Jack Pettinger is in deep concentration on a warm Tuesday morning as he looks through a blackberry plant trying to pick the perfect berries. He will use the berries to cook a cobbler later this week.
“This one right here seems like a good one,” said the Riverglen Junior High School eighth grader.
Jack is part of a culinary camp through the Boise Urban Garden School, or BUGS. The week-long camp started in June and has hosted nearly 175 kids this summer.
“It’s about creating the connection between garden and kitchen,” said Lisa Duplessie, the BUGS executive director.
Jack and 15 other kids (ages 10-14) learn how to take ingredients from the garden and turn them into meals. By the end of the day, the kids eat what they harvest and take home the recipes.
“The goal is to hope these kids get empowered to take their health into their own hands,” Duplessie said.
The kids work every morning for 30 minutes harvesting vegetables in the garden that are then brought to the kitchen. Just steps away from the garden stands a large red barn that is used as a kitchen classroom. Chef Christina Murray asks the kids if they have picked all the vegetables needed for lunch.
“Got everything,” said Ava Porter, a seventh grader at North Junior High School.
On the lunch menu — handmade tortillas, veggie tacos and brownies. Students gathered green onions, zucchini and squash.
Murray moves around the kitchen, teaching kids as she goes. She stopped to show Ava how to knead the tortilla dough.
“You have to use both hands” she said.
Prior to being head chef at BUGS, Murray worked as a private chef for 10 years.
“The camp is about integrating what they learn here and taking it back to their home kitchen,” she said. “People are separated by packaged food and home cooking.”
Taste buds are part of the learning process, as kids are confronted with foods that some otherwise may avoid, such as zucchini, the feature vegetable in zucchini bread prepared by students during the week.
“The kids realize the vegetables are a lot different from what you buy at the grocery store,” Duplessie said.
By the end of the week the kids will learn about gardening, cooking, healthy eating and wellness.
“This is a program you won’t find anywhere else in Boise,” Duplessie said.
Learn more about the programs offered at BUGS.