Friday, 7 November 2008

Growing food with Children

Where does our food come from? I wonder if many people know or care… There’s an international revolution promoting local food, which is very exciting and radical. How can that be so when only a couple of generations ago local food was considered to be a typical diet? When compared with the bright and loud fast food advertising, the locavore’s advocacy seems but a whisper. It’s up to us to provide the balance and teach our young that nature sustains life.

It is vitally important that our children have access to fresh, wholesome, affordable and tasty food. The freshest food is local food. Food from the earth, not wrapped in plastic from a store. The most local is our own backyard, a window box, or a school or community garden.

Children need to know their food, be connected to it. An edible garden provides more than understanding about ecology and meaningful work - it has the capacity to introduce new flavours, encourage healthy snacking, bring children into the kitchen and the family back to the table. Home growing is as much about culture as nutrition.

There are many books in the library and informative websites describing how to create your own vegetable plot. Food plants can also be planted amongst ornamentals in existing gardens. A basic, no-dig garden in a sunny but sheltered spot can be set up in a couple of hours and produce food in a matter of weeks.

Potted gardens are fast and ideal for those renting, living in small spaces, with changeable weather or just starting out. You can use regular plant pots – often available through Freecycle or other recycling solutions. Polystyrene or waxed boxes in which produce is transported, or other re-useable containers from around your home are also suitable.

Even if you start with a sprouting jar on the kitchen bench, children will observe and be involved with the production of their food. From there you might progress to other creative ways to fit home growing into your lifestyle.

Ideal first foods to grow include peas and beans, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, radish, herbs, salad mixes and fruits such as gooseberries and strawberries. Simple varieties, properly cared for, will ensure a quick harvest. This enhances the gardener’s understanding, self-confidence and enjoyment.

Even if you’ve never grown anything before, learn beside your little ones. Sharing this knowledge now could foster a lifelong interest in gardening, a forgotten skill that some day could become vitally important once again.

Resources: (growing sprouts)
Spiral Garden

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