Is it Salad Season yet?

It’s at about this time of year when everyone gets hit with a little cabin fever and the need for something fresh to crunch on. Luckily, in Hawthorne and on the West Side we have started to get the creative juices flowing to create this year’s salads that will be sold by our LEAD at weekend Twins games at Target Field. Thanks to our partnership with Roots for the Hometeam, our LEAD will sell salads developed by our budding young chefs with veggies grown and packed by Youth Farmers. Here’s a teaser recipe from last year’s lineup to add a little freshness to your day.

Mela's Taterthorne Salad
Mela’s Taterthorne Salad


Sayma and Jama cook up Borscht with parent volunteer Adrienne lending a watchful eye
Sayma and Jama cook up Borscht with parent volunteer Adrienne lending a watchful eye

A couple years ago we had a glut of beets and were stuck with the question of what to do with them all. Enter borscht! Very few of our participants or staff were familiar with this purple-est of soups, but their skepticism soon turned to celebration upon sipping its sweet broth. Since then nearly every time we work on meal planning borscht pops up. Last week, Lyndale Elementary students had their turn.

Hanad and Ila prep green onions
Hanad and Ila prep green onions

We adapt our recipe with the season and what’s available, because we love to load up our borscht with more than just beets. It is originally based on our friends Lucia Watson and Beth Dooley’s recipe from Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland.

  • 3-4 cups thinkly sliced beets
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup peeled, diced potatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup peeled, diced onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablepoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup cut string beans
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • sour cream for garnish

Toss the beets with salt and set aside. This sets the color, do not rinse them. In a large, deep saucepan, melt the butter and saute the beets, potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic for about 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and enough water to just cover the vegetables, and simmer until soft. Add the string beans, peas, and green onions, and simmer until just tender. Chill the soup. Add the herbs and serve garnished with sour cream. Delicious hot or cold. 


Let us know in the comments what you like to do with your beets!

Winter Programs Kick Off

We’re back in the Lyndale kitchen cooking up some delicious meals with our crew of young people. Check out these shots of making black bean burritos, spanish rice, and cookies and a kitchen stewardship scavenger hunt.

January at Youth Farm

Some of the food West Side Youth Farm participants prepared for their annual Thank-You Brunch at La Puerta Abierta – around 80 people came to the event!

When you say you are a Minnesota-based non-profit that grows food to develop young leaders, you receive a lot of puzzled looks followed by the question “What does Youth Farm do during the winter?” Well, the truth is, we do a lot!

Yes, Minnesota winters are long and cold, which shortens our growing season; however, the time we spend indoors during winter is a vital part of our programs. Of course, we continue running  our school-year programs, which includes after-school cooking classes and greenhouse classes (did we mention we have a greenhouse that grows food year-round!?). More importantly, the winter is a time for us to reflect on our work from the previous fall and summer, as well as to plan and prepare for the upcoming spring and summer. This means, by the first sign of spring, we are ready to hit the ground running!

Here are a handful of Youth Farm highlights from this past January:

  • Our Project LEAD in each neighborhood met weekly to focus on skill-building and planning for upcoming programming and growing season. This included meeting with community partners to discuss food distribution goals, planning our farms, and reflecting on & practicing youth work skills and strategies. Project LEAD also plan for the week’s classes during these meetings.
  • At our greenhouse in St. Paul’s West Side neighborhood, Youth Farm led weekly classes where youth grew herbs, lettuce, and start seedlings that will be used at our farms in spring and summer.
  • Youth Farm’s after-school cooking classes were in full-swing! During these classes Youth Farmers learned basic cooking skills, while All-Stars learned to cook with new foods and worked on perfecting recipe favorites.
  • Our Program Directors also worked with youth during in-school hours. For instance, our Hawthorne Program Director worked with a group of 4th graders who are using grow lights to grow plants indoors and with a group of 3rd graders to link their garden to classroom goals with what they eat at lunch.
Harvesting salad greens in our greenhouse.
Enjoying salads made from the greens harvested in the greenhouse.
Cooking in Frogtown.
Enchilada day in Frogtown.


Frogtown Neighborhood’s Super Easy Pho Recipe


The students at Jackson Elementary in Saint Paul helped create an Easy Pho Recipe for the days when we don’t have more than an hour to cook together. They gave this recipe the thumbs up last week in their Youth Farm after school program and we are sure you will too!


  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 piece peeled ginger
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • pinch of salt
  • precooked rice noodles (about a handful for each bowl)


  • bean sprouts,
  • basil leaves,
  • thinly sliced jalepeño
  • siracha sauce
  • hoisin sauce
  • fish sauce


  • Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion, cut side down, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden, 3–4 minutes.
  • Add 2 cups water, broth, star anise, and cinnamon; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 7–8 minutes.  simmer 2 minutes. Add scallion. Season with a pinch of salt.
  • Meanwhile, wash 1 cup bean sprouts, chop up basil, and one jalapeño pepper if you like spicy food (you can leave this out)
  • Put noodles in your bowl.
  • Take out the ginger, garlic, star anise, and cinnamon and throw them in your garbage bowl. Compost any veggie scraps and  ladle broth into bowls. Garnish with bean sprouts, basil and jalapeño . You can also add siracha (spicy), hoisin (sweet), and fish sauce (savory sauce).

*serves 4-5 people

SOCC Holiday Carrots & Cookies!

Hawthorne LEAD had a great time prepping and baking over 300 cookies for St. Olaf’s annual cookie bake! We made 7 different varieties of cookies, 2 of them featuring Hawthorne produce: carrots & zucchini. Those carrots were harvested on November 24th!

