Kids & Gardening

9 Ways to Teach Children About Food

pears, not avocados

Recently I was at the local grocery buying some fresh produce. Let me tell you, it was hard; but I needed to have fresh for a reason and everything at home is preserved right now.

There was a young man checking me out, and he really wasn’t looking at what anything was, just at the code numbers. Until he came to a bag with two pieces of fruit, no sticker.

“Avocados?” he asked.
“No,” I said somewhat sadly, “pears.”

Now in his defense it was the last hour of his shift, and he was tired. But these weren’t anything fancy, they are pretty much the same kind of pears that fall from the trees in this area. This is a small country grocery, and avocados are the most unusual thing they stock.

I posted this in a social media group of gardeners, and a lengthy thread was born. There was some finger pointing as to whom is to blame, and there were many similar stories; some quite funny. Mostly it was sad.

The thing is, there is a real disconnect in this country with where our food comes from, and what it actually is. We cannot expect a parent or teacher to teach what they haven’t learned themselves.

But gardeners can.

It’s the ‘takes a village to raise a child’ thing, and as gardeners, who do know about food, we can help.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Offer a community tour of your edible garden. If you live in a safe neighborhood, choose a day this season when the garden is producing and invite friends and neighbors. Tell them what they are looking at, they may not recognize it.

2. Ask your local market, especially if it has a good produce department, to offer a community day such as this. Partner with the store’s dietician, which many have these days, and perhaps you as a gardener or your local master gardeners can explain where the produce comes from and what to do with it.

3. Teach at home. Chances are you are already, but also try to pick a fruit or veggie you can’t grow, and bring it home as a teaching opportunity. It doesn’t have to be daily, but once in a while will help.

4. Make a slideshow and bring that and a few examples to your local grade school. Many kids only know what an apple is, no other fruit and few if any veggies.

5. Similarly, offer something at your local place of worship. If parishioners get together after service, that would be the prefect time.

6. Teach the parents. Offer easy recipes. Offer seeds if you have extra. They can then take over the effort.

7. Find out if your local foodbank can accept produce. Get together with other gardeners and/or farm markets to gather some up. Often the foodbanks will also provide recipes and nutrition information. You can also add info on how the food grows.

8. Pass this post on. You never know who you may be reaching, and what wonderful help they may have to offer.

9. Watch this: Teach Every Child About Food- Jamie Oliver

The thing is DO SOMETHING.

One last quote: “Be the change you want to see in this world.” – Gandhi


Categories: Kids & Gardening, Preparedness & Green Living


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Gardening for Babies and Kids

growing what kids like

If you have little ones in your life, and you are a gardener, then you are doubly blessed.
Choosing what to plant for healthy baby food and for older kids should center on two main things:

1. What produce has the most pesticides in it, and
2. What do kids like?

The first one is easy. The Environmental Working Group is the wonderful non-profit that has compiled this information.

Fruits are some of the worst things to give a baby, unless they are grown organically. If you cannot have room for a few dwarf sized trees, try to buy organic versions of apples, peaches and nectarines. Strawberries are also highly hit with pesticides, but are very easy to grow and preserve. Likewise, grapes.

On the vegetable side celery, cucumbers, summer squash and sweet bell peppers are more items with the worst levels of pesticides. All are easy enough to grow.

When it is time to introduce baby to greens, again it is better if they are homegrown or at least organic. Kale can be grown almost year round even here in Zone 5/6.

What little one doesn’t like mashed potatoes? Guess what, they are not only hit with pesticides on the root ends, but then herbicides are applied on the tops before harvesting. They are so simple to grow, really, and easy to store.

So now your garden is keeping baby’s diet cleaner, what will little ones also like to eat? Probably not broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts or cauliflower, though there are exceptions. We used to marinate fresh cauliflower in oil and vinegar with Italian seasonings when our kids were younger and they loved it.

Carrots are sure to be a favorite, and homegrown ones are so sweet they are like candy. Green beans are generally bland, so kids go for them. Choose a stringless variety to make things easier.

Every garden should sport at least one tomato plant. For taste, we recommend sungold cherry tomatoes, for older kids.

Still got room for more? Butternut and acorn squash are so healthy, and generally well received by little ones.

Check out the baby food aisle at your local market for ideas on veggie combos to blend for smaller kids, and to combine for older ones. Adding some pears and strawberries to shredded fresh spinach may just be the ticket to get older kids to eat their greens.

