Mucking it up in Spring!

Article from: Edible Marin and Wine Country — Spring 2011

Stone's Soup Corner

For those of us who live in Northern California, spring is all about waiting for the rains to end and the sun to arrive again, and, thankfully, it always does. During this time of year, there is a lot to be done to prepare the garden for summer planting. It's also a great time to talk to your kids about what you are going to plant so that they will be excited about taking care of the garden and harvesting and eating what you have grown–and getting dirty in the muddy veggie patch! So, put your rain boots back on and go get dirty with your kids in the Spring muck!

Try my recipe below for "Swamp Soup," and I bet you will get your kids to not only eat their vegetables, but love them. The trick here is to hide a few beans in the bottom of their soup bowl and tell the kids to eat to the bottom of "the swamp" to find the "muck beetles"–and yes, I made that up. By the time they get to the bottom of the bowl, the soup will have magically disappeared. The soup itself is delicious, packed with green vegetables and will warm you and your kids up on a chilly Northern California spring day.

Swamp Soup

Yield: 4 servings


4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, divided in half

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups zucchini, thinly sliced (about 3 whole squash)

2 medium ripe avocados, peeled and with the pit removed

½ teaspoon salt or to taste A handful of cooked organic black or pinto beans Prepared pesto (optional)


In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups of the broth to a boil with the onion, garlic and nutmeg. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the remaining 2 cups of broth and the zucchini and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, re-cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the lid and allow the soup to cool slightly.

In a blender, purée the slightly cooled soup mixture with the avocado, in batches, until it reaches a smooth consistency. Return the purée to the saucepan, add salt to taste and warm gently. To serve, place a few of the beans in the bottom of the bowl and gently pour in the soup. When you serve it make sure to tell the kids to eat to the bottom to find the muck beetles!


• If you don't want to open a whole can of beans for this recipe or take the time to soak dried beans and cook them separately, just pick up a few at your grocery store's salad bar.

• Add a dollop of pesto to this soup after you purée it for an extra punch of flavor and a green color.

• Float strips of toasted bread or crackers on top of the soup and place a bean on one so your kids can make the "bean bug" "jump" from log to log.


Looking for something fun and educational to do with your kids over a long weekend or spring break? Try this project using dried beans that will teach them a little science and gardening know-how. Setting it up is a great inside activity on a rainy day. Beans sprout very quickly so they are fun to watch and this experiment works well for kids of all ages.

In this version of the old-school experiment you use different liquids–milk, water, salt water and sugar water–to find out which one causes the beans to sprout in the shortest amount of time.

Things you'll need:

4 empty cups

1½ cups of water

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 paper towels

20 dried beans

4 plates

Steps of the experiment:

1. Fill 3 cups each with ½ cup of water, and a 4th cup with ½ cup of milk.

2. Add the sugar to 1 of the cups that contain water and add the salt to another, leaving 1 with just plain water.

3. Soak 1 paper towel in each cup for 1 minute, or until saturated.

4. Label each of the 4 plates with one of the following: water, milk, salt-water and sugar-water.

5. Place 5 beans on each plate, and cover loosely with the saturated paper towel that corresponds to the label on that plate.

6. Observe the growth of the beans each day for several weeks, making notes on the number of beans that have sprouted on each plate, as well as the length of the sprouts. Determine which liquid was the most successful at causing the beans to sprout.

7. Once the beans sprout, you can plant them in dirt and keep them growing!

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Parent Plant said...

This looks delicious, I'm sure my toddler will love it! Greatso recipe, it'll be extra healthy going organic, thanks for the idea!

Amanda said...

What kind of beans do you suggest?

Jennifer Carden said...

Well, any white bean would be hard to find so I suggest cannellini bean or great northern. Black or pinto would be much easier to spot!!