A Bountiful Spring 

Spring is such an exciting time in the garden. Garlic and perennials start peeking through the soil almost as soon as the snow melts, and as the weather warms, every day brings new opportunities to plant seeds and watch them come to life. 

Unlike fall, when every nook and cranny seems filled with tasty garden treats, harvesting in the spring can feel a little bit like a scavenger hunt. And that is exactly what make spring garden recipes so special. 

At the Goodman Youth Farm, where I spend my spring days hosting school field trips, we try to provide every visiting student with the opportunity to pick, cook, and eat something from the garden. This adds up to over 1,000 students from the end of April through the beginning of June. We do almost no planting prior to when our first student group arrives during Earth Week, and yet the relative abundance of garden snacks during this early time never ceases to amaze me.  

One of the challenges that Wisconsin school gardens face is that so many of the crops planted by students in the spring are not ready to harvest until after school lets out in early to mid June. Schools have taken different approaches to this question of timing: some plant long-season crops for a fall harvest, some stick to quick-growing veggies such as radishes and lettuce, some get summer school students involved in the garden, and some plant perennials - many do all of the above. In this newsletter, we overview a number of early-spring crops - and field-tested recipes - that are easy to incorporate into almost any garden. There's nothing like fresh veggies to fuel the brain in the final weeks before summer vacation!

Our first Garden Recipes newsletter, from June of 2015, was a smash hit! It inspired us to offer this "second edition" of garden recipes with a seasonal spin. Find the original Garden Recipes newsletter here


In the section we have featured some of our favorite recipes that make use of garden produce in the earliest weeks of spring. Find more school garden recipes in the Got Veggies? Nutrition Education Toolkit
Perennial herbs & wild edibles 
Try them: As garnishes or additions to almost any recipe

Perennial herbs such as chives, oregano, thyme, sorrel, and mint (in a pot to avoid spreading) are the first greens to appear in the garden, and produce all season long. Self-seedling herbs such as cilantro and dill may also appear early if a previous crop was left to flower. A number of common garden weeds are also edible (and very tasty!) Try dandelion greens and flowers, lambs quarters, violets, garlic mustard (before flowering), and purslane. Garden safety: Make sure lawns have not been sprayed with fertilizers or pesticides before harvesting dandelions or other wild edibles. Make children aware that picking from unfamiliar lawns may not be safe.

Garden yogurt dip 
Try them: Raw, sautéed, as sprouts

Many students don't know how much they love radishes until they try them. Radishes that grow quickly - as fast as 25 days from seed to harvest! - are milder than older radishes, which can be spicy. For a very early harvest, thin out young seedlings and enjoy the sprouts on salads or straight from the garden! Radishes are also the perfect building blocks for edible 3-D art (cream cheese acts as 'glue' and pairs well with the radish flavor). This radish salsa is surprisingly delicious, and a great introduction for radish newcomers!

Radish-Mango Salsa
Green Garlic and Garlic Chives
Try it: In any garlic recipe, or in spring pesto.

Green garlic is simply garlic planted in fall that is intentionally harvested early in spring, when it is young and tender. (Often it is planted with several cloves in a bunch.) It is much milder that mature garlic, but still has that unique garlic "zing" when raw, and sweetens with cooking. Both stalks and leaves can be eaten. It is tasty in hummus, on pizza, or in this simple pesto recipe. Sometimes you can still see the old garlic cloves hanging on to the bottom of the plant!

Green Garlic Pesto
Try it: Raw, sautéed, steamed, roasted, in pesto

There are thousands of recipes available for this much-loved spring vegetable. Students will love seeing the shoots emerge from the ground. You an snap off stalks and share them for tasting right in the garden, add them in any pesto recipe, or feature them in a dish. This perennial crops takes 2-3 years to get established, but will continue to produce each spring for up to 20 years! Learn to plant and grow asparagus with this video. The recipe we share here helps a little asparagus go a long way!

