Heating Up the Kitchen

This is part of a series about Mission Thrive Summer, a program of the Institute for Integrative Health and Civic Works' Real Food Farm that empowers youth with skills and knowledge for a healthy life.


After a healthy al fresco breakfast of cereal with soy or whole milk, bagels, and fresh fruit, Mission Thrive Summer participants concluded their second week by playing Rose-Bud-Thorn, an exercise in which they named their best and worst experiences of the week. 


With rose being a reference for best experience of the week, Mission Thrive Summer student Keishan explained: "My rose was cooking.” His thorn, he said, was the realization that the Mission Thrive Summer program will eventually come to an end.

After cleaning their dishes the students headed into the kitchen for a special presentation.


Len King, senior research chef at McCormick & Company, and Rachel Gooding, associate research chef at McCormick, put on a cooking demonstration with fried green tomatoes as the starring food.

 “Vegetables have different chemicals that helps them ripen,” said Chef Len, holding a green tomato grown in one of Real Food Farm’s greenhouses. 


After asking students to name their favorite foods, many of the students giving fried chicken and macaroni a thumbs up, Chef Len explained that processed foods are high in sodium, which is why it’s important to cook from scratch and to use as many fresh ingredients as possible. Chef Len also mentioned, that using a touch of oil for a shallow fry is a healthier way to prepare foods.

The chefs also discussed various spices, both fresh and dried, that students can use to make foods more interesting.

After the chefs’ demonstration, students got down to the business of making a sumptuous lunch of fried green tomato sandwiches with bacon on organic bread, accompanied by a salad bar with farm-grown vegetables. Fried red and yellow beet chips were a novel side dish.

Students were reminded to use the bear claw knife method they learned during Mission Thrive Summer when slicing vegetables to protect their hands. In addition, students were taught how to use new cooking implements, such as a mandoline, a tool with adjustable cutting blades for slicing vegetables.


Students quickly mastered the art of breading the freshly sliced tomatoes in quinoa and cornmeal. They prepped sliced chicken and strawberries for a salad bar, which also featured a big bowl of farro, an ancient high-grain that tastes a bit like brown rice.

To top their salads students created their own olive oil and balsamic vinegar salad dressings using different spices. They enhanced their sandwiches with a home-made mayonnaise they made from scratch.


The fried green tomato BLTs were a hit. “I would definitely make these sandwiches for my family,” said Jonathan, a recent graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts. “Especially for my dad. He’s trying to eat healthy. This would be good for him.”