On a snowy Saturday, November 12, the Rinard Greenhouse and Environmental Education Center hosted Tropics to Table, an exciting event exploring the tropical edible plants growing right here at Ball State. Open to Ball State Students and the Muncie community, Tropics to Table took visitors on a tropical scavenger hunt through the Rinard Orchid Greenhouse to discover bananas, cacao, coffee, and more. With a chocolatey presentation from Muncie’s own Queer Chocolatier to accompany the hunt, Tropics to Table beat the cold and brought tropical treats to share.
Discovering the Rainforest
Walking into the greenhouse, visitors were met with a “Rainforest Trick-or-Treat” sheet and a goal to find every edible tropical plant listed. They would soon discover that tropical gems, such as purple passion fruit, turmeric, cinnamon, figs, and vanilla, all grow amongst the many plants seen at the greenhouse. While finding the edible plants, visitors got to learn interesting facts about each – did you know bromeliads and pineapples are part of the same family?—and witness the new papaya tree fruiting for the first time. Many of these plants are thriving after the greenhouse expanded their space because they have more room to grow, making these tropical plants more visible than ever.
Ball State students in a Principles of Food Science course worked with Rinard Orchid Greenhouse in preparation for the event to create delicious snacks inspired by the edible plants found inside the greenhouse. While visitors explored the greenhouse, they could enjoy some banana bread bites, papaya preserves, ginger cookies, and a passion fruit turmeric tea. The greenhouse often works with Ball State’s Allégre restaurant and culinary classes to provide ingredients that they grow, including bananas and vanilla. In turn, Ball State students learn how to use unique ingredients to make tasty treats like the ones provided at Tropics to Table.
Throughout the day, Queer Chocolatier owner and Ball State Sociology Department alumna Morgan Roddy taught visitors about the entire chocolate-making process, from farming methods to flavor notes. Morgan even brought in a 100% cacao bar for the more adventurous visitors to try, along with chocolate tea. According to Erica Oliver, the Environmental Education Program Coordinator, bringing in speakers like Morgan is another benefit of the greenhouse’s expanded space.
“With the new Environmental Education Center, we can add to our programs by bringing in people who know more and want to do more.”
The Rinard Orchid Greenhouse is open to the public Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Come visit to experience one of their many free programs and learn something new.