Campers Get a True Taste of Farm-to-Table Cooking

The shady green space of Harlem Grown welcomed us into the urban farm with a cool breeze and some pretty colorful produce. The Executive Director, Tony Hillery, started our day with an introduction to the farm and the community it serves. Every last pound of produce harvested from Harlem Grown farms (there are ten of them in the neighborhood) goes to feed families nearby, free of charge.

Farmer Ciara and Education Coordinator Abbe guided us through the farm and greenhouse to give us an idea of the variety of leafy greens, herbs, vegetables, and fruits that are growing on the farm. We spotted ingredients like grapes, pears, apples, strawberries, stevia, basil, and Swiss chard, just to name a few! Along the way, we harvested peppermint, lemon balm, chard, and edible flowers to include in our lunch preparation later on in the day.

Of course, no farm tour is complete without getting up-close and personal with the compost pile! Farmer Ciara taught us the science behind the secret recipe for making the perfect compost: one part nitrogen to three parts carbon. Harlem Grown is unique in that it collects food scraps 24/7 so that people can drop off their food waste any time!

Our final cooking adventure for this week in NYC came in the form of a Restaurant Challenge: campers divided into small groups with a mission to create a restaurant name, concept, and menu inspired by the farm’s bountiful summer harvest. Though campers were left to their own devices in improvising recipes, the preparation of their dishes had to include techniques and concepts that we learned throughout the week, such as using different knife skills, creating emulsions, and experimenting with flavor combinations. Everyone was up for the challenge!

With ingredients to choose from like bell peppers, apple cider vinegar, stevia leaves, heirloom tomatoes, Swiss chard, strawberries, and eggs, campers were able to get pretty creative in the kitchen. In true sustainable agriculture fashion, all of our vegetable peelings, fruit ends, egg shells, and other food scraps went right into the compost pile.

We couldn’t have asked for a more adventurous group of campers to help us tackle the kitchens (and farms) of New York City. Amidst our cooking frenzy in NYC, one thing is for sure: this is a week of culinary adventure that we will never forget!