'Tis the season for an eco-picnic

9th September 2011 at 01:00
Oysters and courgette cup cakes are on the menu as top chef Tom Kitchin helps Leith pupils celebrate fresh, locally produced Scottish food. Raymond Ross reports

It's not every day that primary pupils get the chance to feast on fresh oysters. But at Hermitage Park Primary in Leith, a group of pupils are sitting at table with Michelin star chef Tom Kitchin doing just that.

They seem to be relishing the experience and only one young lad is taking his time digesting his, though he does say afterwards that he enjoyed it.

Tom Kitchin is at the school with Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, to help celebrate the launch of One Planet Picnic, an Eco-Schools Scotland initiative. So, if you think the summer's over, think again.

Keep Scotland Beautiful, which runs the Eco-Schools programme, is inviting nursery, primary and secondary schools to hold a One Planet Picnic during the fortnight of 12-23 September to celebrate and enjoy Scottish foods.

Picnics, they suggest, may be held in school grounds, parks or local open spaces. Teddy bears are optional, but picnics should include local, seasonal, ethically-sourced produce and be as waste-free as possible.

Ideally, they should include produce grown in the school, which won't prove a problem for Hermitage Park since its playground is something of a market garden. Here they grow a whole variety of fruit and veg, from strawberries, raspberries, apples and plums to carrots, onions, potatoes and courgettes.

In summer, they make smoothies with the fruit and in winter soups from their root vegetables. On offer at the launch, along with fresh fruit and veg, are (quite tasty) courgette cup cakes.

Hermitage Park has been an eco-school for eight years and was recently awarded its third Green Flag.

"Being an eco-school is our default position," says headteacher Gaye Linklater. "It's not an add-on. It intertwines with the Curriculum for Excellence and all our inter-disciplinary topics include eco-matters.

"It's sad to think that in the 21st century there are still children who don't know where a chip comes from. Not here, though. I'll never forget the look on the pupils' faces when they dug up their first potatoes."

The school grounds are also something of a botanical garden including wild flowers and a small tree nursery.

The pupils are active in the local environment as well. They have planted 3,000 bulbs in nearby Lochend Park, where they have also developed a nature trail and regularly clean up litter.

Every year group has responsibilities ranging from the school grounds and waste minimisation to water, energy, transport and health and well- being.

"Having been an eco-school for eight years means that now the P7 class has been ecologically-minded since nursery," says depute head Pat Brown.

"This has impacted on the ethos of the school, making our pupils both responsible citizens and confident individuals. Their care for the planet is global. For example, they decided to put collection bottles in every class to help the victims of the Pakistan floods. By simply collecting pennies every day they raised pound;1,000," she says.

So enthusiastic was one group that it accidentally changed the mantra "Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle" to "Reduce, Re-use, Rejoice"!

"The pupils are so committed that even their `pester power' comes into play," says Mrs Linklater. "Parents tell us of their children going round the house switching off unnecessary lights and in one instance a child insisted, on a supermarket run, that her parents turn the car around and go back because they had forgotten to bring their own plastic bags."

Though he is no fan of supermarkets, Tom Kitchin would approve. He tells the children not to eat - or let their parents buy - fruit or veg that is out of season.

"I'm all for seasonality, for local produce and for sustainability. I think initiatives such as the One Planet Picnic are vitally important in getting the kids to enjoy fresh seasonal produce," he says. "If we can get them to do this, it will stand them in good stead throughout their lives."

ONE PLANET PICNIC COMPETITION: WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO

1. Write out a recipe for an item in your sustainable picnic. State:

- where the ingredients came from (eg school garden, local farm, other Scottish produce, Fair Trade item from another country)

- how they were used (eg in a sandwich, chopped into a salad etc)

- how you minimised waste (food and packaging)

- about your picnic - who went? Where was it? What else did you do?

2. Decorate your recipe

- You could, for example, use pen or pencil drawings, or computer- generated designs.

- The organisers also welcome recipes as part of a whole menu for your picnic.

- Photographs of your picnic would also be welcome.

Prizes for the competition are designed to support pupils' learning about and experience of sustainable food choices. They include:

- pupil visits to award-winning Tom Kitchin's restaurant in Edinburgh

- school visit to Whitmuir Organic Farm, Scottish Borders

- a "behind the scenes" visit to organic ice-cream makers Cream o' Galloway

- a site visit and cooking demonstration in your school from Scotherbs, Dundee

- a copy of Kids' Kitchen from MasterChef finalist, Fi Bird

- a tasty cookery class and visit to your school from Quality Meat Scotland

- a visit to your school from Slow Food Scotland with their "Taste Adventure" activity

ecoschools@ksbscotland.org.uk. See www.ecoschoolsscotland.org.

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