Today we adventure by car to Old Westbury Gardens to attend a family program, the Root of It All: Walk and Taste. This walk highlights cooler season root vegetables and gives families and children the opportunity to sample these, perhaps, lesser eaten vegetables.
The walk starts at the home of the Phipps family, heirs to U.S. Steel. The estate stands on over 160 acres and was built around 1903. Anyone with the good fortune of traveling here will be swept into to a Gatsby-esque fantasy.
We go to the vegetable garden in back, which was developed after the home and grounds were bought from the family by the nonprofit that runs Old Westbury Gardens. Our small group is able pluck the root vegetables from the beds. The boys plunge their hands into the earth while our guide speaks about root vegetables in history as well as their nutritional value. We watch and listen as the children harvest carrots, radishes, beets, turnips and sweet potatoes.
We walk further, our harvest in tow, towards the home and hear how root cellars were used as storehouses. A well insulated cellar can keep food 40 degrees cooler than outside summer temperatures to slow deterioration and rot over winter.
We are led to the kitchen to sample foods made from these vegetables. We are given taro and beet Terra chips, beet hummus and some delicious carrot cake. The boys happily munch as we sit admiring the turn of the century kitchen and listen to the rest of the talk.
The goal of the family programs, according to Lisa Reichenberger, the director of environmental education at Old Westbury Gardens, is “To create programs that educate the public in the ways of the natural world inspiring a love of preservation and environmental stewardship. Seasonal family programs engage exploration through the senses while fostering the questions, inspirations and ideas that go hand in hand with the outdoors. These educational programs are vital in the molding of a child or any visitor’s understanding of their impact on the environment and the wildlife that surrounds them”.
The gardens offer educational and family programs from April through December. Their walks are hardly ever repeated; past events include The Apple of My Eye, an apple tasting and making an apple wreath, and Pucker up to Cranberries, a cranberry tasting and a kissing ball craft. Adults are invited to the monthly Cream Tea and Tour, for tea, scones and a tour of the majestic mansion.
Visit the gardens to take advantage of this experience and to allow for the richness of the history to overwhelm the senses during this beautiful time of year. The boys loved plucking the root vegetables from the raised beds as well running free in open fields and playing in the old playhouses on the grounds. Freedom to run, a tasty morsel and some new information make this day wonderful and exciting. We will return for the next one!