Gardens are popping up everywhere, and it’s easy to see why. First, there is nothing so gratifying as eating something you have grown yourself. Second, growing our own food is healthier for us and the environment. Third, gardening is a great family bonding experience.
At a trip to the Triangle Farmers Market last year, I noticed a farm stand which was staffed by what appeared to be high schoolers. I noted that the banner read Urban Roots, and resolved to learn more about it when I got home.
What I learned is that Urban Roots is a program which provides paid internships for youth to grow food for the Austin community. Forty percent of the produce that is grown is donated to local soup kitchens and food pantries and the remainder is sold to CSA members and at local farmers markets. Urban Roots used to be a program of YouthLaunch, but has recently spun off to become its own nonprofit.
I learned more about the organization from a few of the Youth Farm Interns at a recent Open House held at the Farm, which is near 183 and Bolm Road. Shamar is a 15-year-old LBJ student and is already a Graduate Intern, having completed a full year internship. Sandra, a current Youth Intern, is 16 and attends the International School. Shamar was extremely well-spoken and poised as he shared his experiences cooking and feeding the homeless and how he has learned to cook and satisfy people with food through the program. Although Shamar and Sandra both agreed that the heat and mosquitoes were the hardest part of the job, both clearly felt a sense of ownership and pride as they walked through the rows of vegetables, pointing out different crops, handing out samples and explaining crop rotation.
After the tour, I was excited to return to the Urban Roots farm stand the following weekend, this time to share the yummy plums and cherry tomatoes I had sampled at the farm with my family, as well as to have my son pick out a “pumpkin” tomato, a bunch of carrots and some serrano peppers. I used the carrots to make the recipe below, and added in basil from our garden at home. I look forward to revisiting the Urban Roots farm stand again soon and perhaps even scheduling an educational tour with my son and his friends over the summer. Children 10 and up can volunteer at the farm and Urban Roots will host a Community Lunch Series at the Farm in June and July.
Quinoa Salad with Summer Vegetables
2 chicken breasts (you can use ~3 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken if you are looking for a shortcut)
1 c quinoa, rinsed and drained
3 medium carrots
⅓ c thinly sliced green onions
1 bunch of radishes with greens
¼ c thinly sliced fresh basil
juice from 2 lemons2 T olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 oz goat cheese
- Grill or poach the chicken breasts. Set aside to cool.
- Add 2 cups of water or chicken broth to the quinoa. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Peel the carrots with a vegetable peeler into thin strips. Add carrots and green onions to a large bowl.
- Thinly slice 3 cups of radishes and place in the bowl.
- Thinly slice 2 cups of radish greens and place in the bowl along with the next 5 ingredients. Stir in half of the goat cheese until the dressing is creamy.
- Slice or cube the cooked chicken.
- Toss the ingredients in the bowl with the quinoa and chicken. Top with the remainder of the goat cheese.
- Serve immediately.
Adapted from Cooking Light
What’s your favorite dish to make with seasonal vegetables?
Written by: Nicole Basham