Gardening and cooking with kids has brought me to a frightening and sad realization…there is an astonishing disconnect between children and plants. More specifically, the plants they eat.
It is really amazing.
This week Alex and I prepared a mixed green and radish salad, fresh from the Ag Center garden. Sadly, the garden at Polk Central has been slow to yield. Minor setbacks, poor soil, and lack of sunlight have created tiny little plants, that are pretty, but cannot provide enough food for all the students.
The salad had a variety of heirloom lettuces and kales. It also had some ‘flamboyant’ radishes…that is really the name of the variety, and they are quite showy. The dressing was a simple olive oil, lemon, vinegar, and honey recipe, with some additional herbs added.
I began to realize the food disconnect when I pulled out the lettuce…about five minutes in…
The inquisitive students opened the floor for discussions on plant parts, leaf and seed structures, photosynthesis, essential oils, knife skills, descriptive words, and even a bit of physics! We got deep.
One student asked if lettuce was the root, another student had never seen the inside of a lemon, another had never tasted honey. But it was one student’s fascination with the radishes that really had an affect on me. He held one of the pink and white roots in his hand, commenting on its shape and texture, awestricken. I am almost certain he had never seen a radish before. And I felt kind of sad…to be honest.
How have these kids grown up not seeing some of the most basic foods? What do they eat? When did this disconnect happen? Is it like this all over the United States??
Programs like the ones we offer after-school are one way we can begin to bridge the gap in food knowledge.
The students were 50/50 on the salad, some asking for seconds and thirds, others showing off by making extravagant, distorted ‘yuck’ faces.
But that didn’t stop me from feeling some pride in my accomplishments. I was able to show a child the inside of a lemon and describe why their seeds are bitter. I got them a serving of greens for the day, maybe their only one. I introduced honey to a girl who, honestly, has really been missing out….
But I think my most simple accomplishment was that I made food part of the day. As simple as it seems, we often don’t even put a second thought into what we eat and where it came from. Yesterday, I got to share how cool and amazing vegetables are, and hopefully that impact will continue. Though the impact often feels small, it is still an impact, and small steps are steps, nonetheless.
Until next time…..
For more information about gardening or after-school programs email Sydney Klein (Agricultural Outreach Coordinator) at :