Cook Fresh’s summer interns have been busy in the kitchen, learning about produce seasonality, shopping on a budget, and working with chefs Yia Vang and Rajen Rayen, to prepare farm-to-table meals for 60 youth interns and our visiting partners. Last week, Cook Fresh ventured across the river to Minneapolis’ Gandhi Mahal restaurant to learn about aquaponics and options for growing food not in season. After the tour, interns painted the Gandhi Mahal rain barrels, brightening them with pollinator flowers and honey bees.
Chef/owner Ruhel Islam of Gandhi Mahal then came to Urban Roots and worked with the interns to create an amazing meal of vegetable curry and apple chaat. Interns added their morning harvest to the table – rhubarb, cilantro, and lettuce, combined with apple, garlic, chili, and some salt to make an incredible chaat! We’re so grateful to Ruhel and Andy and all our partners who give their time and talents to our Chef-Led meals!
The sky was cloudy but spirits were sunny for our Market Garden Staff Work Day! Market Garden team members Summer, Jaclyne, and Sydney led staff crews to get our garden at First Covenant Church in great shape for the production season. We edged the garden, raised new beds for tomatoes, mulched with a dozen bales of hay, and gave our garlic some love so that production can be better than ever.
The administrative staff enjoyed ditching their dress shoes and getting their hands dirty—it was a great way to remember why Urban Roots began and how we can keep giving back to the community in the future. Urban Roots wouldn’t be where we are today without the guidance of our talented staff and our amazing youth interns. Last year’s harvest of 10,500 pounds on 1/2 acre of land was so amazing, and with the new Rivoli Bluff site we’ll double our land and yield even more healthy food for our community!
We are excited to have Saba Andualem and Clara Lind join the Urban Roots team!
Clara, our Donor Development Manager, is a Luther College graduate with degrees in International Studies, French, and Political Science. During her year abroad in France, she was involved in multiple organic farming programs, where she learned the value of edible landscaping. Her experiences with the sustainability program at Luther inspired her to move down to Kansas City after graduation to run environmental campaigns for The Nature Conservancy, along with various other human rights campaigns. Clara is excited to be living in the Twin Cities, and is even more excited to be a part of Urban Roots!
Saba, our Cook Fresh Coordinator, is a University of Minnesota, Duluth graduate whose focus and experience has primarily been on food systems. While living in Duluth, she helped start a CSA farm, which fostered cooking classes, weekly zines, lots of produce, and farm tours. After working for two years as the gardener for Common Roots Café, she spent a season farming and cooking her way through New Zealand. She continues her involvement with the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, consisting of 21 members who work in different sectors of our food chain and community. The Council envisions a vibrant local food system that enhances the health of all residents, protects the earth, increases economic vitality, expands social connectedness, and improves food security. Saba is specifically involved with the local food procurement group and is excited to integrate these topics in with the Cook Fresh curriculum!
Once again Roots for the Home Team will be bringing fresh, local, and youth-grown salads to the Twins stadium. Early this March, Urban Roots interns teamed up with Roots for the Home Team and some of the Twin Cities’ expert chefs for the annual salad creation session. Roots for the Home Team Director, Sue Moores, gathered Urban Roots, Appetite for Change, and Urban Ventures youth and their food narratives and recipe ideas for a testing and refinement session at St. Paul College. “Every dish has a narrative,” noted Union Kitchen founder, Yia Vang. It was up to youth participants to create that narrative by bringing their stories, foods we grow, and favorite flavors together. This year, youth created three amazing salads that will be for sale at the Twins and Gopher Stadiums this summer: “Ode to MN,” “East Side Pad Thai,” and “Home Run Super Crunch.”
“East Side Pad Thai” is a fresh, crunchy twist to the classic comfort-food noodle dish developed with Yia Vang of Union Kitchen. The dish is a gorgeous, savory combo of veggies: sugar snap peas, matchstick carrots, baby bok choi, and red cabbage, drizzled with a Pad Thai sesame oil dressing and finished with a sprinkle of cilantro.
“Ode to MN” features all MN grown veggies, raw and finely chopped, mixed with MN barley. It is dressed with a gorgeous pink, sweet and tangy cranberry vinaigrette and topped with salty sesame seeds. Target Field’s own chef, Paul Johnson, coached the youth through this recipe creation.
