Get kids interested in gardening by teaching them how to cook

These are boom times for home gardening, but as many parents know, it still isn’t easy to get kids interested and involved. One way, experts say, is to teach children how to cook what they help harvest from the family garden.

These are boom times for home gardening, but as many parents know, it still isn’t easy to get kids interested and involved. One way, experts say, is to teach children how to cook what they help harvest from the family garden.

Gardening packs an educational punch: It can teach nutrition, biology, mathematics (sizing up rows and plot perimeters), social studies, geography and languages. Vegetable gardens help save money, encourage exercise, deliver fresh flavours to the kitchen and reduce the risks of buying tainted food.

Cooking is the logical second step, providing children with another life-long practical skill.

With that in mind, The New York Botanical Garden offers gardening with related cooking programs for kids from three to 13, along with an assortment of practical and craft ideas for people of all ages.

“It’s a matter of taking things in steps,” said Toby Adams, the institution’s family garden manager. “Plants don’t grow overnight, so we can introduce things slowly. Getting kids to understand things like cleaning up the plots. Composting. Washing their hands before preparing salads.”

Adams breaks students into small groups where they’re taught vegetable preparation methods and menu items. Some do pestos. A few make soups. Still others prepare herbal teas or salsas.

“Then they share them with one another,” he said. “It becomes a reward for all that work they’ve done in taking the plants to maturity.”

Children bring energy, imagination and confidence to the growing and cooking tasks, Adams said. “They also bring attention to detail and a sense of wonder. Kids are surprised at what’s around every corner. They’re seeing many things for the first time. They’ll notice a butterfly fluttering by or see ladybugs under the leaves. When harvesting, they’ll get excited about pulling on a leaf and coming up with a carrot. They think it’s awesome when they stick a fork into the soil and find potatoes buried beneath the plants.”

Mistakes, too, can be turned into learning opportunities.

“Making a mess,” Adams said. “Spillage. Sunflowers that grow from seeds dropped the year before. Planting seeds in rows that are a little bit off here and there. Maybe it’s something we didn’t intend to do, but we’ll try to turn it around and make the most of it.”

One thing children usually don’t have in abundance is a lengthy attention span. But there are ways to get around that. Here are some ideas from the authors of The Family Kitchen Garden: How to Plant, Grow and Cook Together, by Karen Liebreich, Jutta Wagner and Annette Wendland (Timber Press, 2009):

• Learn by doing. “It is boring watching other people gardening,” Liebreich said. “They must be involved from start to finish. Doing is interesting. Watching is dull.”

• Teach kids how to compare: “Does the beetroot ‘Chioggia’ taste different from beetroot ‘Bull’s Blood’? If you close your eyes, can you tell which is a white currant, which is a red currant? Is french parsley different from Italian, curly from flat-leaved? This not only makes it fun, but also cultivates a palate to distinguish tastes,” Liebreich said. “And, incidentally, shows the importance of opinion.”

• Stage competitions: “Whose bramble root is longer, whose bean grew taller, who speared more potatoes on their (pitch)fork when digging them up?”

• Experiment: “Did the bean with no water germinate? The bean in the dark? What happened to the bean with no stick to climb?”

Just Posted

Councillors want to represent Red Deer at AUMA

City council approves endorsement

Cannabis smoke raises health concerns

Smoke Free Bylaw returns to Red Deer city council Sept. 4

Avid Penhold climber Catlin Hannah’s death a reminder of the dangers of scrambling

Hannah never returned from his Mount Smuts attempt on Aug. 12.

Children, elderly at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

VANCOUVER — Thick smoke blanketing British Columbia communities far from any flames… Continue reading

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Police chiefs want new data-sharing treaty with U.S. as privacy questions linger

OTTAWA — Canada’s police chiefs are pressing the Trudeau government to sign… Continue reading

Pope on sex abuse: “We showed no care for the little ones”

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the… Continue reading

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month