With the arrival of spring and the approach of summer, now is the perfect time to start thinking about growing a garden. Growing and gathering your own food is one of the most-rewarding and nutritious ways that you can live a more sustainable lifestyle. We have been producing our organically grown vegetables for our family and others in our community for five years. It is something that comes naturally now to our routine, and it has always been important to me to include my sons in the process. One day, they may decide to grow their own food, too!
Children can easily join in the process of planting seeds, watching plants grow, and harvesting the delicious rewards. It’s a way for them to understand where their vegetables come from as well as to be more adventurous with their food choices. I have had lots of little ones in my garden, and they always want to take a bite of whatever we are picking!
In this post, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite kid-friendly vegetables to grow. I chose these particular veggies for a few simple qualities: how fast they grow, easy to start from seed, and are most often chosen as “kid favorites” to eat!
Cucumbers are one my older son’s favorites! He especially loves small pickling cukes, like Gherkins or Northern Pickling. These are great varieties for tiny hands! Cucumbers are incredibly easy to grow. In fact, my fellow master gardeners often say, “Dropped cucumber seeds will grow anywhere.” and it’s pretty much true! If you don’t have a lot of space, try putting up a small trellis and growing your cucumbers vertically. This makes it easier for children to help harvest, too, as the cucumbers are not sitting in wet soil and the prickly vines do not have to be dug through. Cucumbers take about 50 to 70 days to mature.
While not the fastest growing vegetable on this list, tomatoes are always an excellent choice to get children more involved in the garden. They require a bit of extra work, like having a cage, but they are such a wonderful surprise to find blooming bright red after a long couple of months of waiting. Plus many local greenhouses and nurseries provide well established plants in the late spring - that’s less time for you to wait! The best varieties, I believe, for little ones are cherry tomatoes. Some of my favorites to grow are Washington Cherry, the Bumblebee Series, and Supersweet 100.
Easy peasy! Peas grow quickly and are planted from seed in the early spring so that you can pick, snap, and eat before your warm-weather plants even go into the ground. Sugar Snap Peas are my favorite and are often completely gobbled up before we can even bring them inside. If you want a plant that doesn’t take up much room (has to be grown on a pole or trellis) and is finished producing by the early summer, then try peas! They have a short life, especially in places with warm climates, and produce lots in that short period of time.
Do your little ones often eat green beans? Try growing some this year! We always grow bush beans because they don’t require any extra support from a trellis or pole. My favorite variety is Provider, and it’s named that for a reason - it provides a multitude of delicious, sweet green beans. We also like to grow colorful beans like Royal Burgundy and Goldilocks, which makes for a very eclectic looking veggie tray. Beans mature in about 50 days, making them a quick, heat-loving veggie. From 5 bush bean plants, you can expect around 5 lbs of beans per week!
Radishes are one of the fastest growing vegetables that you can get. Often growing in 30 days or less, they can be sown in the weeks before the last spring frost and harvested while the weather is still cool out. Because they grow so quickly, they are extremely rewarding for young ones who are too impatient to wait for the longer growing vegetables. Plus, there’s nothing more fun than tugging on the leaves and pulling up a brightly colored root!
More radishes are spicy, especially if harvested too late. In my experience, this is not often ideal for little mouths who prefer blander tastes. Try choosing a variety with a more mild flavor like Cherry Belle. The best way to prevent a spicy flavor is to grow radishes in a cool climate or in the cooler months.
Will you be planting a garden this year? What do your little ones love to eat from the garden?
Kayla Lobermeier is a writer, master gardener, and flower farmer-florist from southeastern Iowa. She loves discovering ways to live a more simplified and sustainable lifestyle at home with her husband, son, and little one on the way! You’ll often find her tending to the plants and animals, knitting, reading Outlander, or sipping on a hot cup of coffee. Learn more on her website www.underatinroof.com or visit her Instagram @underatinroof.