After donating more than a ton of vegetables to the local food bank, the students at Trafalgar Middle School felt it was only appropriate to invite the public to have a taste of what they had grown over the last seven months.
Hundreds of people came to the school on a blustery Saturday to take part in the school's inaugural Taste of the Garden, which featured numerous dishes for people to sample, most prepared with items grown in the school's 20,000-square-foot garden.
People got to tour the garden and see the many vegetables yet to be picked, and meet a master gardener, as well as try tomato bruscetta, vegetable kabobs, eggplant pizza, fried green tomatoes, spinach and mixed vegetable dip, and strawberry shortcake and zucchini muffins.
Above, the students, teachers and volunteers who helped put together the garden at Trafalgar Middle School gather at the first Taste of the Garden event on Saturday.
OK, and ribs.
There was plenty of good stuff to go around, with students carrying trays to tables so guests can sample the fare.
The garden has yielded more than 2,700 pounds of food for CCMI, the ministry dedicated to feed the hungry and homeless.
Al Piotter, garden club advisor, said the garden has been a source of pride for the school and community.
"We donated 2,700 pounds to the soup kitchen and wanted to give back to the community and invite them to our garden, and it's been an awesome experience," Piotter said.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was how the students came to embrace the garden, donating their time on weekends and after school to tend to it.
"I didn't even want to do it at first. My friend tricked me into coming," said Garden Club president Alice Fabela. "I didn't expect it to get this big. We didn't even expect to grow as many plants. It surprised us all."
Piotter said the food was also given to teachers and the kids to take home and try, and they all eat cherry tomatoes while working.
Piotter said that when all is said and done, the garden should yield about 3,500 pounds to be donated to the soup kitchen, almost double the one ton that was expected in the beginning.
"I find it unbelievable that on Aug. 24 this was an empty field and now it's 20,000 square feet of vegetables. It's amazing," said Trafalgar Principal Dr. Mike Galbreath. "The goal was one ton and it looks like we'll get close to two."
Galbreath said the garden will continue next year, with a possible expansion, as will the Taste of the Garden event.
The amount of nutritious food going out to the less fortunate didn't get past Shelly Coakley, food programs manager at CCMI, saying many of their clients don't usually get that kind of nutrition.
"We feed between 800 and 1,000 people every day, and this has enabled us to provide fresh produce for our homebound seniors and homeless," Coakley said. "It's great when you can give someone fresh produce and the nutrients you can put in their food. They feel better eating that kind of food."