Growing up spending Sunday lunches at my grandparent’s house feasting on roast potatoes, lamb, and stuffing with all the trimmings, are fond memories I reminisce on to this day. Those memories are intrinsically linked to helping my grandfather in his vegetable patch in the garden – where picking, trimming and then cooking our haul of vegetables enhanced our enjoyment of the delicious, homegrown food.
Looking back, this was my first education into organic food and all the benefits that came with it. And now, many years later – with two kids and a garden of my own – I find the need to let history repeat itself and show my children, in the simplest way, where the food on their plate comes from.
Gertrude Jekyll famously wrote that: “The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.” And starting your own small garden, whether it is in a small patch outside or on the windowsill in the kitchen can be a great way to introduce children to the joys of nurturing plants and watching them grow.
Encouraging the kids to maintain the patch will help them understand that patience and care eventually pays off – especially when they see and reap the benefits of their work. Not only that, but cultivating the garden and watching it flourish increases the enjoyment and respect our children have for their food.
Since beginning our vegetable patch, the children especially, have taken a keen interest in maintaining the vegetable garden…mainly because of the water fight that seems to ensue every time they water it. (But, hey, it’s all part of the fun!) And even my husband, gets excited as he is able to cook with the freshest of ingredients; and what’s more, I’m elated as I am allowed to eat it all!
If you are looking for an activity to help teach your kids (or indeed yourself) about growing vegetables; or if you feel slightly tired of buying all your food pre-wrapped and perfectly formed from the supermarket – then there are many ways to get started…
Anyone can begin with a simple herb garden on your shelf in the kitchen. Start with something easy to maintain and easy to eat – spring onions, radishes and herbs fit this profile perfectly. To start your garden, you can buy starter kits from most garden centres or online (or even buy the potted herbs from the supermarket!) Most seeds are cheap and can sprout very quickly with a little care and attention. Great starter seed packs are here, with an autumn and winter seed pack here.
Or, if this all seems like too much, then go out for a walk and enjoy the benefits of what’s on offer in your local surroundings with the plants and trees growing naturally. For instance, near most waterways, you can find blackberry bushes, or plum trees, apple trees and many other sorts of fruits. The children love picking from these bushes and making homemade blackberry jam from the blackberries they have picked and put in their plastic buckets themselves.
Whether you end up a green-fingered gardening expert, or a seasoned forager – embarking on this journey with your children will be the beginning of a shared tradition that will not only enhance their knowledge of food, but will also help provide them with a healthy love of organic vegetables and hopefully a lifetime of fond memories too.