Tasty Treats

One of my favourite things to do in the garden with the kids is harvesting and tasting the food we’ve grown.  It’s amazing what kids are willing to eat if they’ve had a hand in growing, harvesting and/or preparing it themselves!  Sure, not all of them will like everything they taste from the garden, but very often they’re willing to taste things they’ve never tried.  Now I know that peer pressure can have many negative impacts, but if a kid is willing to try some salad, kale chips, radishes, beans or whatever else from the garden because the others in their class are eating and enjoying it, I think that peer pressure can also have some positive influences.  It’s a pretty neat feeling when you can make eating veggies the new cool activity!

Near the end of the last school year, I made some salad with a kindergarten class.  It’s a class that I’ve worked with quite a lot with and they are super cute and enthusiastic.  There wasn’t a lot to harvest yet in the garden, so I had bought some lettuce from the farmers’ market to supplement our salad.  We divided the class into three groups, and then all of the kids rotated through the three activities: 1) washing and tearing up the lettuce from the farmers’ market, 2) making salad dressing with herbs from the garden (in olive oil and lime juice), and 3) harvesting some greens and radishes from the garden.  The harvestable greens were really minimal at this point, so each kid literally got to pick one leaf for the salad.  But boy, were they excited!  Kindergartens have such contagious enthusiasm, it’s amazing!  One little boy actually exclaimed “This is SO exciting!” when he got to pick his one mustard green leaf.  I unfortunately didn’t have the chance to be with the class when they actually ate the salad, but I did get a chance to chat with their teacher afterwards.  She said that at first, over half of them weren’t willing to try it, but once they saw some of the others trying it (and most of all, saw their cool teacher’s assistant eating and enjoying it), all of them at least tried the salad, and most of them enjoyed it.  I saw some of the kids later too, who raved about the delicious salad they’d made! Sooo cute! And so rewarding.

Some of the spicy mustard greens that we harvested.


I’m always suprised by how much kids like radishes.  I think I may have mentioned this before too.  I’ve just started liking radishes in the past year or two, but there are so many kids who just love them.  They’re fun to grow with kids, because they grow quickly, there are lots of different colourful kinds, and it’s fun watching them try different kinds of varying levels of spiciness.  Some of them get really excited about trying the spiciest one, while others are skeptical about trying anything even remotely spicy.  There does often end up being somewhat of a competition in terms of tasting the spiciest things from the garden.  Of course, I want the kids to respect the food and not play with it, but if a wee competition means they’ll try something they haven’t tried before, that’s fine by me.  A lot of the kids at the Spiderweb garden get pretty excited about eating radishes.  We also harvested and tasted some radishes with a kindergarten class at the new garden in the spring, while doing a Five Senses activity with them.  It was pretty hilarious watching them try the radishes.  I had a couple of different radish varieties, one less spicy than the other.  Most of them were willing to taste one or the other (or both), but the priceless came once they’d been chewing on it for a few seconds.  See, most of the radishes didn’t taste spicy at first, but the spiciness developed after a few seconds.  The amount of kids who were half-way through the sentence “Wow, this is really tasty” when the spiciness hit them was just hilarious – the change in facial expressions from “yum” to “too spicy” was priceless.  Some of them did like them, though, and I was proud of them that so many were willing to try something new.

Some of the radishes in the new garden

Some of the radishes harvested from the new garden














Another popular take on spring harvesting and food preparation was making “garden burritos”.  It’s pretty much like making a salad, but slightly less messy, and well, it’s fun ’cause it gets them eating salad by getting rid of their initial “I don’t like salad” mentality.  It’s super simple.  You get a large’ish lettuce leaf (I had to buy some head lettuce from the market, since we didn’t have enough large leaves in the garden), add some fresh greens and herbs from the garden, pour on a bit of salad dressing, wrap it up in the big leaf like a burrito, and yum!  The kids get to choose what goes in their own burrito, so that means most of them will eat (or at least try) it.  The kids also wash the lettuce, pick the greens and herbs from the garden, and make their own (usually with a group) salad dressing (we just used oil, lime juice or vinegar, and herbs from the garden). Apparently some of the kids were so excited that they made some at home for their parents.  Now that’s a rewarding thing to hear from parents!

The salad patch after harvesting. Salad patches always look a bit sad after a big harvest, but they bounce back pretty quickly.

A fun book to read when introducing new foods to kids is the Dr. Seuss classic “Green Eggs and Ham”, and its not-so-subtle message of trying something new, because you might really like it.  Plus, Dr. Seuss books just have this magical way of getting the full attention of even the rowdiest bunch of kids.  I’ve actually been blown away by this Dr. Seuss effect a number of times, both with “Green Eggs and Ham” and with “The Lorax”, both at camp and at the schools.  Another potential “try it, you might like it” tool that I have but haven’t actually used yet is a song from CBC’s Mamma Yamma (a CBCkids character who is a yam who likes to cook).  The song is called “You Just Never Know” and is another not-so-subtle take on trying new things.  Check it out here.  (And while you’re there, check out the rest of the Mamma Yamma stuff – there’s some great kids music from some awesome Canadian musicians – my personal favourite is “See You On the Moon” by the Great Lakes Swimmers – possibly because of the reference to farming.)

And for now, happy growing!


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