Vermont School Garden

A visit to a Vermont public school garden through the seasons.

Peppers and Popcorn in Before the Frost

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Sixth graders were on hand in the garden last week to harvest the peppers they helped plant last June.

Why are some of these peppers red?

Pepper harvest!

They came out on a crisp cold afternoon just before the first major frost transformed the colors of our garden from greens to browns. They poked around the plants, relentlessly picking every pepper hidden under leafy foliage.

Great conversations grew from the discovery of different types of peppers.

Some discussed the heat qualities of the different peppers they found. They wondered why some peppers had turned red while others were still green. (Peppers naturally turn red if left to ripen……Shhhhhh, don’t tell the sixth graders; let them discover this on their own.)

Proud pepper harvester.

I will take the peppers we harvested to Harlow Farm. They’ll keep well there in cold storage until we need them for snack or for the lunchtime salad bar this fall.

Our fourth grade classes took some time to think about the ideal environment for storing popcorn until it was ready for popping. Did you know that each popcorn kernel contains a single droplet of water inside a tiny circle of soft starch? The soft starch is surrounded by the kernel’s hard outer surface. As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand. Around 212 degrees, the water turns into steam and changes the starch inside each kernel into a superhot gelatinous goop. The kernel continues to heat to about 347 degrees. The pressure inside the grain will reach 135 pounds per square inch before finally bursting the hull open! Popcorn needs between 13.5-14% moisture to pop. If the kernels are too dry or too wet, they won’t pop into the fluffy crisp kernels we know and love.

Popcorn Harvest.

A close-up look at an ear of popcorn.

A team of popcorn harvesters.

Tying popcorn for hanging.

The fourth graders chose from four different ‘ideal’ environments for storing their popcorn. We’ll see which storage environment wins out when we conclude this experiment sometime in January with a popcorn ‘pop-off.’

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Author: vermontschoolgarden

I have been an elementary teacher at the Westminster Center School for 30 years. For most of those years, I maintained a garden as part of my teaching curriculum resource. Now I am the Garden Coordinator for all of the Westminster Center School classrooms.

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