“Home Run Super Crunch” incorporates the signature pickling methods of Chef Shack’s Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer, with Urban Roots’ home-grown kohlrabi, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, mint, and green onions, arriving at a tangy, savory, crunchy dish topped with toasted pecans. Make sure to visit us on the weekends at Target Field this summer (see our calendar for game dates) and enjoy a tasty, fresh salad!
Nicole is a graduate student at the University Minnesota in the Masters Public Health Nutrition program through the School of Public Health. With hopes of being a Registered Dietitian after graduation, she aims to work collaboratively with those in under-served and underrepresented communities. Nicole is currently an intern for the Cook Fresh Program where she is teaching our Urban Roots youth about nutrition, culinary practices and food safety. As an added twist, she is integrating cultural sensitivity to the cooking skills with culturally-oriented recipes. Each recipe and cooking theme feature new and unique ingredients that inspire the youth to expand their taste experiences and cooking boundaries. Most of these ingredients include vegetables grown right here at Urban Roots, such as radishes, peppers and cilantro. After cooking, youth gather around the table to share and taste what they made, providing a hands-on, rewarding experience!
At times it felt more like a thaw fest than a freeze fest, but those who came out to Lake Phalen on Feb 11th had a wonderful time finding fun in winter. Over 250 community members came to try out ice fishing, boot hockey, snow shoeing, kick sleds, join in a story walk, fire-starting and marshmallow roasting. Urban Roots interns have spent the last month working with local puppeteer Daniel Polnau building the puppets and working on the performance to showcase the Ojibwe legend of Shingebiss, the duck that stood up to Kabibona’kan, the Winter Maker. The performance was narrated by Jenn Hall from New Native Theater.[soliloquy id=”2689″]
Partners for this annual event include: the City of St. Paul, St. Paul Parks and Recreation, St. Paul Natural Resources, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, Wilderness Inquiry, Tips Outdoors, St. Paul Public Library, Polar Devils and Ramsey County with support from Clean Water Land and Legacy Funds.
In January and February our gardens sleep, but there’s no rest for the growers! Harvestars Imogene and Tony have spent the past three weeks reviewing last summer’s plantings and harvest and planning for 2017! The two Harvestars (our lead intern position), first reviewed all 63 varieties of produce grown last summer and then made notes about the crop’s successes and failures: productivity, flavor, resistance to disease, color, popularity-to name a few criteria. The interns then categorized the crops by family and whether they grew best in the cold or warm season, using this information to decide which varieties we should grow again, and what new cultivars could be introduced. They were rewarded with every farmer’s favorite endeavor; pouring over seed catalogs with all their delicious photographs and colorful descriptions of veggies, fruits, and flowers. Imogene and Tony made notes with a proposal for each new variety they had selected and then presented it to their two supervisors, Jaclyne and Summer. The most convincing arguments won and our 2017 seed order is on it’s way!
The snow is falling, the lakes have frozen and that means that the Urban Roots interns are busy building puppets again for this year’s Phalen Freeze Fest, the Eastside’s annual celebration of winter! Local puppeteer Daniel Polnau, who has worked with Heart of the Beast and Bare Bones in addition to his own projects, is guiding our interns this year as they design and build large scale puppets to dramatize the Ojibwe legend of Shingebiss, a brave little duck that stands up to the Winter Maker spirit. This year Urban Roots interns are taking full creative control over the puppet performance and they are having a blast coming up with ideas – from choreographing a dance for hibernating animals to finding ways to incorporate music into the performance.
Phalen Freeze Fest will occur Feb 11th from 2-6pm at the Phalen Lakeside, Center 1530 Phalen Blvd, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55106. The puppet performance is expected to take place at 4pm. Try out ice fishing, snow shoeing, boot hockey, fire building, and building a snow fort. Don’t miss the chance to roast marshmallows over the fire or stop by the food truck! Learn more at St Paul Parks and Rec or Facebook.
