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We can sow a rainbow…

A couple of months ago I followed a twitter link to The Wellcome Trust’s new initiative called ‘The Crunch’ which aims to get people thinking and talking about our food, our health and our planet. The idea was interesting and within an hour I found I had volunteered to be an ambassador for ‘The Crunch’ during 2016. (I’m currently undergoing therapy for compulsive volunteering!)

The role of an ambassador is to get discussions going, so alongside working with local children to look at how we grow, cook and eat our food, I thought I’d blog about ways we can entice our kids into gardens. Growing their own crops has proved fascinating to my children, especially when they get to cook and experiment with their produce.

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Happy memories

In my childhood I had a complex relationship with fruit and vegetables. I loved being out in the garden with my dad and treasure the photographs of my two-year old self in red wellies in the vegetable patch. I loved harvesting raspberries and strawberries, peas and potatoes – tangible evidence of magic in the soil. However, I have less nostalgic memories of kale infested with ‘extra protein’ and stringy runner beans. Last year I grew ‘White Lady’ runner beans for the first time, finally coming to terms with the trauma of my childhood, 30 years on!

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Hey, over here!

My godson’s favourite foods were apples and peas, so when my son was born I thought introducing food from the garden would be child’s play. I was unprepared for a child who screamed every time he had peas on his plate – even if he didn’t have to eat them. Consuming fruit in anything other than miniscule pieces was unacceptable (he still struggles to eat a piece of fruit whole) and I found the whole process of preparing and sharing food with the family disheartening. It has taken several years of perseverance, but at 7 he is now a moderately enthusiastic fruit and vegetable eater, and much of this change has been achieved through engaging him in the process of growing his own food.

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Digging the raised beds

The first time we really explored the food in the garden, when he was about 2, it led to a discussion about the colour of raspberries. At that age kids are wonderfully free of preconceived ideas, so the fact that our raspberries were red at one end of the row and yellow at the other was merely an interesting observation (a range of red summer and autumn fruiting varieties, and our favourite – ‘All Gold’ at the end). Although I did wonder what his nursery teachers would think in his next lesson on food when he insisted that raspberries are yellow or carrots purple!

Both children love exploring colour in the garden – it’s exciting to grow rainbow carrots – ‘Yellowstone’ and ‘Purple Haze’ are particular favourites. (I love yellow carrots for the extra sweet taste and purple carrots – well, just for being purple and for the way they have concentric rings of orange within the purple exterior.) We enjoy growing dwarf beans, like ‘Purple Teepee’ and then watching the colour magically leach into the water as we cook them – leaving purple water and green beans.

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Colourful beetroot and kohl rabi (growing purple kohl rabi – I grow ‘Azur Star’ – is fun too)

 

In fact, I think I enjoy growing different coloured varieties as much as the children. I’ve been particularly interested in trying different coloured tomatoes over the past few years. I love ‘Black Russian’ for its deep, meaty taste, even though it doesn’t crop as heavily as other varieties. I wasn’t going to sow it this year, but then my daughter requested black tomatoes again and it didn’t take much persuasion to get the seeds out and sow them together.  I’ve decided to try the one truss method with it this year (more on this later).

I also grew ‘Indigo Rose’ last year. The kids loved the way the tomatoes were almost entirely black, but then when we lifted the calyx, underneath, the skin of the tomato was bright red. ‘Golden Sunrise’ are a must sow each year for their sweet burst of flavour and this year I’m trying ‘Green Zebra’ – my first go at a green tomato (supposedly a sweet one too). I’m also trying a yellow variety called ‘Millefleur’, a centiflor type, which are indeterminate bushes with up to a hundred small fruit on each truss.

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Colourful varieties for sowing this year…

The kids love picking fruit and blueberries are a particular favourite – sweet easy mouthfuls and at just the right height for little hands. Last year I bought a Pinkberry ‘Pink Lemonade’ – a variety of Blueberry which they were keen to try. Gardening teaches patience (not a trait many 3 and 7 year olds have in spades), so we’re all excited that this year’s buds indicate our first crop this summer.

I could go on – purple chillies, cornflower, calendula and nasturtium petals which the kids picked last year from their plot to decorate salads, red and yellow oca (the most marvellous sight in November when the garden offers few other coloured treasures). There is something particularly uplifting about bright colours in nature, from the first zingy orange ‘Ballerina’ tulip which emerged earlier this week in my garden, to the basketful of oca which I’ll hopefully be uncovering in the raised beds at the end of the year.  Colour makes us happy and happy childhood memories in the garden have enriched my life in so many ways.

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I love growing and roasting oca

 

 

Dogwooddays does not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

4 thoughts on “We can sow a rainbow…

  1. Philippa says:

    Love this blog post. I love growing different coloured crops too and this year we’ll be adding golden mangetout, white and yellow beetroot, and purple carrots to the purple beans and yellow courgettes we grew last year and I can’t wait! Evie has been busy telling all her new friends about our yellow raspberries and as none of the other children have seen these before they’ve all asked if they can help pick them when they’re ready. I’ve only got 2 ‘All Gold’ canes so I hope they crop heavily this year! They’re also all intrigued by the rainbow chard, which I think I’d grow just for the colours even if we didn’t eat it!
    I’d love some info about how you grow and cook the red oca and what they taste like – they look amazing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • dogwooddays says:

      Thanks Philippa. I love the idea of all the kids lining up to pick the yellow raspberries! Rainbow chard was the first coloured veg I grew – I adore the colours, although I think white chard tastes best. Oca is a great veg – edible leaves and blight-free crops. I got my oca tubers from realseeds.co.uk. Then you can save tubers each year. This year I got new yellow tubers to add to the red ones I saved from last year. Good luck with it all. 🙂

      Like

  2. dogwooddays says:

    I tend to roast them or boil and mix with mash. They taste like lovely lemony potatoes. The leaves taste like sorrel – a bit lemony. Can eat some, but not too many as it will affect the tubers” performance. Can eat them raw, supposedly like bramley apples, but I wasn’t that keen. Dried out my mouth!

    Like

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