If you’d like to celebrate Earth Day this year with your family but are unsure how to, consider an edible adventure.  Food can serve as the focal point to many discussions about ways we can eat well while helping the environment. Here are a few ideas of places to see and projects to do for a gourmet Earth Day.

  • Hit the farm trails. Pack a picnic and hit the farm trails for Earth Day. It’s a great way to meet local farmers, and learn some of the benefits of becoming a “locavore,” someone who strives to only eat food produced within a 100-mile radius of one’s home. (Such benefits can include supporting the local economy as well as reducing the energy used to package and transport food.) Check to see if your community has an organization of local farmers.
  • Visit the local farmer’s market. It doesn’t get any fresher than the produce you’ll find at the farmer’s market. You’ll probably find more than just produce; artisan bread bakers, cheese makers, coffee roasters, honey producers and flower growers often have booths there too. Some markets are strictly organic, some a mix. Not only will you see what’s in season, the farmers you buy from will see 80 to 90 cents of each dollar you spend, far more than when they sell to stores.
  • Join your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). If you like what you’re seeing at the farmer’s market but don’t have the time to go every week, consider joining your local CSA. Local farmers prepare a weekly box of fresh fruits and/or vegetables that are picked up at the farm, delivered to a central location in town, or delivered to your door depending on the program you select. If you’d like to find out more about your nearest CSA visit localharvest.org.
  • Plant a kid-friendly vegetable garden at home. Celebrate Earth Day in your own backyard by helping your child create her own vegetable garden area to tend. The complexity and size can vary by the child’s age; preschoolers will enjoy planting easy growing seeds such as basil, lettuce or nasturtium, and older children can have a whole area to design and plant.
  • Help create an edible schoolyard. Talk to the school principal about dedicating a sunny part of the school yard into a garden area where the kids can grow fruits and vegetables to supplement school lunches. What you do depends on the amount of time you have to dedicate and the available space at the school. You can begin by building one planting box for your child’s class—once the garden begins to flourish perhaps other classes will be inspired to do the same. If you want to lead a small school wide project, consider an herb garden. This will be easier to grow and maintain year round than a vegetable garden, but will still allow the kids to dig in the dirt and the herbs can be used by the cafeteria staff to spice up the school lunches. If you are looking for direction and inspiration, read Edible Schoolyard by Alice Waters.

And if you’re looking for a recipe to utilize the abundance of asparagus that you’ve probably found at the farmer’s market or in your CSA box, here is a recipe for Asparagus Carbonara:

What You Need:

  • 1 ½ pounds asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra if needed)
  • 4 ounces pancetta cut in a small dice
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 pound of spaghetti
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup ricotta
  • 1 lemon

What You Do:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Snap the stems off each asparagus spear. Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus and blanche for several minutes. Remove the asparagus with tongs and place into a bowl of ice water. Once cooled, slice the spears into 2-inch pieces.
  2. Return the pot of water to a boil.
  3. In a large sauté pan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add pancetta. Cook until the pancetta starts to crisp. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with paper towels.
  4. Add the onions to the pan, sautéing for about 10 minutes. Add the asparagus and continue to sauté until the asparagus is cooked through.
  5. While the onions and asparagus are sautéing, cook the pasta. (If the vegetables are done before the pasta is ready, turn off the heat and set aside).
  6. When the pasta is done, drain in a colander making sure to remove excess water. Add the pasta to the vegetable mixture. Quickly stir in the egg yolks and ricotta, tossing to coat the pasta and cook the egg. Add the pancetta and stir.
  7. Zest the lemon directly onto the pasta. Juice the lemon and add to the pasta.
  8. Season to taste and serve.