CC project provides taste of gardening

TERESA FARNEY Updated: September 9, 2008 at 12:00 am • Published: September 9, 2008

Combine a handful of college students with a vacant plot of land and a few packets of vegetable seeds, and watch a garden grow. That's what has happened on 1.3 acres behind the house of Colorado College President Dick Celeste.

The Colorado College Student Garden project is the outgrowth of the school's Farm Club, which started in 2005.

The students have learned to grow food and take it to market, to cook with it, and to practice sustainable agriculture. They've also learned other lessons, including working with one's neighbors and the economics of working with the land.

At first, the students tended a plot at the Venetucci Farm south of Colorado Springs. It was the same land used by the Venetuccis to grow the truckloads of pumpkins given away each fall to local schoolchildren. Tending that land taught the college students a valuable lesson - namely, growing one crop on the same plot year after year can deplete the soil of nutrients.

"At the Venetucci Farm it was great to have the land, but because it had been used for the pumpkin patch the soil was not so good," said student Sophia Maravell.

When the student farmers met with CC's grounds planner to see if there was a plot nearer to campus, one option was the land behind Celeste's house on Wood Avenue.
The land hadn't been worked, but the students knew what to do.

"We cleared the land by hand - no tractors," said Raman Ellis, a junior majoring in environmental studies and Southwest culture and also a part-time intern at the garden.

To get the work done - planting, weeding, harvesting, selling, grant writing and community outreach - the club got a grant and used the money to buy supplies and pay a few interns. Four full-time interns, including Maravell, earn $3,500 each during the summer; two part-time interns earn $1,500 each for the growing season. Volunteers provide added work.

The move near campus has proved fruitful.

"We were able to use one of the college's greenhouses to get some of our seeds started early," Ellis said. "Being within walking distance of the school and getting the seeds started early has really helped have a bigger and better garden this year."

The money earned by selling the garden vegetables will be used for the next year's garden, Maravell said.

On a recent tour, Ellis pointed out the varieties of beans, squash, tomatoes, herbs, chard and tomatoes flourishing in the meticulously tended garden.

"Last year was the first I got involved with the garden project," he said. "It wasn't as successful as the garden this year."

The entrance to the garden is framed with what Ellis calls a "three-sisters garden." It's a type of gardening in which plants are intercropped, a technique that leverages the unique characteristics of each plant to benefit the plot as a whole.

"I think it's a Native American technique - corn, squash and beans are planted together," Ellis said.

According to the iVillage Garden Web site, corn is the oldest sister and is planted in the center of the plot, growing tall above the squash and beans. Squash is the next sister and spreads across the ground under the corn, protecting the sisters from weeds and shading the soil. Beans, the third sister, climb through the squash and then up the corn stalks to reach the sun.

The students are trying various intercropping systems to learn which plants to grow together - for example, which plants will act as natural pesticides for their neighbors. This plays into the goals of the project: promoting sustainable agriculture in combination with environmental health, social equity and profitability in farming.

The students have been harvesting their produce and selling it at the Saturday Colorado Farm and Art Market Cooperative at The Margarita at PineCreek. They have also sold some of their produce to Bon Appetit, the food-service supplier for the college.

Ed Clark, executive chef of Bon Appetit, raved about the producefrom the CC garden.

"We have gotten just about everything you can imagine from the students," he said. "It's all been great quality."

Gardening has pushed some students into the kitchen.

"The garden has inspired a lot of us to do more cooking from the garden," Maravell said. "We're making more simple meals with our fresh, organic food. We've noticed our grocery expenses going down this summer because we're using the veggies we have grown."

The Celeste household also has benefited from the garden. Celeste's wife, Jacqueline Lundquist, said she enjoys watching - and tasting - the students' work.

"We've been watching the garden from the beginning," she said. "My 11-year-old son went down there to give a hand, too. It's been nice to have fresh veggies from my own backyard on my table that night."


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Watermelon and Cantaloupe Salad with Mint Vinaigrette
Yield: 4 servings

1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
1/4 cup simple syrup (see recipe)
1/8 teaspoon amaretto
2 cups watermelon balls (from about half a watermelon)
2 cups cantaloupe balls (from about 1 cantaloupe)


In blender, combine mint, lemon juice, simple syrup and amaretto. Blend until smooth.
In large bowl, combine watermelon and cantaloupe. Add vinaigrette and toss. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network

Simple Syrup
Yield: 1 cup

1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar


In saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, until sugar has dissolved.
Take pan off heat and cool syrup. Any extra cooled syrup can be saved in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network

Grilled Stuffed Jalapeño Chiles with Grilled Red Pepper-Tomato Sauce
Yield: 6 servings

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces soft goat cheese
4 ounces shredded aged white cheddar cheese
2 ears corn, grilled in husk and kernels removed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 jalapeño chiles, halved, stemmed and seeded
1 heaping tablespoon ancho chili powder, divided
Grilled Red Pepper-Tomato Sauce (see recipe)


Preheat grill to medium.

Whisk together cream cheese and goat cheese in medium bowl until smooth. Fold in cheddar cheese, corn and green onions, and season with salt and pepper.

Fill each jalapeño half with about 2 tablespoons of mixture and sprinkle top with some ancho powder.

Place on grill, filling-side up, and cook until slightly charred and tender, about 7-8 minutes. Spoon Red Pepper Sauce onto platter and top with jalapeños.

Source: Bobby Flay, Food Network

Grilled Red Pepper-Tomato Sauce
Yield: 4 servings

2 red peppers, grilled, peeled and chopped
2 plum tomatoes, grilled until charred on all sides, and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Combine peppers, tomatoes, vinegar, honey and cilantro in food processor and process until smooth.

With motor running, slowly add oil and season with salt and pepper.

Source: Bobby Flay, Food Network

Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cups canned or packaged vegetable stock
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
2 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Coarse salt, to taste
20 blades fresh chives, chopped or snipped, for garnish


Heat pot over medium heat. Add oil. When hot, add onion. Sauté 5 minutes.

Add broth, tomatoes, black beans and pumpkin purée. Stir to combine ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in cream, curry, cumin, cayenne and salt, to taste. Simmer 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings if desired.

Serve garnished with chopped chives.

Source: Rachael Ray, Food Network

The Mothership Tomato Salad
Yield: 4 servings

2 1/4 pounds mixed ripe tomatoes, different shapes and colors
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Large pinch dried oregano
4 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
1 fresh red chile, seeded and chopped

Cook's note: Depending on size of tomatoes, slice some in half, some into quarters and others into uneven chunks. This will give you the beginnings of a tomato salad that's really brave and exciting to look at and eat.


Put sliced tomatoes into colander and season with big pinch of sea salt. Give them a toss, season again with salt and pepper and give a couple more tosses.

Leave tomatoes in colander on top of a bowl to stand 15 minutes, then discard any juice that has come out of them.

Transfer tomatoes to a large bowl and sprinkle oregano over them.

Make dressing by mixing vinegar, oil, garlic and chile. Drizzle tomatoes with enough dressing to coat everything nicely.

Source: "Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life," by Jamie Oliver



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