Harvest Time with Kids!
Sarah Heidtke, Master Gardener
It’s time to get the kids in your life ready for harvesting all of the bounty around us. Whether you’ve been tending plants all summer or want to visit any number of “pick your own” locations in our area, harvesting is a great way to connect children to produce right where it grows.
Kids of all ages can harvest fruit, vegetables, and herbs! Toddlers can pick a strawberry or a cherry tomato with a little guidance, preschoolers can identify beans to pick, and older kids can reach an apple from the tree or gently pull a carrot from the ground. The best part is that they can see right in front of them where the food comes from and how it is growing just before they pick it. It is important for children (especially our youngest ones) to check with an adult before eating anything they find growing to make sure it’s safe.
Getting set up is easy!
Young harvesters don’t need fancy gear, but some things may help them enjoy the process more:
Tools that fit in their hands - think safety scissors for little hands to clip some basil or chives
Gloves - not required, but some kids find that a comfortable and well-fitting pair of gloves make touching plants and dirt easier.
Something to carry their bounty - a right-size basket, an empty ice cream bucket, a tote bag, or even a cart to push or wagon to pull.
Outside activity items like a hat and water bottle help keep little harvesters going.
Where to go?
Maybe you have your own container garden, tree, or garden bed that you’ve planted, taken care of, and anticipated harvesting with your children so you don’t need to travel far for your harvest.
There are also many places that offer pick your own seasonal produce. Check out https://minnesotagrown.com for a fun location - you can filter by plant and geography to plan a harvest outing that works for you and the children in your life.
Does your child have access to a school garden? More and more schools are introducing the benefits of growing and harvesting produce to their students and families, including right here in Dakota County! Check out this link for information on University of Minnesota Extension school garden programs (and more great ideas for gardening with kids) here: https://extension.umn.edu/farm-school/school-gardens
What to harvest?
Some fruits, vegetables and herbs have been available since late spring and many are coming into a bountiful harvest right now in August, and more will continue through our first freeze in fall. Exact times vary year to year, but here’s a great chart from Minnesota Grown to give you an idea of what’s good eating when you are ready to
Looking for ways to enjoy those harvests right away with your young harvest crew?
How about pairing carrots, cherry tomatoes, and mini peppers with a little ranch dressing for a quick healthy snack?
Apple slices with caramel or peanut butter are delicious!
In the fall, carve a pumpkin and roast the seeds for another fun treat.
For more ideas, try these “One Bite Lessons” from Life Lab: https://lifelab.org/2021/04/one-bite-lessons/
Of course, part of setting up healthy habits for children includes safe handling. Here’s a link to more information about ‘Handling Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Safely,” whether you are eating them right away or preserving for later consumption from University of MN Extension:
The most important part of harvesting with kids is to set them up for healthy habits as they grow up. Having fun with the garden harvest is a great way to explore new foods at their best. Fortunately, we have many options throughout the growing season here in Minnesota. Happy Harvesting!
Looking for books to get little ones excited about the garden harvest or to read after you’ve been out picking your favorites?
Here are some suggestions, all available at Dakota County Libraries:
Garden time [board book] by Jill McDonald. "Teaches toddlers all about gardens--with easy-to-understand facts about how plants grow and how gardening puts food on our tables.” (Provided by publisher)
It's Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden by George Ancona. “Part celebration, part simple how-to, this close-up look at a vibrant garden and its enthusiastic gardeners is blooming with photos that will have readers ready to roll up their sleeves and dig in.”
Garden to Table: A Kid's Guide to Planting, Growing, and Preparing Food by Katherine Hengel with Lisa Wagner. For older kids ready to try out some recipes with their harvest.
Photo credits: Sarah Heidtke (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), book covers (6, 7, 8)