Summer Squash

Family: Curcurbitacae

Relatives: Cucumber, melon, pumpkin

Summer squash can be found in many colors and varieties, but most common are the green Zucchini and yellow Crookneck. As summer squash thrives in hot and sunny climates, Houston provides an excellent growing ground for squash. And if you’re going to grow it, you should eat it too. Steamed, boiled, pureed, baked, fried, grilled, sautéd and raw...summer squash is great anyway you cook it.

Currently, students participating in the 21st Century Community Learning Center program are learning just exactly how tasty squash can be. This week, students at Bonham and Whittier Elementary School used pizza box solar ovens to make mini squash pizzas. When the students first saw the Crookneck squash, some knew what it was and others looked at it strangely and said, “What’s that yellow thing?”

As Urban Harvest garden educators explained what summer squash is and let the students prepare their individual pizzas, the students began to catch on to this funny looking yellow vegetable. When it was time to eat their creations, their eyes lit up. A series of exclamations could be heard:

“Mmmmmmm. This is good.”

“Whoa! I never knew you could eat this!”

“I like this! Can I have another piece?”

Another generation is learning how to appreciate local and fresh flavors. Better yet, they are bringing what they learn home with them.

The squash family may be one of the most extensive plant families. Each of the four seasons highlights a different squash. In anticipation for the fall, Urban Harvest youth garden educators are planting winter squash (storage squash) tropical Seminole pumpkin seeds. As seeds sprout, the squashes are fruiting well, and our school gardens are experiencing the benefits.

Kid-friendly, Easy
Summer Squash Mini Pizza


4 slices of squash

4 slices of tomato

4 pieces of a green leaf
(for example: kale, swiss chard, basil, arugula, your favorite green leaf. The kids at Bonham really enjoyed kale.)

1 piece of whole wheat bread, quartered

Assemble the vegetables on the bread as you would like. Bake it in the oven on 350०F for 10 minutes, or you can use a solar oven and bake it for 45 minutes.

Of course, you can always eat it raw. For instructions on making a pizza box solar oven, you can refer to this site: http://www.hometrainingtools.com/

 Sarah Puffers
Urban Harvest ExxonMobil CSJP
Garden Educator


Fruit Matters – Get Kids Involved

If you are a parent, you know what an important part fruit plays in the healthy growth and development of your child. And you recognize the value of encouraging healthy eating habits at an early age. Let's face it,  Fruit Matters. 

Looking for ways to get your kids to eat more fruit? The solution may be right in your backyard. Involving your children in planting and growing fruit is a fun way to spend family time and it encourages them to eat more fruit. Research from a study, in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that children who grow up eating fresh-from-the-garden produce also prefer the taste of fruits and vegetables to other foods. In addition, the study found the garden-fed children were more likely to see their parents eating fruits and vegetables. And you may even get them to try types they wouldn't normally eat. Giving your kids hands-on experience of growing, harvesting and eating fresh off the tree fruit, also gives them an appreciation for their food and how it's grown. Planting fruit trees with your kids offers you a unique chance to teach them the importance of healthy foods and nutrition.

One way to get your kids involved is to make an apple pie or peach cobbler out of fresh fruit and let them know that these desserts can be made with fruit from their own tree.

Then introduce your kids to growing fruit trees by bringing them to the Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale and letting them pick their own trees. Letting them decide what type of fruit they would like to grow creates a connection. Urban Harvest has done all the leg work to bring you appropriate trees for metro Houston.

Some of the trees available at the Urban Harvest fruit tree sale include oranges, grapefruit, pummelo, tangerines, lemons, limes, limequats, kumquats, satsumas, peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, pears, apples, pomegranates, persimmons, grapes, muscadines, jujubes, figs, blackberries, blueberries, mulberries, pecans, olives, avocados, mangoes, Jaboticaba, star fruit, dragon fruit, lychee, sugar apple, grumichama and banana.

Urban Harvest holds pre-sale talks that describe all the fruit trees that will be at the sale, as well as how to plant and care for the trees.

Avocado trees for Houston

Years ago, I would plant seeds from avocados that I purchased at grocery stores. Avocado trees would easily sprout from the seeds and begin to grow. If I was lucky and winters were not too cold, I could get the tree to live through winters. No matter how hard I tried, or how old the tree became, it never flowered or fruited.

