A few students in Greg Goran's elective sustainability class sometimes take on one last assignment Friday afternoons before they go home: wheeling two recycling tubs full of vegetables to a seafood restaurant.
The Huntington Beach High School students tend a sustainable, organic and profitable 75-foot-square garden that provides a steady stream of produce to Slapfish Restaurant and a healthy sense of satisfaction for the kids.
"You can see all the fruits of your labor. We put a lot of work in the garden," senior Shane Fernandez said.
The 3-year-old sustainability class spends Fridays weeding, harvesting, fertilizing, planting and composting in a sunny patch that was once what Goran called "a big, ugly, neglected spot with rusty maintenance equipment."
The garden is grown with barely any outside funding – Goran said the school paid for the fence that surrounds it and bought equipment such as irrigation pipes with money from other sustainability programs (see sidebar). Now, through a partnership with Slapfish Restaurant, the plot is starting to make money on its own.
Slapfish relies on the food delivered by Goran or his students almost every Friday, roughly between $25 and $75 worth in the winter. It lands on chef Andrew Gruel's ever-changing menu, in dishes like the fish of the day, vegetable tacos or shrimp with braised chard.
Goran said the students are "blown away" by the taste of their produce, which they'll nibble on after an hour of field work.
Gruel explained that farm produce might be bigger and picked at peak ripeness, but "once they're picked, the sugars turn to starch. By the time they get to your restaurant 20 or 30 days later, it doesn't matter. These are picked and they're here in two hours."
The extra-local vintage of the vegetables gels with Slapfish's mission of offering fresh and sustainably fished seafood, Gruel said.
"Obviously, the local food movement's big now and people are going to farmers markets," he said. "What we notice with the farmers markets, though, is that a lot of that's just the same generic commodity vegetables that are shipped through a Sysco."
Besides Slapfish at 19696 Beach Blvd. (and possibly other restaurants come the summer), you can buy the class's vegetables from students at Surf City Nights.
Greg Goran's Environmental Sustainability & Social Responsibility class isn't all about green vegetables. There are two other big components.
The recycling program is how the class (and the Sustainability Club that preceded it) got started. It works with waste-management firm Rainbow Environmental Services to gather and sell mixed-stream recyclables, which Goran said makes the class a revenue generator for the school.
This semester, with a grant from Village Green Global, students have begun an energy auditing program that analyzes how much power every light and electrical outlet in the building uses.
Through simple steps such as turning off hallway lights and computers at night, "we're going to see a $10,000 or $20,000 change in the energy bill each month in the school," senior Ryan Gates estimated.
Next up – provided profits keep coming – is a solar academy.
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A garden vegetable recipe from Slapfish chef Andrew Gruel: Lightly Braised Vegetables and Shrimp with Carrot Sauce
Prep time: 15 minutes
Equipment: 1 large saute pan, cutting board, knife
Add any vegetables to this recipe. If they are root vegetables slice thinly and increase cooking time by 2-3 minutes.
½ lb. any freshly grown vegetables
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped shallots
1 # organic shrimp (or any shellfish)
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
½ teaspoon ground fennel
¼ cup fresh carrot juice (available at any grocery store)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh)
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped
- In a large saute pan heat the oil over medium high heat (until almost smoking). Add the
- shallot and saute for 30 seconds or until lightly browned.
- Add the vegetables cook for 2 minutes in the pan stirring or shaking the pan gently.
- Stir in the shrimp, garlic, fennel and saute for another minute. Add the carrot juice and cook together over medium low heat, about 3 minutes.
- Finish with butter, lemon juice, and fresh thyme over low heat for 30 seconds until butter is melted into mix.