Call me an optimist, but I keep thinking that winter’s days are numbered, and spring is not too far off. This means it’s a great time to set up your veggie patch for planting in spring.
I am a big believer in teaching children about the origins of food. Our society can be so disconnected from the reality of the food chain. We buy nice little vacuum sealed parcels of meat from neat little refrigeration units, and children often don’t realise that meat is from animals. To many kids apples and oranges don’t come from trees, they come from the supermarket. It’s important that we teach kids about where food actually comes from so they can understand how an important part of the world works.
Gardening is also one of the best ways to help them distinguish between nourishing wholesome foods and processed junk foods. Ask your kids, does this biscuit come from a farm, or does it come from a factory? If it comes from a farm they will know it’s ok to eat it every day, but if it comes from a factory it is a treat that should only be eaten sometimes.
There are a few simple tasks you can do in your garden now that your kids can help with. If you have a sunny corner of garden bed, turn over the soil with a spade and mix in some manure. This will mean it will be nice and composted in 4-6 weeks when the weather starts to warm up and will be the perfect garden bed for some vegetable seedlings.
If you only have a small space you can still grow vegetables and herbs in pots. Many hardware stores have gardening sales in spring. Keep an eye out for some nice deep pots or half wine barrels that you can use to plant whatever vegetables your kids like to eat.
Stephanie Alexander is a huge inspiration for anyone who wants to teach children how to garden and cook. She started the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, which helps schools set up gardens to teach children how to grow fresh food and cook it. They run a range of great cooking and gardening workshops for schools, educators or individuals, and are a fantastic source of information for anyone who wants to involve children in the garden or kitchen.
Check out this video to see Stephanie speak about the practical aspects of cooking with children, why she started the foundation, and why it’s so important that families make an effort to share a meal together at least a few times a week. She also talks about how cooking can provide children with an immense source of pride in their efforts which they can share with others. She’s a fascinating woman who has played a leading role in shaping the food that Australia eats every day. I love that one of my culinary heroes is also so passionate about teaching kids how wonderful a life with great food can be.