Residents of the Brook Oaks Neighborhood have been doing some culinary exploration with local chefs these past few weeks. They are learning new ways to use foods they may have come in contact within their own gardens, at the Waco Family Medicine community garden space, at Mission Waco’s Urban Reap, and at the neighborhood grocery stores located in the Brook Oaks neighborhood.
Our theme throughout the class has been “Did you know what you can do with that ingredient?” Dolmas, drying herbs, and pineapple skin tea are just a few of the topics of the cooking classes we have taken part in. Later this month we will learn how to cook with squash and how to make Nopales breakfast tacos!
The first class featured grape leaves found in the Community Garden at Waco Family Medicine. Ignoring the grapes themselves, we instead picked the grapes’ leaves to make dolmas a Mediterranean dish that includes rolling rice, ground beef, spices, and mixture of herbs into grape leaves. After picking grape leaves (we used a few fresh ones but also had some that were purchased from the grocery store), we also picked dill, mint and parsley from the garden to use in the dish.
In our next class, we learned how to dry herbs, which is a lot easier than you think if you have paper bags handy. We used herbs gathered from the Waco Family Medicine community garden space and Urban Reap; some that were familiar and some that were not. We bundled herbs together, put a slit in the bottom of the paper bag, and slid the stems of our herbs through the slit to take home to hang.
After that, we learned how to make a tea using pineapple skins as our key ingredient. Boiling the skin along with cinnamon cloves and ginger results in a delightful tea that can help with inflammation and digestive issues. We even planted the top of the pineapple to see if we could grow our own pineapple plant (it takes about 18 months to 2 years)! It has been a blast learning all these new skills. Thanks to our chef’s April Strickland, Chisa Brigham, Linda Weaver, Kay Bell, and Kyle McElroy for sharing their cooking knowledge with us and Emily Hills at Urban Reap for hosting many of our classes!
— DeShauna Hollie