Asparagus & herb toast
Tasty Pea Shoots
Peas are a tasty spring treat, but pods may not be ready before summer vacation begins. Try eating the shoots and leaves for an early spring treat. Tastes like...peas!
Try them: Raw, roasted, or sautéed

Also known as Jerusalem Artichokes, these tubers are a crunchy spring treat! They overwinter underground and can be dug up in early spring. Related to the sunflower, plants re-sprout each year from the tubers and form 8-10 foot tall stalks with yellow flowers. Tubers spread significantly underground each year, ensuring an abundant harvest, and also a gardener's warning: choose your planting site carefully, as tubers will spread outward and are difficult to eliminate once established. We recommend a well-defined area separate from the rest of the garden. Once you have a crop, it is easy to dig up tubers and share with friends who want to plant their own patch.

Sunchoke salad
Try it: Baked, boiled, raw

Sometimes called the "pie plant," rhubarb is a tart garden treat that is often sweetened in jams, crisps, and pies. (Try cooking crisp outdoors on the embers of a fire!) It also makes a delicious sweet and sour chutney. Children often enjoy the young, tender stalks raw, eating them like candy as the roam about the garden. Garden safety: Make sure to remove leaves, which contain toxic oxalic acid. This quick-cooking rhubarb jam is ready in about 15 minutes!

Quick Rhubarb Jam (and "Rhubarbaras")
A strong fall spinach crop can survive the winter in many parts of Wisconsin! Add extra mulch in late fall. Mature carrots can also overwinter in the ground and be dug up in early spring. Extra sweet!


Events ... visit our Events page for more

EDUCATOR DISCOUNT - National Farm to Cafeteria Conference - last day!
June 2-4, 2016 - Madison, WI

Don’t miss the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference this June 2-4 in Madison, Wis. This event is great learning and networking opportunity to advance your farm to school and school garden work as an educator! 

Click on the links below for educator discounts - sale ends TODAY, May 6th, at 8:00pm central time:

$25 off the price of one-day registration

$50 off the price of full conference registration
School Garden Support Organizations, Unite! A Pre-Conference Gathering
June 2, 8:30am-12:00pm - Madison, WI

Join school garden support organizations from across the nation to discuss strategies for building and maintaining multiple gardens, creating sustainable funding streams, program assessment and evaluation, school integration, and training school garden educators. This event takes place just before the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison. Please register separately.  Breakfast and snacks will be provided.

Register here


REAP Family Food Fest
May 15, 12:00-3:00 pm - Madison, WI

REAP Food Group's 2016 Family Food Fest will be Sunday, May 15 from 12-3 p.m. at Lincoln Elementary School! Bring the entire family for this fun, all-ages event featuring delicious food, fun activities, and more! Local schools, organizations, and businesses are coming together to celebrate Farm to School, healthy eating, and active living for children and families. Learn more about the event and the many exhibitors - including Community Groundworks! - at http://www.reapfoodgroup.org/events/family-food-festival.


Jefferson County School Garden Summit
May 10, 9:00 am - 2:00 pm - Jefferson, WI
Register by Friday, May 6th


In an effort to bring people, resources, and knowledge together to improve the food served in the schools and establish school garden initiatives, thus improving the health and well-being of our communities, you are invited you to attend the first annual Jefferson County School Garden Summit!

 Attendance at the Jefferson County School Garden Summit will provide you with the opportunity to connect with neighbors, share ideas and knowledge, acquire advice from experts, and discover new resources in the areas of gardening, curriculum, and utilization.

 Please register for this no-cost event at FortHealthCare.com by Friday, May 6th.


Tasty Tidbits ... of wisdom, fun, and information

Garden Joke of the Month
Thanks to Dale Schoeller for submitting this joke!

What did the CSA members say to each other as they were approaching the exit on the highway? 

Click here for answer

WSGN in the News!
The launch of the Wisconsin School Garden Network and Teaching in Nature's Classroom has generated a number of articles in the media that we are excited to share!
Now Hiring! WSGN Communications Manager
Community GroundWorks is hiring a Communications Manager to develop and manage a dynamic communications plan for the Wisconsin School Garden Network. 

This 75% time, salaried position will play a central role in growing the connectivity and impact of this statewide network through storytelling, targeted outreach and dissemination of resources, website development and other strategies.
For a detailed job description and application instructions please visit our website:


Deadline to apply is May 27th, 2016.

