JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — They may be picky, but students at the Health, Wellness and Environmental Studies Magnet School are not afraid of the taste test.
Since kindergarten, gifted and talented students have grown herbs in their own sensory garden. On Thursday fourth- and fifth-grade GT students gathered their herbs and cooked under the guidance of renowned author and herbologist Jim Long.
Using their own rosemary, chives and mint, fifth-grade GT students made rosemary-chocolate chip cookies and green grape salsa in the kids' kitchen. They also used eggs from their school chicken to make the cookies.
Long emphasized the importance of taste. He asked students to taste a rosemary leaf and a chocolate chip together, and to taste lavender and a chocolate chip together.
He said guiding students from the garden to the kitchen teaches several lessons. Most importantly, he said, it shows them where their food comes from. It also encourages healthy choices and helps them appreciate their uses.
Fifth-grader Maggie Ferguson said that prior to chopping the chives, she visited the sensory garden to gather them.
Long offered assistance as students cut bunches of herbs from their garden, then picked off the leaves. Long also brought new herbs to enhance the garden.
Teacher Melinda Smith said the sensory garden familiarizes her students with herbs' various scents.
"Smell is so engrained in your memory," she said. "When I smell honeysuckle, I think of my dad."
Smith said early exposure to otherwise foreign scents and flavors instills youth with pride of ownership and emboldens them to experiment. Some of her students live in apartment complexes and don't have gardening opportunities at home.
"They're getting to the point that when they water (the herbs), they say, 'That mint sure smells strong,'" she said.
Smith said curiosity helps steer her students away from "so much fat and so much sodium" in favor of flavor.
The magnet school houses a sensory garden, a vegetable garden and a rose garden. Two rabbits, Oreo and Shadow, live in the gardens.
Long said he grew his first garden when he was 5. He travels around the world to places such as Thailand, India and Indonesia to bring home rare and unusual culinary herbs for his garden.
Long says on his blog, jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com, that he grows at least 200 varieties of culinary and medicinal herbs each year, along with vegetables. He is the author of between 20 and 30 books.
Long was also scheduled to visit Thursday evening with Craighead County Master Gardeners. He said they would discuss utilizing lawn space for herbal gardens.