BOISE, Idaho —
There is a hidden gem in the City of Trees that many people do not know is there. It is a wonderful resource for children and adults to learn more about how our food is grown, as well as how to prepare it for nutritious and delicious meals.
Today, we take a look at BUGS, not the creepy crawly kind, but the Boise Urban Garden School, for a look at what kind of learning activities it provides. It offers wonderful opportunities for school children to learn about farm to table products, as well as to practice their culinary skills.
Covering nearly an acre behind Comba Park in northwest Boise, BUGS is part of Boise parks and rec, but it also operates partly as a non-profit organization.
“We offer programs for all ages. We have preschool that meets three times a week throughout the school year, and then we have school-age programs,” BUGS Education Manager Alex Brooks said. “We go into schools, and schools come to us for field trips.”
Additionally, there are after-school programs for kids, and adult education programs as well.
“In our gardening classes, especially in our pre-school gardening class, there’s a lot of exploration, digging in the garden, getting our hands dirty," Brooks said. "With our culinary classes we’re taking produce straight from the garden and producing healthy and delicious meals."
The garden here grows a huge variety of fresh vegetables and berries, many of which are ready for harvest right now.
“Right now, we’re harvesting a lot of zucchini, the tomatoes are starting to ripen up. We have beans and lots of other delicious veggies coming up,” Brooks said.
Culinary camp students come to the garden to harvest the fresh ingredients for their recipes.
The day we visited, focaccia bread with a fresh kale pesto sauce was on the menu.
“So, the kids right now are doing our culinary camp, which is a weeklong program," Brooks said. "They come and pick produce straight from the garden, and then we have a weekly menu, so they’re turning it into nutritious meals that even kids can enjoy."
The garden also has a small apiary, full of busy, buzzing bees that not only pollinate the garden, but provide honey, as well. It’s all part of the complete farm-to-table learning experience at BUGS.
“All of the food in this area goes towards our culinary camp. If we don’t use it fresh, we preserve a lot of it, and leftover food that we don’t use in the garden is donated to organizations like Rolling Tomato,” Brooks said.
A local garden center donates a lot of the seeds to grow these vegetables, and some plants are purchased from the CWI horticulture program to supplement what is started in the BUGS greenhouses.
In the kitchen, a culinary class is underway. On the menu, caprese salad, with freshly sliced tomatoes and basil, just harvested from the garden. Students also learn knife skills for safely cutting and preparing food.
“We have a registered dietician who leads our culinary program, as well as other support staff that have actual restaurant and kitchen experience,” Brooks said.
The students prepared a refreshing lavender lemonade, perfect for a hot summer day. At the same time, other students are spreading the dough to make focaccia bread.
“We’re huge believers in when they go out and harvest and see where their food comes from and how it grows, they’re more likely to try it in a dish,” Brooks said.
Next week, BUGS will take part in an annual fundraising event.
“On August 27 from 4 to 7 p.m. we have our Harvest Social fundraiser coming up. This is our non-profit’s biggest fundraising event of the year,” Brooks said.
This year’s goal is to expand and upgrade the kitchen.
“We’d like to continue to grow our culinary programs, and so we’re fundraising to be able to do that,” Brooks said.
All the proceeds will go to help more kids learn about growing, harvesting, and preparing healthy and nutritious food, at the Boise Urban Garden School.
BUGS is located on Five-Mile Road just south of Ustick adjacent to Comba Park. For more information on the BUGS program, and tickets for the harvest social, click HERE.
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