JODI HAUSEN, Chronicle Staff Writer
Room 206 in Montana State University’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse was filled with the aroma of garlic and cilantro Thursday morning as about 20 high school students chopped and combined the fragrant ingredients with tomatoes and onions to make fresh salsa.
Montana 4H students work together to make fresh salsa during a cooking class aimed to reconnect kids with healthy food taught by the National Center for Appropriate Technology Thursday morning at the Brick Breeden Field House in Bozeman.
Later, taking feeble handfuls of kale, chard or spinach, the students reluctantly added the leafy greens to smoothies.
And though most were not jazzed about adding the nutritious leaves to the berries, orange juice and yogurt, others contentedly munched on the greens fellow 4-H members had harvested the previous day from a garden at Hyalite Elementary School.
“I’’s a really good idea,” said 14-year-old Adeline Richardson of Frenchtown. “I didn’t know you could put greens in smoothies””
After tasting the blended drink, the students were surprised.
“I bet this is what moms do,” one girl said.
The students participating in the “reconnecting with our food” workshop were among more than 300 youth who gathered in Bozeman from around the state this week for the annual 4-H Congress.
Thursday’s workshop was a fun way to teach students about where food comes from.
The children said they were astonished to hear some of the statistics FoodCorps service member Erin Jackson and National Center for Appropriate Technology specialist Nancy Moore spouted: a food item changes hands 33 times before it reaches Americans’ plates and the average number of miles a meal travels from farm to table is about 1,500.
“It’s amazing how far your food travels to get to you,” said Max Erickson, 16, of Red Lodge.
Erickson and his cohorts, making a lemon-lime-Gatorade-infused salsa, were also surprised by the diversity of crops grown in Montana. For example, safflower, they learned, is grown in Montana. Made into oil, it is used for frying foods at MSU – a healthier alternative to vegetable oil, said Tyrel Shepardson, 16, of Livingston.
It was Shepardson’s idea to add Gatorade to the tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro and lime juice “just to be different from everybody else,” he said.
And to “take some of the bitterness out” from adding too much lime juice, he added.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad. Much like greens in smoothies, the Gatorade was barely noticeable as a distinct flavor.
Some students added lime zest to their salsas. Some were smooth while others were chunky. But they were all tasty, judging by students’ zeal in consuming them.
When asking students at the end of the morning what they had learned, Jackson and Moore got a variety of responses.
“Just because something looks bad, doesn’t mean it tastes bad,” one girl said.
“That Gatorade doesn’t go bad in salsa,” another added.
Jodi Hausen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2630. Follow her on Twitter @JodiHausen or on Facebook at Jodi Hausen, journalist.
FoodCorps service member Erin Jackson works at Hyalite Elementary School teaching gardening and nutrition. She will be running a weeklong junior master gardener program in Bozeman from July 9 to Aug. 2. For more information, email Jackson at email@example.com.