Food Column: A children's garden grows

For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, 17-year-old Sneha Srinivasan set herself a dual goal: Plant a garden and educate kids about healthful foods.

Her new Children's Garden is a 500-square-foot plot at the North Hills Community Outreach's Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Memorial Garden in Bellevue. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, with finger foods, drinks and garden-fresh snacks, plus live music. Suggested donation is $5.

In the children's garden, kids can play in a teepee, around which vegetables in rainbow colors have been planted: Cherry tomatoes, rainbow Swiss chard, orange and yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant (see recipe) and chocolate peppers.

Ms. Srinivasan, a rising North Allegheny senior who lives in Allison Park, loves organic food and originally considered teaching children's workshops on healthy eating for her Gold Award project, but eventually she settled on the garden project instead.

A $200 grant from Pittsburgh Cares funded seeds and compost. Several teens helped Ms. Srinivasan build the beds and shovel compost. In early June, a Girl Scout troop of elementary-age students gathered for a planting day.

Now that the garden is operational, Ms. Srinivasan needs only to complete her final project report. North Hills Community Outreach has assumed responsibility for the day-to-day management of the garden, which produces fresh vegetables for its food pantries in Bellevue and Hampton.

Rosie Wise, garden and youth coordinator for North Hills Community Outreach, said the food pantry garden has always had a lot of youth volunteers, so planting a children's garden seemed like a natural project. A Grable Foundation grant provided funding for youth volunteer coordinators, so young people are continuing to staff the children's garden this summer. And some of the lead volunteers for the larger garden often bring their kids along, so the new plot provides a nice place for them to play and explore.

Adult and child volunteers are welcome to attend open volunteer hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. ("No flip-flops," Ms. Wise cautioned). Children 13 and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Groups can be scheduled for work hours at other times by calling Ms. Wise at 412-307-0069.

And see below for another North Hills Community Outreach event.

Open houses

North Hills Community Outreach: The charitable organization's North Boroughs site will host an open house where attendees can tour the food pantry and office, learn about services and volunteer opportunities, enjoy light refreshments and get directions to the food-pantry garden for a tour. 3 to 6 p.m. July 30 at NHCO's offices in Allegheny General Hospital Suburban Campus, 100 S. Jackson Ave., Bellevue. To register call 412-487-6316 ext. 3112.

Pittsburgh Public Market: The market, soon to move and expand, will host a Prospective Merchant Open House for locally owned, food-based business owners. 3 to 7 p.m. July 30 at the new space at 2401 Penn Ave., Strip District. Register ahead by e-mailing

Herb walk: Members of Piccadilly Herb Club lead a walk through the herb garden. 1 p.m. Sunday, July 21, at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve, 614 Dorseyville Road, Fox Chapel.


Cream soda tasting: New cream sodas will be available for comparison. 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. July 27 at Village Candy, Sewickley. Free, but registration required at

Out & About with Crested Duck Charcuterie: Dreadnought Wines leads a casual tasting event away from its own site, this time featuring charcuterie and wines at Crested Duck in Beechview, plus a tour by Chef Kevin Costa. 6 p.m. July 29. $45 per person. Reservations required: or 412-391-1709.


Grape Expectations: Six Penn Kitchen general manager and sommelier David Fortunato is hosting a series of wine tastings. Tonight's, at 8 p.m., is on pairing wines with summertime cookouts and barbecues. Three wines paired with bites for $25; reserve at 412-566-7366.

Harvest Wine Festival: Janoski Farm's first, co-sponsored by Volant Mill Winery and Allegheny West Magazine, runs from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 20, at the Clinton farm. Admission is $25 ($30 at the gate) for those 21 and older only.


Local Foods Potluck Dinner: Peters Township Public Library's GO Green Club and Cooking Club offer a potluck dinner open to the community; attendees are asked to bring a dish made with food grown locally or in their gardens, plus the recipe. 6 p.m. Aug. 2 at the library. Register by e-mailing

Special Summer Saturday:

Watch demos of 18th-century fireside cooking, spinning wool, harvesting gardens and more. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 3 at Providence Plantation in Evans City. Free. 724-538-8818 or


Pillsbury Bake-Off Final Call for Entries: Here's your last chance to enter the million-dollar-prize bakeoff. Entries for the final category, "Quick Rise & Shine Breakfasts" are due by Aug. 8 at

Grilled eggplant with cilantro pesto

PG tested

Here's a simple recipe that uses one of the vegetables grown in the new children's garden operated by North Hills Community Outreach.

  • 2 (1- to 1 1/2 pound) eggplants

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • Kosher salt and black pepper

  • 1 garlic clove

  • 2 cups cilantro leaves and stems

  • 1 sweet onion, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

Preheat grill and oil grill rack.

Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Drizzle cut sides with 1/2 tablespoon oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper

Grill the eggplant over direct heat, turning occasionally, until they are charred in places and soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil.

With motor running, drop garlic into a food processor and chop finely. Add cilantro and remaining oil and pulse until finely chopped. Season pesto with salt and pepper to taste.

When eggplant is cool enough to touch, scoop flesh from skins in chunks, discarding skins, and toss eggplant with cilantro pesto, onion, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6.

-- Ian Knauer, "The Farm" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)

Rebecca Sodergren: or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.


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