Categories: Kids & Gardening, You are What You Eat


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A Rant: For Our Children and Grandchildren Pt. 2

cow and friend

I am still ticked about what happened yesterday, and there is something I have been holding in that started to seep out in that last post.
Now’s the time to get this off my chest:

Lots of people talk about pesticides, herbicides and genetically engineered foods; this is important information to get out there. Here is a different approach to what might be an overlooked yet significant issue with our food supply.

Did you know that animals can smell death?
Sometimes we can as well, I did once, nurses probably do.
But animals smell it as a matter of survival.

It is not unheard of for a pig, held in a holding pen in line to be slaughtered, to simply faint. Fear?
They are very social animals as well, and when kept in isolation in birthing cages, have been known to bang their heads against the side of the cage until they die.
What kind of emotional suffering causes that behavior?

Chickens often are subject to what would be considered inhumane practices as they are being ‘processed’.

Milk cows have their young taken away soon after birth, so they can be artificially impregnated again and the milk supply continue.

This is not all farms, but this is now the most common.
You read and hear a lot about all the other issues with our food supply, but rarely have I seen anyone talk about this aspect of it.

Just as we excrete chemicals in our body as a result of life circumstances such as happiness, fear, loneliness and love, so do animals.

As a society what we are consuming and feeding to our children is suffering, loneliness, fear, anxiety and an unnatural break from nature.

I would bet that if a scientist were to look at a sample of muscle from a deer taken by a hunter, and compare that to a pig killed in a slaughterhouse, they would find very different levels of these chemicals.

Why are animals being factory farmed this way, when there are alternatives?

Now the farmer would answer that they need to raise the meat using these practices because of the demand for it, and to keep prices low. This is especially the case for farmers who supply most fast food places.

So what is the one variable in this formula that we, as concerned consumers, can change?

The Demand.

We can demand less, and demand better.

Many Americans eat meat three times a day, which is much more than we need.
Technically, we don’t need to eat any meat, but let’s not go there.

If we all cut down to either once or twice per day, we could afford to buy the grass fed beef and the organic eggs.

If we cut out one or two days a week, a Meatless Monday for example, we could afford the better products.

We could eat the meat that comes from happy animals, ones that were allowed to be outdoors and have families and range in their natural way.

The same way we grow our own veggies because they taste better and are healthier, we can make the change that will allow us to have the better quality meat as well.

And if the demand for better quality goes up, more farmers will look to provide quality over quantity.
Economics 101.

Then what we will have will be better for us, better for our children, and better for the environment.

In the long run, that may be just what we need to turn around all the violence and need for medications that our children and grandchildren now face as a part of daily life.

Shouldn’t we do that for them?
Isn’t one day without meat worth it?

For more information on our food supply:
The Chipotle’s Scarecrow.
Food, Inc.
Suggested reading: Eating Animals

Categories: Kids & Gardening, You are What You Eat



A Rant: For Our Children and Grandchildren Pt. 1

gardener's perspective

The facility I work at has on site a pre-school program, government offices, a senior center, a playground and a little league ball field. It is a place where many local residents can find something to do.

Today, a 16 year old boy shot a younger boy playing nearby with an air BB gun, multiple times. The physical wounds were not severe, about a dozen welts to the arm and back.
The emotional wounds, for both boys, will last much longer.

When questioned by police the older boy reported that he had not taken his medication that morning, he has anger issues and sometimes does bad things without his medication.

Both boys are victims here, and I’ll explain why I say that.

We are spiritual beings in a chemical body. If you don’t have a religious faith, we are still chemical beings.

‘Carbon based life forms’ is what they called it on Star Trek, but that is exactly what we are.

When we hurt, when we are sad or happy, and when we are fearful or feel any other emotions, our brains and bodies secrete chemicals that flow throughout us.

Did you ever see a video of a child playing with puppies?
If you smiled and felt good, that was at least partially the result of your brain releasing a chemical called Serotonin into your body. Yeah, advertisers know this.

My background is not in horticulture but actually in psychology, and we’ve learned from studies and information gathered long ago that our minds react chemically, and also in other ways that is more difficult to understand. Many call that part the ‘soul’.

In the recent example of Robin Williams, I believe he was a soul tortured by what the chemical processes were doing inside his body. Depression causes a known chemical reaction in the body. The same is true for anger issues and many other deviations from what we might consider the average.

Note I don’t use the term ‘normal’.

So what has happened to our children that we now see a young person go out and harm someone defenseless?
Sandy Hook, Columbine… plus there are many other incidences, like the one here, that you never hear of.

I grew up in the town where I work, and I don’t remember ever hearing of anything other than normal growing pains amongst kids.
What has changed in the past 40-some years? Well, a lot; but one of the main things is our diet.

