Kids Dish Dirt on Earth Day

Robin Seeley  Julian, Mirabelle, and Enzo’s painstaking work planting their tiny plots of crops (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watermelons, cantaloupes, carrots, chives, lettuce, peas, tomatoes and radishes) was rewarded with edible dirt cups.

Kids Dish Dirt on Earth Day


Cooking classes typically prepare food previously procured from a store. On April 22, for the 47th anniversary of the first Earth Day, the kids of the Culinary Academy of Post Street began the painstaking process of creating food from scratch, with help from the earth, sun and seed packets.

Of course, planting seeds, nurturing seedlings and waiting for the harvest takes a lot more time than a trip to the store. But it also gives kids a valuable sense of where their food comes from and the effort required to produce it. As an added bonus, it provides a taste of delayed gratification as well.

Julian, Mirabelle and Enzo’s produce will be 100 percent organically grown in the California sun. Even now they are eagerly waiting for their broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watermelon, cantaloupe, carrot, chives, lettuce, pea, tomato and radish seeds to germinate in tiny peat pots. Once the seedlings start thriving, the young gardeners will transplant them, peat pot and all, into parent-designated locations. As the photo indicates, they each got a set of seedlings planted three weeks before, to give them an idea of what to expect.

After the agricultural part of the lesson was over, the kids washed off the potting soil and shifted focus to more immediate gratification. This time, they got to make and munch edible earth. 

Each kid prepared a batch of chocolate pudding “mud” and topped it with crushed Oreos for “dirt” topping. After they had artfully arranged gummiworms in the muck, it looked downright disgusting, yet strangely yummy. For the finishing touch, each kid planted an Earth Day lollipop in the pot as a reminder of the earth’s bounty on Earth Day. 

Even though the digestible dirt had a benevolent purpose, its high sugar content rendered it unsuitable for sustenance. The three little cooks understood it was a rare treat, not regular fare. 

To learn more about avoiding foods that can make both humans and Mother Earth sick, the kids took a page from Frances Moore Lappé’s famous book, Diet for a Small Planet. Although first published in 1971, its message about the toll taken by meat producers, the sustainability of a vegetarian diet and living within our planet’s means still makes sense today. 

A pessimist might point out that Americans continue to eat more beef per capita than any other countries except Argentina and Uruguay. Nevertheless, there is a bit of light at the end of that carnivorous tunnel. Recent studies show that modest improvements in the American diet, including eating less beef, reduced our nation’s carbon footprint by 9 percent between 2005 and 2014 alone.

The Earth Day lesson on eating responsibly for personal and planetary health hit home. It couldn’t have been more timely, coming just a few weeks after the president’s executive order revoking measures meant to stave off global warming and mass starvation. As Enzo said in parting, “We need to remember that every day is Earth Day.” Yes, indeed.

In the meantime, stay tuned for the sequel when the harvest comes in.



Robin Seeley has all the dirt on Alameda’s East End.