HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Harlingen High School is taking education to tasty levels through its culinary and gardening classes.

Through the 2021-2022 school year, students in the culinary class have been able to cook lasagna, crepes, funnel cakes, flan, enchiladas, and more.

Tyanna Carrillo, an HHS senior said this is her first year in the class as she transferred in from a different school.

Photo by Kaylee Olivas, KVEO.

Carrillo has enjoyed the program and has even taken away life skills for outside the classroom. “Teamwork. Teamwork gets a lot of stuff done. It’s not just about one person doing everything and the other people just standing around.”

Carrillo has also earned a ServSafe certification from the class. She had to take an exam on table etiquette, safety and sanitation, the presentation of food, and how to properly serve a customer.

Since obtaining the certification, Carrillo said she has put it to good use at a previous job she had at Cinemark and her current job at Whataburger.

Her classmate and sophomore, Genesis Cruz, has only been in the culinary class for a year as well but said she has learned a lot in the kitchen from how to handle food properly to how to make dishes she had never made before.

Cruz has not taken the ServSafe exam yet but will be required to at the end of the school year.

Every ingredient the culinary class uses comes from their own backyard.

Photo by Kaylee Olivas, KVEO.

HHS has also offered a gardening class since 2018 in which students will care for a variety of crops including grapes, watermelons, strawberries, onions, tomatoes, okra, and more.

Agricultural Science teacher Andres Gonzalez, who oversees the program, told ValleyCentral that the gardening class partnered up with the culinary program to see what ingredients they need and then they’ll order the seeds ahead of time. He added the students do everything from there with his guidance.

HHS Senior Caden Burns has been in the program since the beginning, but this was his first year with the greenhouse.

Burns and his fellow classmates began planting the first week of March and now everything is starting to flourish and come to life.

“It’s all grown-up great. I mean, you can see that everything’s green. I mean, we probably water it once a week and it’s come up great. The fruit is great. It’s producing a lot. Tomatoes are producing a lot. The okra is just getting into producing. The watermelon is blooming. I mean, it’s the perfect year to do it,” said Burns.

Burns is proud of the work he and his classmates have put into the garden.

Photo by Kaylee Olivas, KVEO.

Gonzalez said he has seen his students take the most pride in the strawberries as he’s always catching them eating them before they’re even fully developed.

Corn has also been a crop he has seen his students excited over as it typically takes between 90 and 100 days to grow properly. “It’s a very big deal for us because that’s 100 days we’ve been on it, watching it, so my kids do get really excited when it’s harvest time.”

Because of having to wait a decent amount of time for harvesting, Burns said he has learned patience along the way. Being a senior as well, he has strengthened his leadership skills as he is “kind of in charge of others.”

The hope for this program though is that the students become more self-sufficient and get a better understanding of the food they eat.

Both the culinary and gardening classes are open to all grade levels.

The gardening class does have different levels of learning each year.

Gonzalez said the first is set up for students to learn the application of gardening and how it works. The second year exposes students to how to grow plants in the soil. The third year is learning how to grow in the greenhouse. The fourth year is designed to have those students do just about everything in the garden and run things on their own.

Photo by Kaylee Olivas, KVEO.

Gonzalez added that by having this opportunity, students are also learning how to save and recycle produce. “The only costly part is the setup, the tools.”

The next milestone for the gardening program is harvest.

In about two weeks, students will harvest the food and get the opportunity to eat it.

As for the culinary students, they have a few catering events in the works. They did feed about 30 faculty members on Thursday.