Feature stories

A banana tree grows in Queens

It was the best deal at any farmer’s market in town. Tomatoes, celery, potatoes, parsley, sunflower seeds and other earthly delights, picked right out of the garden by kids at PS 205 in Queens, were going for just 25 cents a bag.

It was the school’s own “Garden to City Harvest” project, so popular that even at that low price, and at a school with fewer than 300 children, the young farmers raised $170 on Oct. 23 for City Harvest, which feeds the hungry in New York City.

That meant a lot of vegetables put on a lot of family tables in the school community that evening.

According to Frances Bosi, chapter leader and K-5 science teacher, the idea was the brainchild of 1st-grade teacher Ilene Marks.

First-graders have their own patch in the larger food garden in which the entire Bayside school participates, and they planted a good deal of the produce that went on sale.

Their specialty, however, is sunflowers. For the harvest, they picked the small seeds out of the big sunflower heads with the help of some 2nd-graders and a handful of 5th-graders.

Some of the seeds were sold raw, especially so other children could plant sunflowers in the ground next year, and some were roasted by parents for tasty treats to go right in the gullet. Other parents turned potatoes into bags of homemade fries, another big hit.

There was only one problem with the project, however.

The bananas didn’t ripen well this year because of many overcast days, so the kids just sold the leaves from the trees, used for wraps when cooking anything from Thai dishes to backyard barbecue.

Yes, that’s right, banana trees.

Imported all the way from exotic Flushing.

“My husband used to grow them in our backyard,” said Bosi. “They multiply like crazy. So he donated the school’s first banana trees, the babies.”

Except they’re not babies anymore. They’re grown-ups, to the tune of 14 feet tall.

Bosi wishes to thank the staff, parents and Principal Karen Scott-Piazza for making the project a hit, and she especially wants to thank head custodian Rocky Capitini.

Capitini and his crew are the ones who move the eight banana trees indoors every winter and outside again in spring.

NYT20091112_48a.jpgTeacher Ilene Marks and 1st-graders (from left) Jake, Xaner and Megan see how the lettuce is doing in the vegetable garden at PS 205 in Queens, which held its own farmer’s market. NYT20091112_48b.jpgShahran, Julianna, Selina and Robert explore the texture of banana leaves. NYT20091112_48c.jpgChapter leader and science teacher Frances Bosi (left), Marks and students (from left) Isabella and Ginger admire the kid-grown pumpkins, destined to be pies and jack-o’-lanterns. NYT20091112_48d.jpgProceeds of kid-raised vegetables for sale go to City Harvest.

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