Posts tagged Horticulture

Suburban Strawberries

perfect homegrown strawberries

It is June, and for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, that means strawberry season. Strawberry season at our house begins after weeks of watching the agonizingly slow succession from bud, to blossom, to hard, green fruit, and finally to glorious red morsel of horticultural perfection. That first juicy berry is carefully and dutifully divided up five ways so that each member of the family can partake of the elements of this annual ritual. I am not exaggerating when I say that the strawberries from our patch are sweeter than any local or imported fruit we have ever tasted. I’m sure it’s because we don’t irrigate our berries, but I like to think it’s simply a reflection of our joy in growing them.


Our children love to pick strawberries. Let me rephrase that. Our children love to eat strawberries. At the age of six – and being a self-starter by nature – Teddy is a real help in the task of harvesting. When he comes home from school he heads to the patch and eats. If Oli or I are harvesting Teddy will gladly pitch in and help fill the bowl. His younger brother Sammy, on the other hand, is another matter entirely.


Today I suggested Sam come outside with me to do some weeding in the garden.
“Yay!” he cried as he ran to the door to put on his shoes. His 4-year-old enthusiasm lasted about 5 minutes, at which point he had pulled out about 4 weeds and announced he was “boiling” and needed to stop.


I suggested he get a bowl from the house to harvest a few berries, thinking that would entice him to stay with me in the garden for a little while longer. Initially he wasn’t too thrilled to have to walk all the way back into the kitchen (!) to get the bowl, but once I assured him that he could also eat berries while picking them, he perked right up and went to fetch the bowl.


Boiling no more, he began picking, informing me of every ripe berry he found. At one point he proudly showed me what he had picked. “Look Mommy! Look at my bowl!” It didn’t take long to count the four strawberries that constituted his harvest. Instead of picking more, Sam slowly ate the few strawberries that were left in his bowl, at which point I took over the strawberry picking. This suited him just fine, since he was now relieved of the task of picking, and he could eat from the bowl that was becoming full faster than he could eat. When it became too hot for him he suggested I go push him on the swing for a while. Sure, Sam.


Sensing a teachable moment I explained to Sam that he cannot have it both ways: have Mommy pick his berries while simultaneously pushing him on the swing. In fact, after a while, I cut off the berry supply, explaining that pickers get to eat and kids who wait to be served will have to wait a long time.


What can I say, except that kids are not born with an appreciation for work! Left to their own devices they will most likely chose the path of least resistance and leave the work for the other people in their lives: their parents, their siblings, their roommates, or their spouses.


our open-air grocery store

Lucky for him, Sam is just beginning his apprenticeship as a garden helper. Other program points in the coming years will include weeding (and sticking to it), working with compost, tilling the soil and of course, harvesting the produce. That little vegetable patch will teach our children a very valuable life lesson: the joy of breaking a sweat working, and the thrill of a job well done when they bite into that first ripe strawberry.


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