Christine Park

Monday, June 2, 2014

Teaching Kids: Money May Not Grow on Trees, but Your Food Does!

I have dusty boogers every time I blow my nose. My kids have scratches on their arms from tree branches. But we aren't complaining. Here's why: 

When Two Sisters U-Pick Apricots offered a tree adoption option this year, I jumped at the chance. Not just for the fun and educational opportunity, but for the bargain. By gathering five other families, we each chipped in only $25 to cover the $150 "adoption" fee. It was fun, but A LOT of work. And that was just one tree. My kids and I have a newfound appreciation for the farmworkers who harvest our food. Each tree yields 200-400 pounds of apricots! Let's just say I now have more apricots than I know what to do with. So naturally I started baking.

 Apricot-blueberry crumble
Apricot-cranberry scones
Next up: apricot jam, and a half dozen other recipes I've been dying to try on my Pinterest board. While helping me in the kitchen tonight, my 7-year-old daughter remarked how "cool" it was that we were literally cooking with something that had been on the tree until we picked it this morning. Light bulb moment inside her little head! She never made that connection before with anything we bought at the store, or even farmer's markets. I think it's important for her to feel connected with and invested in the food she eats. Check out this site for a pick-your-own farm to visit near you! Summer is the best time, with stone fruits and strawberries in season.

My fascination obsession started around mid April. I decided this would be the season to educate my young ones on the concept of farm (or garden) to table. After all, we do live in one of the most amazing and fertile farming regions in the world! I was further inspired by a friend of mine who has an amazing green thumb, and even though mine's brown, I too wanted to give it a try. So I enlisted the kids' help in building a raised garden bed (this kit from Lowe's), filled it with garden soil, and we planted herbs like basil and oregano and thyme, as well as vegetables including zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. To be honest, I did not have high hopes. Ask my husband: my plant survival rate in my yard is about 10%. The other 90% end up in the green waste recycling bin after weeks of neglect. I swore this time would be different!

April 27th, 2014: Here are the "before" and "after" pictures. Well lo and behold, a little bit of TLC and the garden flourished. The kids eagerly helped with the watering over the course of the month. But I don't know who got more of a kick out of watching everything grow, me or them! 
May 31st, 2014: Obviously I planted too much in one box and didn't give the zucchini and cucumber enough spacing, but I'm pretty happy with how my first attempt is turning out!
 Harvest Time!
The bell peppers were the first to bear fruit.
The saying "enjoy the fruits of your labor," has never rung truer. We felt a sense of giddiness as we plucked our first bell peppers. Marveled at the baby tomatoes. And I am now literally stalking the other plants, looking for the first signs of fruit. Mint for my mojitos, check! Basil to make pesto, let me just run outside. I can't believe it took me this long to do this! No more paying $$$ for herbs at the grocery store, only to have them wither in my fridge and go bad before I need them again. 

If planting a garden, or making a trip to a farm or orchard isn't a possibility, there are plenty of books that teach kids where their food comes from too. The Cow in Patrick O'Shanahan's Kitchen and Growing Seasons are a couple that are highly recommended.

All you country folk might be laughing at me right now, but for this city girl, I feel like a whole new world has been opened for me and my family!

Homemade pepperoni and veggie pizza, toppings courtesy of my humble little garden box.

1 comment:

  1. Christine - Thank you for sharing your farm (and garden) experience. I am always amazed to discover how many of our valley kids have no idea where their food comes from. It wasn't that long ago where everyone in the Valley grew the food for their tables. PBS Valleys Gold Season 2 will premier on June 18 at 7 p.m. with a special new edition of "Valleys Gold Education through Agriculture" for teachers (and moms) with Agriculture activities and lessons.