OKRA: Less than two weeks left!

If you've followed us on social media, read our weekly e-newsletter, or visited any of our markets, then you know that we are trying to win big at OKRA Charity Bar this November. 

How does it work?

With every drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and/or food item you purchase, you receive a ticket with which you can vote for one of four non-profits for the month. At the end of the month, the non-profit that wins the most customer votes receives the proceeds from OKRA for the entire month!

What's at stake?

The last non-profit that won at OKRA recieved $45,000! That amount of money could help us build three more school or community gardens in Houston. The majority of our school and community gardens are in food deserts, areas with little access to real, healthy food. More gardens mean more wholesome food and more green spaces for community engagement.  A brand new garden can mean a whole lot to a community.

What can you do?

Join us! Visit OKRA with friends and coworkers, have fun, and vote for Urban Harvest. You'll probably see one of us there.



Terry Hershey, longtime Urban Harvest supporter, honored by Audubon Texas

Audubon Texas and Houston Audubon Society will co-host the first annual luncheon benefitting Audubon’s new Texas Women in Conservation Program in Houston in February 2015. At this luncheon, an inaugural and esteemed group of outstanding women leaders in today’s conservation movement will be presented with the Terry Hershey Texas Women in Conservation Award for their work throughout Texas.
Terry Hershey has devoted and invested substantial passion, time, energy, and resources in significant conservation projects in Houston and throughout Texas. Mrs. Hershey is a former member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and a founding board member of Buffalo Bayou Preservation Association, Houston Audubon Society, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center, The Park People, and Urban Harvest. She also is a past board member for Audubon Texas, National Audubon Society, National Recreation and Park Association, and The Trust for Public Land. In honor of this well-known “force of nature for nature,” Audubon is honored to name its Texas Women in Conservation Awards for Mrs. Hershey.
Urban Harvest is thrilled to see such a devoted supporter honored in this way.

Growing Community Engagement

          Hi, my name is Michael Little. I am a freshman at the University of Houston, and a member of the Bonner Leader Program. That's all good and fine you might say, but what exactly is the Bonner Leader Program?

            In essence, it is a program that provides students with the opportunity to serve their communities by working with various organizations in a mutual effort to better their communities. The program understands the importance of community involvement and places emphasis on the practice of learning through service.

            The program was founded in 1990 by Corella and Bertram Bonner as a scholarship program that provided financial assistance to students in exchange for them performing community service. The program has since grown, with active chapters in universities across the country. The University of Houston chapter is currently in its first year of service. This summer, incoming freshman who had been accepted into the Honors College at the University were invited to apply to the organization. From the pool of applicants, myself and 29 other students were selected for the program.

            As for my role in the program, I am serving as an intern for Urban Harvest, an organization that works with the community to organize community gardens, farmers markets, and school programs. With Urban Harvest, I am helping teach a class of children at a local elementary school with Urban Harvest visiting garden educator, Sherry Cruse. The children are able to learn about different plants, as well as soil, weather, and sustainable living by working in a garden on their school grounds, maintained by Urban Harvest in partnership with the school garden team.

            I am also helping manage the community garden at the University of Houston. We are in the process of renovating the garden, and hope to turn it into a place where students can relax and socialize, while at the same time providing a physical example of the importance of sustainable living. Those are my main two projects, though I also volunteer at various other events sponsored by Urban Harvest, as the occur.

            Over the next four years, I will continue to serve as an intern at Urban Harvest. During this time, I will continue to help manage the campus garden, and also have plans for creating a second garden on campus, as well as redoing an existing rooftop garden on the campus. I will also continue to build my relationship with the Urban Harvest team, and work on many more exciting projects as the opportunities appear.

By Michael Little

Urban Harvest Bonner Leader Program Intern 2013-2014

Editor's note: Michael is one of three Bonner Interns from the class of 2017 who have selected Urban Harvest as their organization for community engagement. Michael will periodically blog on the student gardening projects  happening in the Peck Elementary School Community Garden.  