“You are what you eat” or more literally, “Man is as he eats” was quoted almost 200 years ago by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

Most of what we eat today is meat filled with the chemicals secreted by fear, suffering, maltreatment and pain. With few exceptions, our burgers and eggs are heavily dosed with antibiotics and the feed these animals are given is laden with pesticides. Man made chemicals are also found on a lot of the produce we consume.

We’re feeding this to our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews and step-children.

I understand it is easier to get and afford these ‘foods’ than the better alternative, but all of us can make a few choices, easy choices really, to change this.

I’ll post that tomorrow, right now I need to take a walk in the garden to help put it all in perspective.

Tomorrow I’ll post what I think we can all do to help change this, from the easy to the more involved.

I hope you will share that post as much as you can… this has got to stop.

For now, thanks for listening. <3

Read Part 2 here.

Categories: Kids & Gardening, You are What You Eat



Sundays in the Garden – with Sprout

“There is a place in your heart you didn’t know existed, until you become a grandparent.”

The real moment y heart was stolen.

The real moment my heart was stolen.

A few of my friends who have had this wonderful experience shared sentiments like this with us when we found out our daughter and son-in-law were expecting.

After just 9 fast months his grip on our hearts has only become stronger, and we look forward to every moment, every smile, with him.
In fact, we hope this to be the first post of a series of many moments in the garden with Sprout.
Moments we were not sure would ever happen.

You see, our daughter has a non-uncommon condition known as PCOS. Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that it makes it difficult, if not impossible to become pregnant.

She tried the ‘Octo-Mom drug’ as she humorously referred to it, but it was a no-go.
Things were not looking too good.
“Try losing weight” I suggested, knowing full well that this condition also makes that a very difficult thing to do.

She worked hard and did lose a lot of weight, but still it was not helping.
Then almost out of nowhere, she got the news.

Getting bigger.

Getting bigger.

“I’ve got a creature!” she announced; she’s too funny.
I was driving at the time, and could not wait until the next exit so I could pull over and take in the moment.

There were more pregnancy issues, finally ending in bed rest the last few months.
The labor was nasty too, but that doesn’t matter anymore.
Out the beautiful boy finally came, albeit late, and weighing in at over 9 lbs.
“He’s huge!” the Doctor commented.

“He’s gorgeous!” was what I saw.

Today in the garden.

Today in the garden.

He is currently entered into a contest where he could win a photo shoot by the same photographer than was at their wedding. How appropriate.
At the moment he is in the lead, but that could change at any moment. There are only 9 days left, so if you would like to lend your support, you need only click this link, scroll down just a bit then click ‘vote’.
You do not need to register, ‘Like’ or do anything else.

Smartphones, ipads, ipods, nooks, crannies and other such devices can vote multiple times. Thanks for your help!

In the meantime we are looking forward to next spring, when Sprout will be 1 1/2, and old enough to do some real gardening.

We are also hoping for the best, you see- they are going to try for miracle #2.

Categories: Kids & Gardening



Vegetables from Scraps? Yep, You Can Grow That!

Heaven knows where it started, but bloggers, Facebookers, Pinheads and more are sharing information on regrowing vegetables from their scraps.

Some of these we Joneses already knew about, and for many years. Horseradish, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and garlic have been in the gardens for a long time. One we knew but never tried is ginger.

Others, such as celery, leeks and romaine lettuce came as a surprise.

So we decided to check it out and see if it is true.
Here are some of the results:

Who knows what's below?

Who knows what’s below?

The ginger is doing well, in spite of taking a hit during an unusual cold snap. After growing it for a year, it’ll be interesting to see the results.
At least it’s sooner than a pineapple.

The mini veggie garden.

The mini veggie garden.

We also started leeks, celery and romaine lettuce bottoms in water. Changing the water every few days keeps it fresh and full of nutrients the plants need.

So far, so good.

So far, so good.

After 2 weeks we were impressed with the new growth.

Romaine, yes. Iceberg? Probably not.

Romaine, yes. Iceberg? Probably not.

The romaine lettuce is doing great. I have heard some people say they have been able to get multiple plantings from just one plant. I must say that would be pretty neat.

Will it grow the best part?

But will it grow the best part?

The leek is also coming along. Since what you eat is the white bottom portion, we’ll keep an eye on this one. If it shows any evidence of a bulb, we’ll ‘hill’ some soil around it to encourage more white.

Now on many of these posts and shares, carrots are mentioned.
The truth is you cannot get a carrot from scraps; you see, even mis-information gets shared.

Wait for the greens to grow.

Wait for the greens to grow.

