It’s easy to fall in love with beautiful flowers. Their stunning colors emerging from the tiniest blossom is one of nature’s most wonderful feats. The children gravitate towards our flowers with a strong urge to pick them, and I let them, save the roses and only because they are thorny. I will cave on those too when I am there to help them cut! I am not a rose gardener, nor any “real” gardener for that matter, but I was gifted a small rose bush that has bloomed and continued blooming year round since the first summer we moved into our house. They are easy to fall in love with and I catch myself smiling when I look at all their beautiful, imperfect blossoms.
But the real secret is to fall in love with the vegetables. This is a longer, more drawn out love that begins slowly and builds to an envelope around your heart kind of love. As grown-ups and children are not given images of LOVE when it comes to eating their vegetables, we must overcome the images and words associated with these plants and teach out children that they truly are beautiful. Some people may think I am a little crazy as I hang my clothes out on the line each morning and sing thanks to the sunshine, then stop to blow kisses and whisper sweet nothings into our little vegetable plants invisible ears. And they are right. I am crazy in love with them. They are part of my life for a short time, yet oh so powerful. They come with the gift of raising a healthy family and not just for their immediate nutritional value. I am hoping that by taking the time and effort to garden with my children, that they too will fall in love with vegetables, just as I have. That they will be able to look at the rainbow of colors and varieties and feel a warmth in their heart. Maybe as they grow up with this love, they will not struggle with a negative body image and be able to eat healthy for the rest of their lives. It is a nice dream.
So what can one do to help their little ones “fall in love with veggies?” Well, first things first, are to give them a seed. Let them plant their own vegetables. Give them ownership over the garden and in turn the food they eat. Snow peas, radishes, cherry tomatoes and lettuce are four of my kids most favorite vegetables to grow. We try to plant in succession, a few each week so that we will have a continuous crop to harvest later. It is hard to see this in pictures, but there are lettuces and Kale in different stages in this garden picture with some herbs and strawberries mixed in too. Radishes are the fastest growing and bright colored, but need someone who enjoys their crisp, spicy flavors. My 5 year old can’t get enough of them. We limit her to one a day! My 2 year old was hesitant at first and spits them out currently, but I give him another 6 months to come around on the radishes.
Give your children the opportunity to interact with them, care for them, and in turn fall in love with their plants. The wonder and amazement of how a tiny seed can grow into a pea or a lettuce leaf is really amazing when you think about it. Going to the produce section of a grocery store is great, but doesn’t foster the amazement and curiosity that gardening does. How can one really fall in love with anything in life without a time and energy investment. Love takes commitment, and gardening is no exception.
Don’t forget what it is like to fall in love. Show your kids through your actions and your words that vegetables are important. Blow those veggies kisses! Sing to them if you like! You can even plant them in a heart to remind you how truly wonderful vegetables are! It just takes a few moments of your time, and if you had your kids helping you with the seeds, chances are, you have a few lettuces too close together that will need transplanting!!! Just move them into a shape of a heart and voila – maybe it will be love at first sight =)
Happy Gardening – Amanda