Celebrate National Food Day!

Celebrate National Food Day (Oct. 24, 2013) with Pumpkin Seeds, aka “Pepitas”

Let’s celebrate National Food Day (www.foodday.org) with pumpkin seeds! Pumpkins and pumpkin seeds belong to the same family as cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumber and squash. Long-valued as a great source of zinc, pumpkin seeds are recognized for their diversity of antioxidants by providing a wide variety of forms of vitamin E.

Super seeds!

  • Pumpkin seeds are a great source of the mineral zinc. Although there is little zinc in the shell/seed coat/husk, there is a very thin layer directly beneath the shell pressed up very tightly against the shell. Unshelled pumpkin seeds contain about 10 milligrams of zinc per 3.5 ounces while shelled roasted pumpkin seeds (seed kernels) contain about 7-8 milligrams. Zinc helps the body’s immune system, cell division, clotting, healing wounds and various aspects of fetal development.
  • While pumpkin seeds are not a rich source of vitamin E, recent studies have shown that pumpkin seeds provide vitamin E in a wide diversity of forms. (source: www.whfoods.org)

Simple Seed Snackin’

2 cups raw organic seeds (1 medium organic pumpkin)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Coarse sea salt

Cut a medium pumpkin and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place in a bowl of warm water and wash pulp from the seeds. This may take several changes of water and a bit of “massaging” to release seeds which will float to the top.

For salty seeds, add ½-1 teaspoon of sea salt to the water and let soak for an hour or more. Drain water and dry seeds on a paper towel.

Mix seeds with the oil in a bowl then place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Lightly roast them in a 160-170°F 75°C) oven for 15-20 minutes — the 20-minute roasting limit preserves the seeds’ nutrients & good fats. Sprinkle with additional seasonings if desired. Let cool and enjoy!

Be adventurous and try some new seasonings such as cinnamon, cajun salt, lemon pepper, garlic powder, tabasco and other flavorful additions to these fall favorites.

Sweet Fall Favorite

What vegetable could be more iconic for fall than the sweet potato? 

"Some people call these vegetables yams. Other people call these vegetables yams. Other people call them sweet potatoes. Both are right," Said the Lousiana Sweet Potato Commission. Sweet potatoes make an excellent fall harvest. This versatile tuber is the ideal vegetable for the Houston area because it is easy to plant, low maintenance for lazy gardners during hte hot summer months and a powerhouse of nutrition. 

The sweet potato is a tropical vegetable native to South America therefore thrives in Houston's relentless heat of late summer. They are planted by slips, whcih are the cut and rooted vines of sweet potato. 

Rows 'a Slips

When planted in May and June, You'll find them over growing their beds come fall. They are a school garden favorite! These tubers prefer a sandy loam soil so the addition of sand and a little compost to your garden ed will increase the size and numbers of your harvest. If the soil is too nutrient reich,the tubers may stay small and stringy. They will tolerat a heavier, though still friable soil underneath the lighter mix. 

Sweet potatoes form a thick-ground cover and inhibit nutgrass and weeds, and be sure to control weeds before the sweet potatoes have covered the bed completely. They mature 100-140 days from planting. 

Photo avove: A school garden after summer.  The sweet potato vines are on the right. They grow into a lovely ground cover. Our tomaoes which were thriving in May and June are now kaput and the bermuda completely took over!

Harvest before temperatures dip below 50 degrees. You can check for readiness much likne an archeological dig by excavating gently without disturbing or nicking the roots. IF they are the desired size, then they are ready for harvest. 

Sweet potatoes are rated as the No.1 vegetabel in nutrition, beating out spinach and broccoli in nutrition comparisons accourdint to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Our favorite school garden recipe is to simply cut, spray a bit of olive oil and grill on a portable plug in grill. Then, add a touch of salt and serve. 

Grow sustainable healthy communities with us by enjoying locally grown sweet potatoes throught the fall and winter. They can be found at our Urban Harvest Farmers Market August through February.

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