Growing food helps kids understand the full life cycle of a plant—from the first moment when the seedlings burst through the ground to when the plant produces food for a harvest, says Greta Pemberton, manager of children and youth programs at the esteemed Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn, New York. This increased connection to fruits and vegetables often encourages children to expand their palate. One way to make an edible garden more manageable for you and more meaningful for your kids is to create it around a theme that you decide on together, says Pemberton. Read on for her ideas for planting a family garden based on a favorite food:
“Any toppings you love on your pizza, you can plant in a pizza garden,” says Pemberton. “Except maybe the anchovies!” Start with basil, garlic, chives, and onions. Then add oregano and rosemary, which are great chopped up in a pizza crust. As for tomatoes, Pemberton recommends planting an abundant variety like Gardener’s Delight Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. “Beefsteak and large heirloom tomatoes are really beautiful, but you have to wait forever to harvest them,” she explains.
“We’re constantly making fresh salsas with the kids in our programs,” says Pemberton. She suggests starting with cherry tomatoes and then adding cilantro and chives. Tomatillos are another great addition to this garden, because they grow in a papery husk that kids can peel off as they harvest them. Pemberton also recommends picking up a jalapeño pepper at a farmers’ market and letting your kids taste a tiny bit. “Some kids really do like a little bit of spice,” she says, “and some are totally not ready for it! Plant it if they like it.”
Favorite Food Garden
If your child loves snacking on carrots, try planting a whole bunch of beautiful carrots of all different colors. Maybe you’ll plant zucchini for a favorite muffin recipe—or even kale and berries to make a sweet smoothie. For this garden, it’s all about letting your child think about what fruits and vegetables he likes and wants to plant. “If you allow kids to decide what they want to plant,” says Pemberton, “they’ll have so much more ownership over the whole process and be more excited throughout.”