When Jasmine Chida opened the second location of SweetCup Gelato & Sorbet at Ella Plaza in 2018, she said she loved the sense of community in Garden Oaks and Oak Forest.
Now she is doing her part to sustain it.
Chida heard about Stephanie Baker, with Ready to Grow Gardens, who was working with students at Oak Forest Elementary to grow varieties of organic, locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables. An idea about how some of the harvest could be used took shape.
“Oak Forest Elementary students harvested a huge crop of kumquats from the first- and fifth-grade science class and the school had a couple of full kumquat trees full of ripe kumquats,” Chida said.
As it was kumquat season at the time, Chida wanted to highlight a fruit that was growing with the current season “and see it came to life in dessert form – as a gelato.”
Once it was created, Chida brought her Kumquat Panna Cotta to Lauren Williams’ science classes.
“It was such a great experience,” Chida said. “The fifth-graders asked about the process and the difference between processing kumquat versus an orange fruit in gelato. It was really cool to see their curiosity and perspective.”
As Baker and Williams were working on a beet garden with the students, they invited Chida back when the beets were ready to pull.
The result? Heart Beet gelato made from candied beets, which are mixed into a semi-sweet milk chocolate gelato that was custom-made.
“One kid said, ‘Wow, I didn’t know I can eat vegetables with dessert,’” Chida said. “It was special because they got to see the fruits of their labor and what it can become. We are hoping to bridge the gap with what desserts could be, and the possibilities of seeing and tasting seasonal fruits and vegetables, with something cool and fun.”
Williams said it’s been eye-opening for the students to see the full circle of the crops they grow getting turned into Italian ice cream.
“There’s a lot of science involved in gelato-making,” Williams said. “I learn something new every lesson.”
The partnership has been fruitful in more ways than one. SweetCup is donating a portion of the proceeds of Heart Beet gelato sales to the Oak Forest Elementary PTA.
Chida said Oak Forest Elementary and Ready to Grow Gardens is their first partnered school, but she said she’s in talks with Baker to expand their efforts and bring the community engagement project to other schools.
“SweetCup is passionate about encouraging and empowering our youth to pursue their dreams,” Chida said. “Whether we’re turning veggies from the garden into a special creation, or just stopping by for a school visit, we’re committed to using our small platform to encourage our community to follow their dreams.”