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“Specials from our garden,” read the sandwich board in the lunch line at Lake Stevens Elementary’s cafeteria.

Students lined up for a salad listed as Romaine lettuce on the menu, but it included fragrant Okinawa spinach and cranberry hibiscus, beet-red leaves that taste of citrusy cranberries. And the baked chicken featured Caribbean thyme.

But the dish drawing the most attention was teacher Althea Ricketts-Burke’s curried chicken with pigeon peas, which, like the exotic herbs in the school lunch, are grown in Lake Stevens’ so-called food forest. It is one of 11 such self-sustaining gardens at Miami-Dade County public elementary schools and K-8s.

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