A dozen Alachua County school garden champions applied for and received free supplies, equipment, transplants, and seeds for gardens at their schools. In exchange for sending the produce to the kitchen for inclusion in the school lunch program, schools receive up to $300 worth of support for their gardens for the season. We met them at Lowes, a partner in our Farm to School to Work Hub at Loften High School, and loaded up their trucks, trailers, and cars with everything from wood for raised beds to wheelbarrows, hoses, and tools. After loading up the supplies, they stopped by the Food and Nutrition Services van to pick up the transplants they ordered from the G.E.T. students at the Hub and seeds from the Southern Heritage Seed Collective at Forage Farm. We are as excited as they are to watch these plants grow into nutritious food for their students!
G.E.T. students at the Farm to School Hub picked persimmons today that will be served as a snack for 1600 elementary school children next week. Ken Hawes of Jonesville Persimmons provided tools and bushel baskets, and two helpers assisted the students in harvesting.
These are the Fuyu variety, which are non-astringent even when not quite ripe. If you have ever bitten into an unripe, astringent variety, you know why the tomato-shaped Fuyus were chosen instead! Although persimmons are native to our area, many of us have never tried one. We wanted the students tasting these for the first time to get the best possible introduction to this yummy, local fruit.
While enjoying their snack, students will learn a few facts about persimmons. The name “persimmon” is from the Algonquin word pessamin. These Native Americans dried the fruit like a prune and ate it throughout the winter. When Captain John Smith of Jamestown tried the fresh fruit he is said to have remarked, “If it be not ripe it will drawe a mans mouth awrie with much torment; but when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an Apricock.” The variety we picked today is the result of the exploration of another American, Commodore Matthew Perry, who brought persimmon trees back from Japan. These Japanese trees were grafted onto native trees throughout the southeast, resulting in the varieties we eat today.