begin starting seeds indoors to transplant once the danger of frost has finally passed. Our goal is to give the children a better understanding of the natural world (botany, the life cycle of plants, a garden ecosystem, composting/decomposition), encourage children to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, create meaningful experiences between children and food, and expose them to the pleasures of gardening.

We selected diverse vegetables that we thought the children would really enjoy- including a lot of vegetables with really vibrant colors, foods that could be included in traditional Montessori food preparation exercises, and small vegetables (baby carrots, grape tomatoes, miniature varieties of peppers, cucumbers, and beets), that would be perfect for an individual snack!

The gardens will be grown without the use of any synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. The seeds we will use are primarily organic, heirloom varieties that we purchased from Seed Savers Exchange, a lovely non-profit in Iowa that is devoted to increasing genetic biodiversity in the food system by helping to save the world's diverse, but endangered, garden heritage from homogenization by seed conglomerates. They operate the largest non-governmental seed bank in the United States where they permanently maintain thousands of rare and unique vegetable varieties from around the world- more than 25,000 endangered vegetable varieties! Most of the seeds were hand carried to North America by immigrants and passed along to their ancestors.

Who knows, maybe Maria Montessori had some of the same varieties in her own garden!

For more information about Seed Saver's Exchange, please visit their website at:

Here's what the children will be growing in the Bloom! Gardens this Spring:

"Green" Beans:

-Climbing French: Classic green beans! The most widely grown climbing French bean in the 1930's

-Pencil Pod Golden Wax Beans: An beautiful translucent stringless bean, introduced in 1900

-Red Swan: A stabilized cross between a purple snap bean and a pinto bean! Dusty red rose colored!

-Sultan's Golden Crescent: A beautiful, curly, translucent, stringless bean that is almost extinct.

We can't wait to see the children picking green beans for snack! Hopefully, the vibrant colors will entice even the most reluctant eaters!

Other Beans:

-Hidatsa Shield Figure: There are Slow Foods Arc of Taste beans raised by the Hidasta Indians

-Tiger's Eye: These hail from Chile or Argentina, beautiful mottled appearance

We foresee lots of bean shelling!


-Cylindra: Tiny carrot shaped beets that resemble red carrots. Sweet, easy to peel, perfect for snack time!

-Chioggia: Beautiful red and white concentric rings. Came from Italy in the 1840's


-Dragon: Tiny, refined purple carrots! Does that sound like a great snack food or what?

-Paris Market: Really tiny, red-orange carrots.

-Scarlet Nantes: Yummy baby carrots!


-Crystal Apples: Apple shaped cucumbers from New Zealand. Great for fresh eating at snack time with dip!

-Parisian Pickling: Known in Europe as Improved Bourbonne, used for making cornichons and gherkins!

We are sure the children would love doing some pickling activities!


-Delice de la Table: French heirloom from 1885- almost extinct, very sweet, translates as "delight of the table"

-Prescott Fond Blanc: French melon from 1850- beautiful warted skin and an incredible fragrance when ripe

Melon balling activities!


-Borettana: Italian cipollini heirlooms! Great for pickling and kabobs!


-Dwarf Gray Sugars: Introduced in 1892- stringless, beautiful purple blossoms!

-Green Arrow: Standard English peas!

We know the children will love wandering through the garden picking the prolific sugar snap peas, and shelling proper English peas!


-Buran: Sweet, bright red, glossy, Polish heirloom, bell peppers

-Joe's Round: Originally from Italy, brought to the US by the Sesito family of NY. Sweet 3/4" round peppers (almost like a grape tomato)- perfect for snack time!


-Galeux d' Eysines: Introduced in France in 1996- sweet, moist, and covered with beautiful warts

-Long Island Cheese: East Coast heirloom remembered for great squash pie!

-Pumpkins: Duh!


-Early Scarlet Globe- Beautiful, bright red radishes!

