I swear, the sun comes out for 48 contiguous hours in Portland and I’m ready to wear flip-flops and play in the dirt. I also get the itch to dig in my tiny vegetable garden.
I’ve got two small planter boxes on my broken concrete patio in the backyard. This year, I’m going to try to kill two birds with one stone (a TERRIBLE garden metaphor, but whatever) and fill my veggie garden with pick-and-eat crops.
Vegetables that are easy to grow, pick and pop straight into my mouth means:
#1: Fun garden snacking for me
#2: My kids are encouraged to eat vegetables
Gardening with kids is one of the best and most enjoyable ways to expose them to more vegetables. Frankly, I’m ready to give the dinner table tension a rest, and when we’re gardening, vegetables are just part of the fun. Plus there’s nothing like a sun-ripened cherry tomato.
Here are my favorite pick-and-eat vegetables. All are easy to grow, even for the novice gardener. If you don’t have garden space, plant them in a pot. In a matter of weeks, you’ll be able to tell the kids they’ve grown their own snacks.
Bonus: My beginner gardening book recommendations are at the end of the slideshow.
Asha’s picks for a kid-friendly vegetable garden 1 of 10
All of these crops are easy to grow, fun to harvest, and delicious to eat. I list a couple book recommendations at the end of the slideshow.
Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Snap Peas 2 of 10
One of my favorite pick-and-eat crops. They like cool weather (and so go into the ground early), grow quickly, climb trellises in the most entertaining way, and are DELICIOUS.
Photo credit: Just One Donna
Radishes 3 of 10
Okay, I haven't had any luck getting my kids to eat radishes. But they are the fastest-growing cool-weather vegetable out there, so they're extremely satisfying for young kids to grow from seed. Look for the "Easter Egg" variety…they grow charming red, white, pink, and purple orbs.
Photo credit: Playing In The Dirt
Kale 4 of 10
Yes, kale. This is Portland, and you either have to wear clogs or eat kale to walk tall in this town. And it's a super-healthy green. And it's easy to grow. And kale chips are easy to make and totally addictive for kids and adults alike.
Photo credit: Nancy S. for Friends School Plant Sale
Lettuce 5 of 10
My kids categorically reject salad. I console myself by getting them to delight in growing lettuce. I have to believe that vegetable eating is a long-term goal for some kids, and that exposure (even if it's not in the mouth) is the first step. Leaf lettuce is super-easy to grow from seed, especially the fancy baby mesclun varieties.
Photo credit: borganic.net
Violas 6 of 10
Edible flowers! Also known as Johnny Jump-Ups, these cheerful blooms perk up salads, snack plates, and cupcakes. Plus, they're not as peppery as nasturtiums. They grow easily and come back from seed year after year.
Photo credit: Eatcology
Berries 7 of 10
Picking and eating berries is the essence of Oregon summers. We had the best fun with blueberry bushes last year, and I was happy not to drop serious cash buying pints of fresh berries from the grocery store. You can find thornless raspberry vines as well. But think through where you plant them…they can get pretty unruly.
Photo credit: Life123
String beans 8 of 10
The summertime equivalent of snap peas, they are delicious to pick and eat raw. Last year, I planted a variety that grew purple beans! Extremely prolific, so plant fewer seeds than you're tempted to. Butterflies love the flowering vines.
Photo credit Diggin Food
Cherry Tomatoes 9 of 10
Quintessential summer snack. I'm the only one in my family that likes fresh tomatoes (I KNOW. They're all nuts.) but the kids love to watch the tomatoes grow and ripen.
Photo credit: Briciole
Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail 10 of 10
Gayla makes gardening so approachable.
More: Amazon link
Looking for more ideas for gardening with kids? See: Best of Parent Hacks: Gardening with Kids
Asha Dornfest is the co-author of Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less and the publisher of Parent Hacks, a site crammed with tips for making family life easier.