Incredible as it may sound, I’ve just seen kids push and shove to get a taste of broad beans.
Parents will agree – it was quite a shock. Coaxing children to eat veg is far from easy.
These children were in their school vegetable plot, and we plucked the first tender young beans straight from the pod.
To be fair, the group were exceedingly polite, forming a long straggly queue for their harvest.
All but one said they liked them. Proof positive that starting early with children can make all the difference.
Given the chance, most young children love to garden and get messy. Bubbling with curiosity, they get fascinated by plants and creepy crawlies.
Children learn to respect nature and the environment around them. Growing veg also connects them with their everyday food, and where it comes from. Children will try anything that they have grown themselves.
Here are some top tips to get going:
* Never give an open seed packet to a child. They may sprinkle the whole lot in one patch. Start off by taking time to show them all the useful information on the back of the packet.
* Pour out a small ration of seed, demonstrating how to sprinkle it. For tiny fingers, stick with larger seeds such as peas and nasturtiums.
* Explain to children how the seed will grow. It may seem obvious to us, but not necessarily to them. Show examples of more mature specimens – either real plants or pictures - so they know what to expect.
* Watering can be surprisingly tricky. Left to their own devices, children may douse the whole bed or container rather than just the plants. Or they water too quickly – a few seconds, not a proper soak. Model how to water plants and use a fine rose on the watering can.
* If working with a group, keep options to a minimum. Too much choice, for example over crops to sow or colours of tools, is a recipe for arguments.
* Instigate a ‘No Kill’ rule so that children do not squash insects and other wildlife.
* Avoid influencing children with your personal likes and dislikes. If you admit that you hate Brussel sprouts, for example, they are less likely to try for themselves.