At the end of each growing season, interns and staff at Urban Roots develop and process preserves to sell in our Market Garden Program, long into the winter months. It is a great way to utilize surplus, late-season harvests from our gardens with crops such as heirloom tomatoes, poblano peppers, jalapenos, garlic, onions, apples and more. With garden flavors highlighting each recipe, we source-in citrus, vinegars and spices to transform each product into a delicious small-batch preserve. We source organic and sustainable products and this year, in order to increase production of our apple butter beyond the apples grown in our small orchard, we purchased local, tart apples from Hoch Orchards in LaCrescent, MN. Another exciting new product for sale, sourced from our Conservation Program hives……..for the first time ever……Raw Honey! We partner with Pollinate Minnesota to manage urban honeybee hives at our office demonstration site, utilizing the hives as an educational tool across all three programs.
This year’s tasty, small-batch preserves are: Salsa Verde, featuring roasted tomatillos, poblano peppers, garlic, onion and cilantro with a tangy lime and pepper kick. Next up, Spicy Tomato Jam, featuring heirloom tomatoes, serrano peppers and ginger with a spicy, sweet flavor. Our Spiced Apple Butter features tart apples, cardamon, clove and brown sugar for a sweet, fruity, spreadable treat! The Raw Honey has been hand-processed on site and is Grade A for amazing!
The Market Garden crew sells our products at the Mill City Farmers Market Winter Markets through March. If you are interested in purchasing our products, the market would be a festive stop to pick up some Urban Roots preserves and other delicious local foods from a variety of market vendors (full vendor list available on the MCFM website). Winter Market dates are Saturdays, from 10am-1pm on the following 2017 dates: 1/14, 1/28, 2/11, 3/4, 3/11 and 3/25.
For those interested in purchasing preserves before the holidays for gifts and entertaining, we will have two open office dates on December 19 from 9am-1pm & December 21 from 1pm-5pm for you to pop in and shop! Please call our number on the front door when you arrive. We accept cash, checks and all major credit cards for payment. Happy eating this holiday season!
Here’s a quick look at two days that exemplified the journey of our young Metro Deaf School entrepreneurs, who have been engaged with us since this last spring through their job training program, learning and building job, business, and agricultural skills. This fall, they engaged in a complete farm to table experience at Urban Roots. Speaking with great authority, the students then taught their younger classmates about their Urban Roots experiences in our Market Garden, Conservation and Cook Fresh programs.
One chilly morning this October, students began the day harvesting dill, preparing it for sale, creating an invoice and then delivering it to the restaurant kitchen at Cook St. Paul. We were greeted by head chef and all-around-great-guy, Taelyn Lang. He took the time to show us around his kitchen and give a little history of Cook St. Paul. Homemade buns were baking in the oven and their signature Korean hot sauce was being stirred in a giant mixer. We learned how they make their yogurt in house and that they butcher a whole pig every two weeks. After the kitchen tour, we walked down the narrow back stairs to the dining room, where we were seated with other restaurant guests to enjoy a meal that incorporated the fruits of our labor. Among the delicious entrees, the students ate cheddar leek scones and an omelet with Serrano chilies. The chilies and leeks were also harvested, washed and packed by the students. Students ended the meal with full bellies and presented Taelyn and the waitress chocolates they had made in their entrepreneurial class.
The story continues on a crisp, sunny Friday in November when Metro Deaf School brought their whole school for a volunteer event. A table full of warm cinnamon rolls and bacon-egg-jalapeno rolls (made with jalapenos grown in our gardens) from Cook St. Paul greeted students under a golden Honey Locust tree. Students described the Urban Roots Market Garden and Conservation programs to their classmates, expressing great pride, ownership, and knowledge about their work with us.
We spent the morning cleaning up Dellwood Gardens and preparing the garden beds for winter. All 25 students pitched in and worked to the best of their abilities. In the afternoon, the school worked with Conservation staff at the DNR site collecting trash. At the end of the session, we were joined by a Conservation Officer who spoke with the group about career opportunities with the DNR.
Students returned to our demonstration site and sampled watermelon radishes prepared with sesame oil and sea salt. They wrapped up their volunteer experience with Urban Roots with a “shopping spree,” taking home the vegetables gleaned during the garden clean-up. Students quickly filled their bags with veggies, and returned with smiles, asking to come back to volunteer the next year.