Kids Follow the Journey of the Taco from Kernel to Plate at East Village Harvest Festival

IMG_5409Campos Community Garden and Children’s Workshop School in the East Village teamed up on Saturday, October 19, 2013 to give local kids and their families a garden-to-table Harvest Festival, capping off a highly successful season at Children’s Workshop Garden at Campos. While the school held cultural and other educational activities inside the Children’s Workshop building, the garden hosted hands-on gardening, harvesting and cooking activities, including the “Journey of the Taco,” led by NYC Foodscape and fellow garden members, Chris Batenhurst, Carolyn Ratcliffe and Alexia Weidler. Kids took the journey from garden to taco, learning that many of the delicious ingredients in our favorite tacos, just like most healthy food, start their journey from seeds and soil. With recipe demos and hands-on cooking, the kids learned that tacos can be a healthy and wholesome meal that packs a flavor punch. 



Gathering Ingredients for Our Feast

The kids started with a tour of the Children’s Workshop Garden at Campos and the rest of the garden, looking for the raw ingredients for corn tortillas and taco fillings are growing. They picked corn, dried beans, peppers, green onions, tomatoes, tomatillos, and herbs to use to prepare their feast and we gathered the ingredients to start cooking.







Handmade Tortillas on the Grill

Campos garden members gave the kids a lesson in how to make tortillas from scratch. The kids learned how to grind corn with a mortar and pestle, and learn that the corn becomes a meal, called masa harina, that mixed with water and a little salt, become the ubiquitous little corn tortilla. Then, using a batch of pre-made tortilla dough and tortilla press donated by nearby Matilda Restaurant, the kids rolled, pressed and grilled their own tortillas.

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The World is Your Taco

The kids also got a demo in salsa making, using garden ingredients like tomatillos, onions, and peppers, and got recipes to recreate the fillings at home.

Now we eat! Kids and adults lined up to assemble their own fresh-from-the-garden tacos just the way they liked them from a table filled with delicious taco fillings like frijoles (from Cafecit0 Restaurant on Avenue C) and salsa verde and salsa fresca, roasted poblanos with queso blanco (from NYC Foodscape). Recipes follow at bottom of article.





Other Harvest Festival activities included daffodil and tulip planting, with kids writing their names on popsicle sticks to mark their own planted bulbs to come back and view in the spring, and a Bokashi composting workshop with Shig Matsukawa of Recycle Food Waste.








Here are NYC Foodscape’s recipes for recreating your own Journey of the Taco.

Handmade Corn Tortillas



2 cups (or more) masa harina (a special corn flour for making tortillas) or polenta meal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Vegetable oil (for brushing)


  1. Whisk masa harina and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in 1½ cups water; knead in bowl until dough forms. The dough should feel firm and springy and look slightly dry. Add more water a bit at a time, if too crumbly or little more masa harina if too wet.
  2. Pinch off about a tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten on a tortilla press lined with a plastic bag or with a large frying pan. If the tortilla cracks or crumbles, the dough is too dry so add a little more water; if it sticks to the plastic, the dough is too wet so add a little more masa harina. Make 2 to 3 at a time, and move to Step 3. Repeat, in batches, with remaining dough.
  3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; lightly brush with oil. Cook 2–3 tortillas until charred in spots and edges start to curl, 1–2 minutes. Turn; cook through, about 15 seconds. Transfer to a kitchen towel; fold over to keep warm.


Frijoles (Mexican Style Pinto Beans)



1 pound dry pinto beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces salt pork, rind removed or 4 ounces sliced bacon, finely chopped (Optional)
1 large onion, chopped
1 Serrano or jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
8 cups water
1/4 teaspoon cumin seed
2 teaspoons salt


  1. Soak beans for 12 hours or overnight; drain.
  2. Heat oil in large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add salt pork or bacon and cook 2-4 minutes, until browned.
  3. Reduce heat to medium; add onions and chile and cook 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add cumin seed, stir until seeds begin to release aroma.
  4. Add drained beans and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 30-45 minutes, or until beans are al dente, but not soft.
  5. Add salt and continue to cook 25 to 35 minutes more, until beans are tender.

To make Refried Beans (Frijoles Refritos)


2 cups cooked pinto beans
½ cup liquid from cooked beans
1 tablespoon olive oil, butter or lard
½ white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped


  1. Heat olive oil, butter or lard in large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until browned. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.
  3. Add cooked beans and bean liquid to skillet. Mash beans and liquid coarsely with back of wooden spoon or potato masher. Cook until heated through, about 3 minutes, adding more bean liquid or water if needed.
  4. Transfer beans to a food processor. Process briefly until smooth.


Roasted Poblanos with Cheese Sauce (Queso Fundido) 



6 Poblano chile peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 yellow or white onion, sliced thinly
2 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon oregano or fresh epazote leaves
½ cup Mexican crema (Mexican sour cream) or regular sour cream
½ cup milk
3/4 cup grated Oaxaca or Monterey Jack cheese


  1. Place whole Poblano chile peppers on a grill or grate of a stove over an open flame and blacken the peppers on all sides. They should still be a little firm, with some green showing through. Once the peppers are blackened all over (you can still have a few green spots), place them in a paper bag or a thick plastic bag, close the bag, and let the peppers steam in their own heat for a few minutes.
  2. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove them from the bag and remove the blackened skins. Cut the peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds, stems and inner veins. Cut the peppers into long strips, about a half an inch wide. Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil or butter over medium-high heat.  Add sliced onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes; add garlic, and cook about 2 minutes. Stir in the Poblano strips, season with salt and white pepper to taste. Add the Mexican crema and the milk. Gently stir to coat the pepper. Let cook for several minutes, until the peppers are completely cooked through and the sauce is bubbly and thickened.
  4. Add the grated cheese. Stir until cheese melts and combines with sauce.
  5. Serve as a filling for tacos or dip with tortilla chips.


Salsa Verde (Roasted Tomatillo Salsa)



6 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 jalapeno or 2 Serrano peppers, stemmed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
Salt and fresh ground black pepper


  1. Broil the tomatillos, peppers, and garlic on a baking sheet 4 inches below heat, until charred black and softening about 5 minutes. Turn them over and roast for another 5 minutes. Cool.
  2. Transfer contents of baking sheet to a blender, including juices. Add the cilantro and ¼ cup water and blend to a coarse puree. Add onions and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Pico de Gallo or Salsa Fresca
(Chunky Fresh Tomato and Avocado Salsa)



3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 small cloves garlic, minced
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeds removed, chopped
2 hot chile peppers, Serrano or jalapeno, finely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons minced cilantro
1½ to 2 tablespoons lime juice
1 avocado, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Put chopped onion and garlic in a strainer; pour boiling water over them and drain thoroughly. Cool.
  2. Combine onions and garlic with chopped tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, lime juice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours to blend.



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