I learned very early that Hass and other varieties that are sold in groceries would not produce in Houston. And year in and year out, I hear stories of people growing from seed and wondering why the tree didn't produce.

The answer is simple. Most avocado varieties do not like freezes or frosts, and some require pollinators.

And then came the Mexican avocado varieties that are cold hardy and actually produce good tasting fruit. Bill Schneider of Devine Avocados near San Antonio starting raising Mexican avocados and produced a couple of really cold hardy varieties named Wilma and Opal. This was the start of a renaissance of growing avocado trees in metro Houston. Other varieties are also cold hardy such as Poncho and Fantastic.

The trees can grow quite large over time taking up 15' or more in diameter and 25' or more tall. They can be pruned to keep at a manageable height.

There is a little care needed the first year after purchasing one of these beauties. The trunk, which is green the first year outside of cold frame, has to be protected from the summer sun, and the tree has to be protected from winter freezes. After the first year of protection, they will thrive in all temperatures.

To protect from the summer sun the first year, the trunk can be wrapped in burlap or other cloth, or a tent of your own making can protect from the southern and western sun. To protect from freezes, place a 5-gallon bucket of water next to the trunk. When there is going to be a frost or freeze, wrap the tree in a blanket or two with the bucket inside of the blanket. This will keep the temperature around 32 degrees rather than lower.

My Opal avocado tree has produced for two years, but didn't this year, I think because of the exceedingly cold weather, but still looks great and has grown a lot. It is now about 10' tall and 7' wide and ready to put on lots of flowers during the winter and fruit in the spring.

I'm still experimenting on when to pick the fruit, for it matures on the tree, but needs to sit on a kitchen counter top for a few days to ripen.

The trees need to be purchased when they are available which is usually during the winter fruit tree sales, and then planted in the ground in early April. The tree can be planted in a slightly raised bed to insure good drainage. I built up a mound, planted the tree and then mulched heavily with leaves over the soil.

I fertilized the first year in May, and subsequent years in late February and May, with an organic granular fertilizer. I sprinkled about 4 cups under the canopy of the tree, and watered. You definitely need to keep this tree watered during the summer, but make sure the roots don't stay wet all the time.

Convenience Vs. Nutrition: Breakfast Fights Back

Breakfast needs to be rescued from the empire that is convenience food. Good news: fresh fruit acts as superhero and saves the day.

In our current fast-paced society, eating healthy and eating conveniently are for the most part separate ideas. The word convenience usually connotes an image of a frozen breakfast pastry whereas the word healthy can arouse images of a laborious preparation and a non appetizing result.

How about a way to have your healthy breakfast food and it eat too (conveniently and deliciously, I might add)? The Annual Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale can help. With relatively low prices, minimal input and high yields, fruit trees also offer the best of both the healthy and the convenient world.

Craving something sweet or citrusy? Walk to your backyard and pluck an apple or an orange from your very own fruit tree. Gone are the days of the over-processed and under-nutritious breakfast "foods." No more "yogurt that doesn't look like yogurt because it's in a tube and it's a neon blue color." Bring your diet back to the basics – fruit in its whole form- and experience an improvement in taste, health and efficiency.

There are many delectable options for fruit-centric breakfast dishes. Mix cut up fruit in a pancake batter or sprinkle it on top of yogurt, granola or cereal. The easiest and quickest way to eat your fruit in the morning is to of course enjoy it whole. Fresh fruit supplements any breakfast item with full flavors and high nutritional content. Bright colors, when natural (this excludes the neon blue yogurt previously mentioned) are a sign of nutrition.

So trade in that foil-wrapped, unnatural looking breakfast item for something that is delicious, nutritious, colorful and convenient: fresh fruit.

HereHouston.com: Hastings leads Urban Harvest in replenishing 'food deserts'

Hastings leads Urban Harvest in replenishing ‘food deserts’Learn more about how you can start your own community garden!  “We are a large city with lots of available land, weather for growing year-round, and a network of strong organizations, such as Urban Harvest, and teachers who can assist new gardeners and farmers. Urban Harvest is at the forefront of creating long-term, lasting partnerships that benefit neighborhoods and communities,” she concluded.


Read the full article here...

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