Propagating veggies for next years’ garden is fun for kids. Gardens filled with heirloom vegetables which are open-pollinated are most likely to produce true seedlings. Kids can start collecting seed from self-pollinated plants, like peas, peppers, beans, tomatoes, and eggplant. Some of these plants have large seeds making it easy to collect them. Seeds need to mature on the plant and then collected before the birds or insects can eat them. Kids can collect seeds from the healthiest, most abundant producing plants. Harvest the seeds in separate paper bags and label them with the date and plant name. Some seeds are found inside the fruit, like tomatoes and pumpkins, while other seeds are held in pods, like peas and beans, which can be left on the plant until they begin to brown. Kids can remove the seeds inside of fruit and pods and dry them for a week on seed trays before storing in envelopes.
Garlic and strawberries grow from clumps of bulbs. Kids can divide a mature organic garlic into cloves and in the fall plant each clove near the surface of the soil in their prepared garden bed. Some plants, like lavender and lemon grass are propagated by digging out the plant, dividing the clump, and replanting the divisions. Some plants, like basil and tomatoes, can be propagated by cutting a stem from the plant, removing the bottom leaves, and putting it in a jar of water in a sunny window where it will grow roots. Budding (a bud from one plant is placed on another plant), grafting ( putting the upper part of one plant on the root system of another plant), and layering (developing roots on a stem while the stem is still attached to the parent plant) are other means of propagating.
Kids can sow organic seeds in trays placed in a sunny window inside. After several weeks of light watering, true leaves will form. Kids can acclimatize the 2 inch seedlings by putting them outside a few hours a day and bringing them inside at night for two weeks. Kids can then transplant their seedlings into their raised bed garden by digging a hole with a trowel, adding some compost, and carefully putting the seedling in the hole. Other vegetables, like beans and root veggies, like their seeds to be planted directly in the ground. Kids can sow some seeds, like lettuce, every few weeks to have a continual harvest. Kids get a joyous feeling of accomplishment growing something from seed.
Adding organic peaches to Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Organic Corn Grits creates a delightful breakfast treat that kids crave. Organic coconut cream makes it sweet and creamy with no added sugar. It is important to get organic corn as most conventional corn is genetically modified. Organic corn is good for digestion, eye health, blood pressure, and rich in antioxidants. Kids can roast this classic Southern comfort dish with maple syrup and refrigerate or freeze the left overs for quick healthy breakfasts.
Pour 2 cups water, 1 cup organic unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup organic coconut cream, and 1 tsp sea salt in a sturdy pot and bring to a boil. Whisk in 1 cup organic corn grits slowly, reduce heat, cover, and simmer. The secret to making the most creamy grits is to simmer them for 50 minutes. Chop one organic peach and whisk into the grits. Continue to whisk and stir the grits frequently to prevent sticking. Kids can also use a long handled wooden spoon. Coat a 8” x 8” glass baking dish with organic extra virgin olive oil and spoon the cooked grits into the baking dish and let set for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425°. Invert the dish onto a flat surface, the grits will slide out and hold the shape of the baking dish. Cut into 8 pieces. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl mix 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil and 1 tbsp organic maple syrup. Brush the mixture over the tops and sides throughly covering the 8 pieces. Roast in the oven for 7 minutes and flip to the other side and roast 7 more minutes. Delicious hot or cooled to room temperature and easily packed for a healthy breakfast on the go.
Pure water is delicious, refreshing and healing. Kids need to drink eight cups of pure water a day, instead of soft drinks, sweetened juices, and sodas, to rid their bodies of toxins and keep their systems running smoothly. Pediatricians say just switching water for soda or other sugary drinks is a major health victory for kids and their families.
Bottled water, however, taxes the environment with container production and disposal with 50 billion plastic bottles used last year, most not recycled. Chemicals in the bottles can leach into the water and many bottles are labeled “do not refill”. Much bottled water is actually filtered municipal water. Kids can filter their tap water at home. Filtered tap water traps contaminants, like dirt, rust, chlorine, pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals, through carbon filters in water pitchers and in under the sink models. Water pitcher carbon filters are effective, inexpensive, environment friendly, and taste good.
Kids can infuse their filtered water with fruit and herbs to make water the life of the party. Thinly slice or dice fruit, like organic berries and citrus fruits, into a glass bottle, fill with filtered water, and let sit at room temperature for four hours. Kids can add rosemary, basil, sage, or mint to the fruit for added health and flavor. Instead of buying plastic bottles of water or soda, kids can save money, health, and the environment by carrying filtered water from home in reusable stainless steel bottles or in portable water bottles with filters.
Kids’ organic backyard fruit and veggie gardens, school gardens, and community gardens are outdoor classrooms, where kids can experience the joys of growing their own food. Kids want to eat what they grow and eating organic fresh fruits and vegetables is the number one habit for healthy living. Gardening instills positive eating habits, leadership skills, better attitudes, and a healthy exercise program that kids enjoy.
