Are there strawberries in your local market yet? Take a look at the label when you see them; there’s an 80% chance they come from California, and almost half of the California berries are grown right here in Santa Cruz County’s Pajaro Valley.
The Pajaro Valley is the site of the Watsonville Wetlands, one of the largest remaining freshwater slough systems in the state, a geographical blessing that’s contributed to the abundance of rich, fertile farmland in the area. But as was/is the custom with sloughs, these wetlands have been re-appropriated over the years to serve as housing, schools, and more farmland. It’s easy to discount the usefulness of what could be a prime piece of real estate – what do we need all those frogs and mosquitoes around for, anyway? But a group of forward-thinking folks got together to form the Watsonville Wetlands Watch, an organization dedicated to wetland preservation and education. As a result of their efforts local wetlands were given a voice, and today farmlands and wetlands intermingle, winding their way together from the hills to the sea.
Farmland provides food for humans. Wetlands provide food, too – for the innumerable insects, birds, small mammals, invertebrates, fish, and the occasional coyote that calls the area home. For for a couple of years I was lucky enough to work with the Watsonville Wetlands Watch helping to create an environmentally-themed after school program for area students. Because an important part of understanding any ecosystem is examining the the food webs and food chains, we developed a lesson to help students understand the relationship and importance of all forms of wetland life.
One day a group of students came in to try out the lesson. They became grasshoppers and frogs and hawks and gathered bags of popcorn and wove themselves together with red yarn, laughing, ostensibly learning . . . seemingly a successful plan. All this fun and learning made them hungry, though. Just like the hawks soaring above, scanning for a little ground squirrel or rabbit, these middle-school students started looking around and asking if we had any food for them. I hadn’t taken their bellies into consideration but docent Cathy Gamble came prepared, armed with dozens of little muffins. The kids gobbled them up. Kid Two came with me that day and Cathy noticed how much he loved the snack. She took the time to write down the recipe for me, telling me to be sure to make it for him some time. I did and she was right – he loved them. I’ve made the recipe several times since, usually for classroom snacks, and it’s always an enormous hit with all the kids. I took away with a lesson of my own: remember to feed kids’ bodies along with their minds. I knew this instinctively as a mother – it’s just as important for teachers.
Here’s the recipe for you:
- 2 C. Bisquick
- ¼ C. sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ C. applesauce
- ¼ C. milk
- 1 slightly beaten egg
- 2 T. vegetable oil
- Combine and beat vigorously (by hand) for 30 seconds.
- Fill greased muffin pans ⅔ full.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden brown.
- Cool slightly.
- Melt 2 T. butter in a small dish.
- Combine an additional ¼ C. sugar with ¼ tsp. cinnamon in another small dish.
- Dip puff tops in butter, then in sugar-cinnamon mix.