Monday 14 July 2014

Gardening with preschoolers

I love growing vegetables. I think it's the part of me that grew up reading the likes of E J Taylor's Ivy Cottage and George and Matilda Mouse by Heather Buchanan ... In any case, gardening is something that I was always keen to get Daughter involved with. Aside from the obvious benefits of learning where their food comes from, I think that waiting for plants to grow can help to teach patience. A little watering can is also a very handy distraction for when you need five minutes of alone-time in the garden. Oh yes, that little metal container has let me finish many a cuppa. Fill it up, hand it over and ask them to go and water the plant furthest from where you are.

Happy days.

In any case, when choosing the plants to grow this year, I tried to learn from the errors of last season. I went really over the top, trying to have as many home-grown items as possible. Daughter didn't really notice - there was too much going on that she couldn't really take pride in any of the produce. This year we planted the somewhat reduced crop of radishes and peas - partially due to moving into the new house late in the growing season and partially because those were the first things which sprung to mind.

We bought a pack of multi-coloured radish seeds (for a bit of variety), and just used a pack of dried peas that I had in the store cupboard. I think they were from the Co-op in Norway, but any dried peas should work - Norwegian or not.

The peas, admittedly, are very slow growing once they're in the ground, but by soaking them in water before planting them, you can see them start to germinate. They're great for explaining the process of seed to plant.

The radishes have been the real stars this year though - quick growing and tolerant to my child's enthusiastic watering, they've survived the Scottish climate well and provided a great crop. My only issue with them is... well, other than sliced in a salad, they have limited usage. Whilst hours of trawling various cookery sites produced limited success in terms of recipes I could actually use, I did manage to stumble across the Japanese-style pickled radish - a quick and easy preserve with a fridge life of three to four weeks.

This is especially good for making with smalls as the liquid turns from clear to pink when it hits the radishes, giving the jar a lovely rose colour. To make these, you need:

100mls clear vinegar (cider, rice wine, white wine, distilled white... whatever really)
100mls water
10 pepper corns
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey.

Slice your radishes thinly and pop them in a jar. Add the pepper corns (and if you fancy something a bit different you could add some slices of garlic and/or a few chilli seeds) and set to one side. In a pan, heat the remaining ingredients until they've got a gentle boil going and then pour over your radishes in their jar. Pop a lid on, wait for it to cool and then stick it in the fridge overnight. They're ready to eat the next day and go very well with Asian food. 

Any ideas what I can do with the rest of our bumper crop?

1 comment:

  1. I like radishes raw with a bit of salt, but I also put them in potato salad. It adds a nice crunch. :)