Those of us lucky enough to be part of the grow-your-own movement appreciate the importance of eating lots of fruit and vegetables for good health – and for making sure the children in our lives do too.
Worryingly though, a recent poll conducted for the British Nutritional Foundation found that almost 20% of children aged 5-16 didn’t know some very basic facts about vegetables – such that potatoes grow under the ground, rather than on bushes or trees.
While almost three-quarters (77%) of primary school children and nearly nine in 10 (88%) secondary pupils know that people should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, most fail to do this themselves – with 67% of primary pupils and 81% of secondary students saying they eat four or fewer portions a day.
It’s important that children know where their food comes from for a variety of reasons, not least because it should encourage them to eat more of it.
If you’re keen to get your kids learning about healthy fruit and veg, and the importance of growing in general, here’s my short list of recommendations.
Personally I think you will really maximise their interest if you grow a variety of different plants and flowers, as well as vegetables to really engage them in the process. Try and stimulate all the senses, rather than just one, so keep boredom at bay!
For the eyes
Salad – cut and come again varieties, such as rocket or pea shoots grow quickly and are sure to fulfil the shortest of attention spans
Rainbow beetroot – as a kid I loved the the taste of beetroot, and the multiple colours will be a treat to watch
Sunflowers – although not edible, it’s fun to watch how quickly they grow from a tiny seed to a massive flower. Why not get the kids to measure how far each flower grows in the space of a week?
For the taste buds
Strawberries – these are easy to grow in pots or directly the ground. When they fruit in the summer kids will be able to pick them directly off the plant and enjoy the delicious taste for themselves. Do the same with peas. You might not get many left to cook with, but at least they will make an impression!
Potatoes – easy to grow, and a valuable lesson in ‘good things come to those who wait’ (once the potatoes have flowered, they will be ready to pull)
Sinningia Puppy Ears – I bought this plant for my mum. It’s small, soft and velvety to the touch – just like a puppy’s ears! Can be grown in a sunny windowsill.
For the nose
Mint – smells delicious, grows well in a pot.
Chives – grow in a window box and when ready add to your home-made potato salad.
If you don’t have space at home, you can get your kids involved in growing their own at school. Morrison’s Let’s Grow programme aims to help schools capture the imagination of the nation’s children by showing them where food comes from and inspiring them to grow their own fruit and veg in the school grounds.
In the past seven years, over 26,500 schools have taken part and 5 million children up and down the UK now have access to Let’s Grow gardening equipment.
There’s also lots of community programmes designed to get kids involved in growing. Urban Roots is a Glasgow-based programme based on the southside of the city – the not-for-profit body works with schools to help them create gardens for growing food. Outreach workers at the project also help the teachers to learn as they go along. Find out more on the Urban Roots website.
Or why not visit the Children’s Garden at Glasgow Botanic Gardens? The garden is open all year, with more structured events and growing slots starting in the spring. Check the website for more details.