What you can get are seeds, something we in the north don’t normally see.
This is something I learned as a kid. Hollow out a carrot top and fill it with water. Add more water as needed. It will sprout and eventually bloom.
So for old time sakes I started one and it’s in the kitchen window. When I get some string, I will hang it up there like the one that used to hang in my bedroom almost 50 years ago…
Before I knew that the pretty flowers could give me something to plant.

So can you grow vegetables from scraps?
Yep, some at least. All in all this has been fun to try, and we’ll post more info as we get it.
If nothing else, we’ll have a little free food as well as an activity to do with our grandson.

Update 6/13/13: the carrot shriveled up. This was at least partly my fault for neglecting it. I know this works having done it before, so am going to try and wait until I have a nice large organic carrot form our garden. Perhaps that will make the difference.

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a monthly collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage and help others learn to grow.
You can find additional posts by clicking on the pic above. You can also follow us on Pinterest.

Categories: Kids & Gardening, Techniques & Issues, You Can Grow That!



Love? You Can Grow That!

you can grow that

The You Can Grow That! theme for February is love, an easy subject for a new grandmother.
From the very moment the upcoming birth announcement was made my life was forever changed, more than I could even imagine.


Stealing Grammie's heart.

“You are what you eat” is much more than just an expression, and I knew right away I wanted to help ‘Sprout’s’ food be as healthy as possible.
Organic baby food is incredibly expensive, yet so simple to make.

grocery store baby food

A jar of carrots should contain carrots, maybe a little water, and nothing else.
The only way to really know what is in a baby’s food is to make it yourself.

Here’s one Grammie’s tips for healthier baby food:

1. Grow or buy organic the vegetables most likely to have higher doses of pesticides. Here’s the list.
2. If space is limited, plan your garden based on what foods you expect the baby to be eating. Carrots, peas, beans and squash are much more likely to be in his diet than eggplant and peppers.
3. Learn to safely can foods and how to properly freeze, and which foods can be stored fresh the longest. Check some of the links to the right under ‘How to Store’ to learn more.
4. Follow your pediatrician’s recommendations for introducing new foods to the baby.
5. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look at the grocery store shelves for fruit and veggie combo ideas. Trust me, a lot of research went into it already.


Sprout's pout.

Aww, look at that face… I just may have to give over more of the garden.
Here’s a great resource for recipes and tips.

Categories: Kids & Gardening, You are What You Eat, You Can Grow That!



Christmas Present(s)

Of course much of what happens at holiday time centers around giving and receiving.
This is a wonderful opportunity to teach children.

christmas 2012

our little tree

When ours were old enough to understand, we would take an afternoon and go through their toys.
“If you want good things to come to you” we would say, “you need to make room.”

It was a simple concept and the decisions were difficult, but they learned valuable lessons about sharing with others (some toys were chosen to be donated) and about not being materialistic.

You see, we didn’t have much money in those days, so it wasn’t like they had an abundance in the first place.

They never knew that; because they also learned that when you have enough to share, you have enough.

Here’s to a wonderful 2013 everyone!

Categories: Keeping up with the Joneses, Kids & Gardening



Christmas Future

Christmas is the most exciting time of year for many kids.

“Mommy, when are we going to make the Christmas cookies?”
“Mommy, when are we going shopping?”
“Mommy, when are we going to get the tree?”
“Mommy, when are we going to watch Rudolph on TV?”

Multiply that by 2 and repeat throughout the day.

Christmas Calendar

parental sanity saving device

In an effort to reduce the stress this was causing both to them, and especially to me :-P , a Christmas Tradition was born.

Every year as Thanksgiving approached, I would draw a calender showing all the upcoming events and when they could expect them.
Each child would take turns crossing off the days, and both were happy they knew what to expect.

“Ahhh..” sighed Mom.

Not only did it alleviate the holiday stress, something unexpected happened.
Mom became more organized.

Categories: Keeping up with the Joneses, Kids & Gardening


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Christmas Past

The most wonderful thing happened this year- Mandolin and I became grandparents, just one week before Christmas.

our grandson Sprout


With the holiday approaching, my daughter and her husband started considering what they will do when the time comes to talk to Sprout about Christmas.

You see, we didn’t tell her and our other kids about a jolly fat man in a red suit, we told them the story of St. Nicholas; and concluded it with
“And although he lived a long time ago, each year his giving spirit fills the house with happiness.”

If they thought that spirit came down a chimney and said Ho Ho Ho, well they didn’t get that story from us.


his eyes how they twinkle

Of course this leaves out that perceived parental advantage of
“Santa is watching, you better be good.”

But then, that was something we never really needed.

The Story of St. Nicholas

Categories: Keeping up with the Joneses, Kids & Gardening



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