Holiday Carrots!

Our favorite cookie was the No Bake variety. Here’s our recipe:

Bring to a boil: 2 cups sugar, 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder, 1/2 cup butter (softened) and 1/2 cup milk.

In a bowl, get ready: 1/2 cup peanutbutter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 3 cups oats and 1/ teaspoon salt.

When the sugar/cocoa/butter/milk is at a good boil, dump in the bowl of the other stuff, quickly mix well and start dropping 1-2 Tablespoon sized cookies onto wax paper immediately. It gets hard kind of quick, so be ready. Let them set for 20-30 minutes, then refrigerate or eat. For style points, sprinkle with crushed peanuts, sea salt and/or powdered sugar. Makes a dozen or so…

Lyndale Fall Dinner

By Shanna Woods

The Thursday youth farm cooking class held their fall 2014 community dinner November 20th at Zion Church to celebrate the end of the season. The youth planned a dinner to feed families, community partners, and friends using fun meal ideas and seasonality. The youth landed on tacos with Cole slaw garnish with their favorite miso Kale salad.  Food used came from the various Lyndale youth farm gardens like cabbage, kale, and garlic and was based off foods harvested during the fall. The youth worked for two hours preparing the food to feed 65 people who attended which included our lovely space sharers LNA English language learners. The students had the opportunity to enjoy a meal with the youth farmers as well as engage in fun, lively conversations with the youth and their families. The evening helped the students practice their English skills, get to know young people, and enjoy foods freshly and skillfully prepared by youth in their community.

The event was such a fun way for the youth to showcase what foods they enjoyed over the 8 week sessions, brag about their field trips, explained food they preserved, and demonstrate their cooking skills. We are on break from cooking class until January 2015. We look forward to beginning new classes this winter with another community dinner to wrap up an anticipated, fun session.

All Star Cider at Annual SOCC Spaghetti Dinner

On Saturday, Hawthorne Youth Farm cooked for and hosted the annual St. Olaf Community Campus Spaghetti Dinner. We made deliciously veggie loaded pasta sauce from our well-stocked freezers, 2 types of salad, NSJ raspberry brownies and SOCC sweet potato pie. The produce list was extensive: tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, eggplant, summer squash, winter squash, broccoli, purple carrots, basil, kale, spinach, lettuce, radishes, beets, raspberries and sweet potatoes. It was over 100# of produce!!

What really stole the show though was Iyonna’s hot apple cider that she spiced up herself. It definitely helped everyone feel warm and toasty as the snow fell. Here’s her recipe:

2 gallons Apple Cider

6 Cinnamon Sticks

1.5 teaspoons grated Ginger

2 teaspoons All Spice (whole)

1 teaspoon Cloves (whole)

1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg

4 Tangerines or 2 Oranges

Boil the cider with the spices for about 10 minutes, then let simmer for about a half hour then strain out the oranges and spices. Serve warm!

Humboldt High School – Years of Partnership

To the best of my knowledge, West Side Youth Farm’s first program happened in the spring of 2000 when then Program Director Gunnar Liden and Humboldt’s Middle School science teacher Ms. Lyde partnered up and offered a spring elective focused on gardening, biology, and the environment.  It was in that class that my fellow classmate and I mapped out what would become the “Main Garden” and started turning the soil and kicking out beds as the snow melted.

Fast forward to today and the Humboldt – West Side Youth Farm partnership is renewed and strong.  Humboldt now offers specific agriculture focused classes and Youth Farm partners with the after-school program to offer gardening and cooking classes for 6th-9th graders.  Throughout the past summer WS YF also helped maintain the Humboldt vegetable garden while teachers and students were on summer break. The partnership has been successful as both parties often benefit.

Special Thanks to teachers Andrea Nthole, TJ Austin, and Beverly Babcock and Principal Michael Sodomka for supporting YF in our mission and goals.  Go Hawks!

Teachers Andrea Nthole and TJ Austin
Teachers Andrea Nthole and TJ Austin
Turning new beds in preparation for next spring
Turning new beds in preparation for next spring
Farm steward Alice Martin making decorated deviled eggs to celebrate Halloween.
Farm steward Alice Martin making decorated deviled eggs to celebrate Halloween.

“He’s like the nice Chef Ramsay”

Nathan Sartain 2

Nathan Sartain is a true professional chef, gifted educator, and also a long time Youth Farm supporter. In the words of Frogtown LEAD staff, Nathan is “like the nice Chef Ramsay”.

Nathan has been inviting Youth Farm staff to his classes to recruit volunteers long enough that he finally decided to work here as the Frogtown Summer Chef in 2013. Prior to adding YF to his resume, Nathan supported the West Side’s “Save the Circulator” fundraiser by organizing volunteer staff and students from St. Paul College’s Culinary Program. The event was significantly more successful because of his efforts.

When looking for a centrally located kitchen to create this years Roots for the Home Team salads, Nathan offered up space at St. Paul College and recruited numerous culinary students to support YF youth in creating tasty salad recipes.

Nathan (far right) helping Youth Farm LEAD finalize the Pizza Salad with Ricardo Abbott from MPS Nutrition dept.  "Every time we cooked with him we learned something new."
Nathan (far right) helping Youth Farm LEAD finalize the Pizza Salad with Ricardo Abbott from MPS Nutrition dept. “Every time we cooked with him we learned something new.”

Most recently, Nathan stepped up this past August and offered his skills and time to support YF’s Frogtown Harvest Festival. He was in the kitchen all day and helped serve at the festival. Well respected by his students and greatly appreciated at Youth Farm we’re so glad he’s a part of the YF community. Thanks again Nathan!