Field to Feast: Roots and Shoots, Week 2

In Week 2, the Roots and Shoots class will be focusing on useful plants found in nature in addition to the ones we grow and use from the garden.

Day 1: We began the week with a guided hike led by special guest, Alan Muskat.

I can learn about wild plants and how to harvest them. 

Alan gave each student a basket and led us in to the woods.

baskets  heading up the trail

We found spice bush. london

Discovered places where morel mushrooms grow (although we didn't spot any morels themselves!)


Found Touch Me Not, a useful plant for helping heal poison ivy rashes.


touch me not 2

touch me not

And various other plants that stuck to our clothes or had funny red bumps, smelled interesting or just looked or felt neat. trail blazing

We learned to thank the plants before harvesting them and how to gauge how much of a plant it is okay to harvest when you are foraging.


We found the sought after birch trees at the very end of our hike and collected branches to bring back to school.  We will processes the twigs and make birch beer later this week.

Thank you Alan for sharing your knowledge and good humor with us! And, many thanks to The Brunk family for allowing us to use their property as our outdoor classroom today.

Day 2: Today we continued our botany lab series from last week with special guest teacher, Carlisle Rankin.

I can use the tools of science to better understand plants and how they grow.

The focus of today's lab was to learn how to use dissection and compound microscopes to observe the STOMATA on plant leaves.

Students collected leaves, used dissection tools to create microscope slides, and learned to use our microscopes to observe at various magnifications.

London & Sam-microscope

Students practiced careful observation techniques to draw what they observed.



In addition, we started some mid-season seeds in the garden: carrots, heat-tolerant lettuce varieties, and some summer squash.  We'll see how these mid-season plants do with all of this heat!

I can work together with my community to grow healthy food to eat.

carrot & lettuce seed

Gadiel prepares the soil in our new straw bale raised bed.


Gadiel Prepping Bed

Look what Leif and Winslow found while the rest of the crew was planting seeds.  Wow!


Leif & Wins- potatoes

Day 3: Today was the day the students couldn't WAIT for...the day when we brewed up our soda concoctions.  We made three soda syrups today: birch, sassafras (root beer), and cucumber-basil-mint.

I can apply the scientific process  to creating edible concoctions in the kitchen

Making Birch Syrup:  The making of birch syrup began on Monday with Alan when we collected birch twigs at The Brunk's property.  Students cut them into small pieces, rinsed them with water and used butter knives to gently scrape the bark, to loosen the cambium beneath and release the sugars from the twigs.

photo 1-1


We boiled the twigs in water and ended up with a lovely Birch tea, which, of course, we sampled.


Birch Tea Tasting

Then, we added sugar and cooked it down some more to make a nicely Birch flavored simple syrup. Delicious!

The Sassafras syrup was a concoction made from super-locally harvested sassafras- the woods right behind our classroom! We identified the cluster of sassafras trees yesterday and this morning Leif went out and collected for us.

We cut the root into chunks...

Cutting wild sassafras root

...and added a variety of other spices.  As we did with the Birch syrup, we cooked this down to release the flavors from the herbs, strained it, then added the molasses and sugar to make a thick, sweet syrup.

Noah Onions


The littlest kids in our group did the harvesting, slicing, washing and measuring for our Cucumber Basil Mint syrup.  We taste tested this when it was done and we all agree that it's amazing!

photo 2


Other tasks of our day were to undo some Ugandan Sack Gardens our 7th graders built in the spring and build a new bed for the strawberries to be transplanted into.  Miss Mollie, our fabulous garden volunteer, worked with students in the heat to lift, dig, carry and rake.  They worked hard, sweated a bunch and saved a whole bunch of little strawberry plants from near-death.

Strawberry Bed


Students also scrubbed potatoes that they harvested, shucked corn and prepared some awesome potato wedges for us to snack on.

Gadiel Cooking

For our end of class taste test today we enjoyed herb-roasted potato wedges and birch tea.  Here's Gadiel and London presenting their herb-roasted potatoes.

Gadiel French Fries

Thank you, Earth, for providing such amazing things for us to eat and Thank you, Friends, for preparing this feast!

 Day 4: Soda Taste Test Day

I can keep an open mind and try new things to eat and drink.

Soda taste test day is AWESOME!

3 different syrups, ice and seltzer wate...YUM!

Michael Soda Taste Test

Day 5: Today we learned about ways plants can be used medicinally and prepared a feast to share with our family and friends.

I can learn about how plants can be used as medicine.

Last week I collected calendula and lavender flowers from my home garden.  We dried them in the dehydrator, then added them to some sweet almond oil.  This oil has been sitting and absorbing the healing qualities of the herbs for almost two weeks now.  Today, we used this infused oil to make a healing salve to use on our skin for minor cuts, scrapes and irritations.

Herb Harvest

The students enjoyed watching the process of the solid beeswax melting to a liquid, then adding the infused oil and a drop or two of tea tree oil.  We poured the concoction into these small jars and watched it change form AGAIN into a solid. Wow!


Here's Winslow preparing some caramelized onions for on top of our pizzas.

Winslow Saute

And here we are, once again, feasting together in celebration of friends, family and the abundance of amazing food.  Thank you to everyone who joined us tonight to participate in our meal.

Roots & Session end of session feast

Many, many thanks to our food partners this week, who help make this all possible:

FEAST- for delivering farm-fresh produce to us on a weekly basis.

The French Broad Food Coop- for donating cheese and pizza sauce for our weekly feasts.