-French Breakfast: Oblong and blunt, rose scarlet with a white tip (like a beautiful carrot!). Perfect for snack!


-Currant Sweet Pea: Very prolific! Excellent clean tomato flavor!

-Italian Heirloom: Beautiful heirlooms from Italy. Easy to peel, great for canning!


-Golden Midget: Golden yellow plants and fruit with very sweet salmon flesh

-Moon and Stars: Oval fruits covered with bright yellow stars and one large moon.

The children will also be growing a small herb garden and a garden with some heirloom flowers (including a large number chosen to attract butterflies- which the children will be hatching!).

We can't wat to see the children wandering through the gardens, stuffing their mouths with fresh vegetables that they grew themselves!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Partnership with The Family Table Farm

"we may be witnessing the first generation in history that has not been required to participate in that primal rite of socialization, the family meal...the family meal is not only the core curriculum in the school of civilizing discourse; it is also a set of protocols that curb our natural savagery and our animal greed and cultivate a capacity for sharing and thougtfulness... children today are not only physically starved by the junk food that they consume... far worse, they are deprived of the main course of civilized life- the practice of sitting down at the table and observing the attendant conversations."

-Francine du Plessix Grey

At Bloom! Montessori, we consider it important to create meaningful experiences between our students and sustainably grown food. We want our students to understand where their food comes from, who grows it, how to prepare it, and the importance of sharing it with family and friends.

Young children enjoy preparing food and sharing it with one another. This permits them to care and nurture each other and creates a familial atmosphere of inclusion and belonging. It also provides them with independence, an opportunity to develop fine motor skills, and exposes them to manners, social graces, and courtesies.

We provide children with filtered water and nutritious, whole grain foods. We use organic and Rghb-free ingredients whenever possible. We consciously limit children's intake of processed, unnecessarily sweet or salty, or pre-packaged foods to special occasions.

Daily, children at Bloom! safely prepare their own snacks (peeling eggs and clementines, peeling slicing bananas, cucumbers, and carrots, slicing tofu, baking muffins, juicing oranges, cracking nuts, spreading hummus, almond, or peanut butter), pour water from small pitchers into their own glasses, serve themselves from tiny serving dishes, and eat from real glass plates and cloth napkins. They arrange their communal tables, wait until everyone is served to begin eating, and conclude their meals by washing their own dishes and sweeping and crumbing the tables and floor.

We are very excited to announce that in June we will be including fresh, local produce in our cuisine through our partnership with The Family Table Farm (owned by Mike and Lisel Record)! We will be joining the national Farm to School Program which connects schools with local farms to teach students about the path from farm to fork and instill healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

As part of the program, we will be sourcing our produce locally from The Family Table Farm, offering our families the option of purchasing their own community supported agriculture (CSA) shares from the farm, and the children will be maintaining an organic vegetable garden and vermicompost program at the school. More information will be coming soon!

In the meantime, we encourage you to check out The Family Table Farm website at:


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!
"The child loves us with all his heart and follows us with all the devotion of which his little soul is capable; nevertheless, he has something within himself which governs his inner life: it is the force of his own expansion. It is this force, for instance, which leads him to touch things in order to become acquainted with them, and we say to him "do not touch;" he moves about to establish his equilibrium, and we tell him to "keep still," he questions us to acquire knowledge and we reply, "do not be tiresome." We relegate him to play at our side, vanquished and subdued, with a few tiresome playthings. He might well think, "Why does she, whom I love so dearly, want to annihilate me? Why does she wish to oppress me with her caprices? It is caprice which makes her prevent me from developing the expansive forces within me, and relegate me to a place among vain and wearisome things, merely because I love her."
-Maria Montessori, 1918

To celebrate Valentine's Day in the Children's House, the children prepared a special snack of Linzer tarts. In true Montessori fashion, the children set the tables with real glass cups and plates, and prepared their own cookies. When they were finished, they washed their own dishes and joyously swept the floors and cleaned the tables.