Success Story: Lincoln Inquiry Charter School

LINCS School Garden - Whitewater, Wisconsin

Each afternoon, Liesl Schultz Hying makes her way out to a sunny spot near the playground at Lincoln Inquiry Charter School (LINCS), where the LINCS garden smiles in all shades of green. Recess is in full swing, and a flock of students gather around her, asking to help. She hands out watering cans and buckets, until only one student, a kindergarten boy, remains at her feet. “Miss Liesl, I need to show you something!” He takes her over to the lettuce patch, where seedlings have recently emerged from the soil. He points at one. “That one,” he says, “I planted that one, right there.”
This spring, each of the 385 students at LINCS will plant a seed or seedling in one of the school’s four raised beds - and one in-ground bed - forming a connection to the food that will soon become recess and after-school garden snacks, or even dinner at home.
The LINCS garden was a new addition to the Whitewater, WI schoolyard last spring, and has quickly become a draw for students and families. Students visit the garden freely during recess, as well as during scheduled planting and garden care days with their classes.
The garden is primarily home to crops that students can pick and eat on the spot - beans, tomatoes, chives, kale, lettuce, radishes, and carrots. “Carrots were the most talked-about food last year,” Liesl recalls. “The students asked where they were growing, and when they could harvest and eat them. When they were finally ready, the kids were so excited to take a bite, they barely washed them off!”
Last school year, Liesl was an AmeriCorps Farm to School Service Member. This school year she is a paraprofessional at LINCS, and has the flexibility to work with about a dozen students on indoor gardening projects such as establishing plants from cuttings, starting tomato seedlings, and growing sunflower and buckwheat sprouts to eat.  “I want to give students even more opportunities to get involved hands-on with the garden,” she said. “My hope is that they will learn to nurture and care for plants, and that these experiences and knowledge will carry over to their every day life as they interact with their parents, their teachers, and their peers.”
Families are involved, too. Every Monday afternoon – including the weeks of summer vacation – Liesl hosts an informal garden gathering for gardeners of all ages. Logs serve as a gathering and natural play area, and families can stay for ten minutes or two hours. Liesl leads a short garden-based activity that incorporates environmental education, science, math, or art. There is also an activity box with a variety of supplies for garden journaling and measuring, and magnifying lenses for detailed investigations of flowers, worms, or pollinators in the garden’s new perennial area.
Families can sign up to care for the garden from Tuesday to Sunday, including harvesting and using ripe produce. Last summer, the garden’s abundant swiss chard crop became a favorite. “It was a new food for many families at first,” Liesl said, “but they were eager to try it. Three children in one family enjoyed multiple servings of the chard the first time they tried it.”
Liesl has also helped connect the garden to the surrounding community. Her involvement with Working for Whitewater’s Wellness (a health coalition also known as W3) has led to the organization’s financial support of the garden.  Donations of materials have come from local businesses, while volunteers come from UW-Whitewater, school families, and the surrounding community. Liesl has connected the school with the UW-Whitewater greenhouse, which houses the garden’s tomato and pepper seedlings. Besides going into the garden, these seedlings are available for students and families to take at the PTO’s annual Spring Fling fundraiser.  “It’s really neat to see how excited the kids are to have their own plant to grow food,” she said.  “One of my main missions is to help families eat healthy and learn where food comes from, and the garden is really achieving that goal.”
To learn more about the LINCS garden, visit their garden blog.

Read other Wisconsin school garden success stories

Share your garden story #wischoolgardens

Every garden is ripe with stories.  Maybe it is one about the day the first shovel-full of soil was turned over and the garden was underway.  Or about that time a brave rabbit dared to sample lettuce amidst a class of kindergartners partaking in a garden lesson. Each story has the potential to connect others with your garden program. Send us your story idea, or read our garden storytelling brief for tips on collecting and sharing thestories that make your garden program so special.  

Too-Good-to-Miss Garden Resources

Just starting a school garden? We're here to help. Check out these free resources, developed right in Wisconsin. Or, send us an email with your questions! 

Got Dirt? Garden Toolkit: Simple, step-by-step guide for starting a school garden
Got Veggies? Nutrition Education Curriculum: Aligned with state standards
Teaching in Nature's Classroom: Core Principles of Garden-Based Education
Cultivating Childhood Wellness through Gardening Free online training with chapters on planning, planting, growing, and harvesting a garden with kids. Approved for continuing education hours for child care providers (1.5 hours of Registry credit).

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