Children's Garden Club at Cromwell Park teaches agriculture know-how

Young participants in the Children's Garden Club at Cromwell Valley Park on Saturday began learning about how vegetables are transformed from seeds to food on the table.

A big part of the lesson is learning patience as the fruits of the labors by the children ages 5 to 13 won't become evident for months.

"They definitely see what happens with the plants they planted," said Anne Wedgeworth, a master naturalist and director of the Children's Garden Club, which runs every other week from April 6 through the last harvest of sweet potatoes on Oct. 19.

Wedgeworth said each child given 3-foot by 3-foot plot in the children's garden at the park. The young gardeners get to choose what kinds of plant and how many would work using "square-foot gardening" techniques, such as four lettuce plants or 16 beets per square foot.

"It's all about spacing for the type of plant and learning to use water and land wisely," Wedgeworth said, saying square-foot gardening is used in urban gardens."You can grow a lot of food in a small space."

The mini-gardeners can also work in a larger community garden, where plants such as tomatoes and beans are planted because they require more space.

"There's always something to do," Wedgeworth said, who added that Master Gardener Trevor Suznick, works with the club.

"There is no garden question that can stump him," Wedgeworth said.

Wedgeworth said during each club meeting includes working in the garden, a craft, and after plants are harvested, a chance to cook and taste the vegetables they have grown. In the past, recipes have included salsa, sauteed Swiss chard quesadillas, kale soup, rhubarb crisp and a favorite: smoothies.

"I hide a secret ingredient in it and have them guess what it is," said Wedgeworth, who said when she used roasted beets, because of their pink color, the kids guessed strawberries.

Does Wedgeworth have a hard time getting kids to try the veggie dishes?

"A little bit of peer pressure never hurt," she joked. "Besides it's just more fun to eat things when you grow them yourself."

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