Faiza Hashi pinches her face into a watery-eyed grimace as the tang of the basil pesto hits her tongue.
Waving her hand in front of mouth she exclaims in wide-eyed wonderment "spicy!"
Her three classmates, who have all just slipped a teaspoon-full of the green nutty stuff into their mouths pause, engage with their tongue and then giggle.
Their parent helper shakes her head and says it never fails to amaze her that young taste buds find garlic 'spicy'.
As their eight-year-old laughter ripples through the kitchen in the Auckland school's hall, they dip their spoons into the bowl for another taste.
The Year 3 and 4 Owairaka school students are cooking lunch for their classmates as part of the Garden to Table programme.
A group to their left is making vegetarian frittata and to their right others are carefully spooning corn fritter batter in to a fry pan under the watchful eye of their teacher.
The three dishes they make every week are dictated by what's in the garden and ready for eating.
In the dining room a boy sets the table, fills water jugs and puts freshly plucked flowers in little vases.
The rest of the class is outside harvesting and weeding the school's vegetable gardens or watering the dozens of planter boxes peppered around the school grounds.
Eventually someone will take the scraps up to the inner city school's worm farm. The four chickens may get a little something too.
There are people everywhere but there's a method to the madness the kids are tuned in to.
Garden to Table was launched as a pilot in three Auckland schools by Dish magazine's founding editor Catherine Bell in an effort to change the way children as young as seven approach and think about food.
Bell believes it has the potential to change the attitudes and habits of future generations because children learn how to grow, harvest, prepare and share tasty and nutritious food through "experiences that will influence and inform the rest of their lives".
"Garden to Table is the most positive way I can think of for our nation's children to acquire the life skills they need to lead healthy, happy and sustainable lives."
It differs from home economics classes or the average school garden because it gives children a deeper understand and appreciation of the entire food production process - from seed to plate.
Four years later there are seven 'G2T' schools of various deciles - six in Auckland and one in Thames, Coromandel.
Schools in Whangarei, Wellington and Christchurch have put their hand up to be next.
"We've had more than 100 schools tell us they want to be Garden to Table schools," Bell said.
The programme's trust, of which Bell is the chair, funds each school for two years. The seed money predominantly pays for a kitchen specialist who oversees the programme and everything that goes into the weekly sessions.
Family and locals are called on to be spare hands in the kitchen and the garden.
Bell said the trust decided to do it this way as it's easier for schools to raise money for something tangible - like planter boxes or seeds - rather than staff.
When the two years are up the trust provides support and training but subsequent funding has to come from the school's own coffers or fundraising efforts.
The initiative is an adaptation of Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden programme which was launched 10 years ago at Collingwood College in Melbourne.
Now established in more than 250 Australian schools, the programme secured A$12.8 million in government funding.
Both programmes aim to teach seven to 12-year-olds how to grow, harvest, prepare and share seasonal food.
And then there's all the subliminal spin-offs: the mathematics used to measure ingredients, the development of literacy skills through reading out ingredients and the engaged open-air conversations about concepts like photosynthesis and sustainable resources.
Bell said that's the programme's point of difference - it takes the curriculum outside so students can experience the value of what they learn in books.
They also learn life skills such as sitting down to share a meal without the television on and discovering that potatoes are big brown things that grow in the ground - not the freezer.
Family members like to get in on the act too, working in the kitchen or the garden.
One of the student's grandfathers has just donated a bee hive, a queen bee and gear so he can teach the students about bee keeping and where honey comes from.
The programme also gets students to step out of their comfort zones and give unfamiliar food a chance.
Tracey Barton, the school's kitchen specialist, said one week they made broad bean dip which didn't go down so well with one student in particular. However the girl eventually tried it and changed her mind.
"Last week she used some pocket money to buy broad bean seeds," Barton said.
Principal Diana Tregoweth said the school has worked hard to impart a healthy eating message to its community - to the point that when children enroll at the school they're given a lunchbox and strawberry bushes border the playgrounds.
"In terms of the students' health, we want to be the ambulance at the top of the cliff," she said.
On Fridays Tregoweth can be found in the garden on her hands and knees pulling out weeds. She announces it over the loud speaker so students can come and join her to weed or water.
Once a term the school has a 'green day' where kids dress in green and spend a block of time in the garden.
"We used to be an environmentally conscious school, now we're environmentally active," she said.
"Garden to Table felt so right - it was the next step.
"The translation from here to home is quite strong.
"We have certainly heard of the students going home and doing the recipes at home."
Find out more about Garden to Table.
Garden to Table schools:
East Tamaki Primary, south Auckland
Dawsons Road School, south Auckland
Peninsula Primary, west Auckland
Meadowbank Primary, east Auckland
Owairaka School, central Auckland
Edendale School, central Auckland
Moanatairi School, Thames.
Who is Garden to Table Trust:
Catherine Bell, Chairperson
Susie Weaver, Treasurer
Andrew Green, Partner
Greig Buckley, Marketing Expert
Nicole Curin-Birch, Project Officer
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