Outdoor classrooms at schools bring food studies into the curriculum and offer opportunities to taste, touch, and ingest lessons in virtually every academic subject on every grade level. School gardens are a perfect science lab, where kids can experience the miracle of life and learn history, science, and math with practical applications. Garden projects in outdoor class rooms help kids to learn where their food comes from and to develop healthy eating habits, especially when the fresh produce is used in cooking classes and for their school lunch program.
Local Community Gardens are outdoor classrooms where kids can plant their own garden, giving kids a sense of responsibility and pride. Downtown neighborhoods can turn a vacant lot into a community garden and grow fresh organic produce for their families. Community garden programs teach kids to become aware of their environment and that by growing a food garden they can reduce greenhouse gas. When kids learn from their garden neighbors, master gardeners, and local organic gardening clubs the joy of growing their own food, they can make a difference in their community. Kids can grow fresh organic produce in their backyards or in containers on balconies or patios, using the techniques learned in their outdoor classroom.
Kids can harvest organic veggies from their raised bed garden or visit the Farmer’s Market to make this Rainbow Slaw incredibly crisp, crunchy, and healthy. Nutritionists agree that eating a rainbow of raw organic veggies fresh from the garden is the panacea for good health. The combination of these veggies make this slaw a broom salad to help sweep toxins out of the body. Cabbage has been known for thousands of years as a miracle food for good health as it improves digestion, detoxifies the stomach and upper colon, kills bacteria and viruses, and stimulates the immune system. Each different color of veggie adds up to a kaleidoscope of different phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals for a power packed slaw. Fresh raw organic veggies are especially sweet and full of flavor.
Kid can chop ¼ green cabbage, ¼ purple cabbage, ¼ cup red onion, ¼ red bell pepper, and 1 celery stick into a bowl. Kids can carefully grate 2 carrots and 2 radishes into the bowl. Finely cut 2 tsp fresh herbs from the garden (like tiny sprigs of basil, mint, cilantro, dill, rosemary, oregano, and thyme) to add to the mixture. Toss and mix the herbs and veggies throughly. Kids can make this salad and store it without dressing in the refrigerator for a week.
In a small bowl, mix a dressing of 1 tsp organic apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil, and a dash of sea salt and cayenne pepper. Pour the dressing on the individual salads and mix. Rainbow Slaw is great to give extra crunch inside a sandwich or burger. Serve at a family meal, a picnic, or school lunch.
A cup of tea as an afternoon energizing and relaxing break has been enjoyed world wide since Emperor Shen Nong of China included it in his garden five thousand years ago. The bioactive compounds in a cup of green, black, white, or oolong tea impact every cell in the body to help improve the body’s health. The antioxidants, flavonoids, amino acid, and caffeine in organic tea creates a state of calm alertness. My grandmother would serve a cup of tea during an emergency to settle everyone down. Evidence indicates that the antioxidants in tea reduce the progress of cancer, liver disease, heart disease, and mental function. Tea is a great replacement beverage for sugary sodas and offers an opportunity for family conversation.
Preparing for an afternoon family tea time is a good way to introduce toddlers to cooking basics. Teachers have found that a weekly or monthly tea party increases attention spans and good attitudes during reading time. Kids of all ages love to create an afternoon tea party with friends at home or school. Get out a special teapot and cups and pour hot water into the them for a minute and then discard it. Adding organic loose leaf tea to a warmed teapot allows the tea leaves to unfurl and gives the best flavor, 2 – 5 tsp (less for green and more for black) brewed for 2 – 8 minutes (depending on the tea). Prepare a healthy fruit dish or bake some organic oatmeal cookies to make it an occasion. A relaxing cup of tea is a soothing way to improve health, lighten moods, increase metabolism, and boost energy.
Certain plants perform better when in the presence of other plants. Companion planting cultivates veggies that grow well together, nourish each other’s roots, and enhance their flavors, nutrients, and resilience to pests and diseases. Plants send out natural chemical signals, like when radishes are planted with lettuce to enhance its flavor. Food combinations like tomatoes and basil, potatoes and bush bean, or carrots and peas are good companion plantings. When the Native American Three Sisters, corn, squash, and beans, are grown together, their roots nourish each other with compatible nutrients and when eaten together they provide a balanced meal. Kids can grow companion plants close together and rotate the plants in the same family to different planting beds each year to increase growth, flavor, and nutrition of the veggies.
Some plants can be planted as a border to help repel pesky bugs. When carrots are partnered with leeks, the strong smells of the partner plant repel harmful insects from the other plant. Herbs, like chamomile, lemon balm, coriander, marjoram, and oregano, and pretty edible flowers, like nasturtiums and marigolds, are particularly good companion plants, attracting pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden. Kids can plant these perennials along the edge of the bed so they need not be disturbed when the bed is replanted.
There are a few plants that don’t mix well together, needing all the available water and nutrients in the soil or attracting the same pests and diseases. Certain plants, like cucumbers and potatoes, are affected by mildew and blights and should be planted far away from each other.
Kids can plan their organic vegetable garden better when they understand that certain plants enjoy growing together. Companion planting is planting different veggies close together for mutual benefits, attracting beneficial insects, nourishing each others roots, and helping to eliminate pests and diseases.