by Miranda Watrous
As her mom took her by the hand to lead her away, Maria started sobbing. Actually, to be accurate, it was more of a scream-cry. I stood there dumbstruck, with child-sized bits of freshly picked broccoli in my hands, as students scurried around me, unphased and absorbed in their task.
It was the broccoli harvest, our second this winter, but the first time this crop of students had the chance to pick their own. Maria’s parent had arrived early, however, took her home before we had the chance to taste or cook with the broccoli, and Maria was devastated.
How did we get here? Let’s recap:
← Four months prior, on a cold November day, this same Garden Club of Pre-K through 1st graders came together on a Tuesday afternoon to plant the broccoli starts.
Over the next few club meetings we took observations and recorded the progress of our broccoli plants. Not only the Garden Club, but nine different classes from grades 1 to 5 regularly visited the garden to check on their progress. →
During this time of waiting and patience we did leaf rubbings with broccoli leaves and colored with chlorophyll as part of a photosynthesis unit. ↓
We learned that the part of broccoli we eat is in fact a flower bud during our unit on plant parts and played a matching game to help learn how to identify the different parts of the plant that we eat. ↓
We tasted broccoli as part of a plant part cracker snack, where we built a representation of a plant on top of a cracker with cream cheese. First a sunflower seed, then radish slices for roots, a celery stem, red swiss chard leaves from our garden, and a broccoli flower on top! →
Finally, the harvest. As I looked towards a retreating Maria, head hung low, tears still streaming, I yelled out, “Wait! Take some broccoli with you!”
Maria stopped and ran back, wiping her snotty 6-year-old nose.
“Ok. I wanna eat our broccoli,” she said.
Her mom nodded approval in the distance. Maria snatched a broccoli floret from my hand and, gripping it tightly, sprinted back towards her mom. She had been appeased by…. broccoli? My wonder grew that afternoon as the Garden Club collected the rest of our broccoli bounty and brought it inside to cook up.
We left half of the broccoli raw, and sauteed the other half with fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Shrieks of joy filled the room as students pronounced which broccoli preparation they preferred.
17 out of 18 tried the broccoli. 11 out of 17 liked it cooked, the rest preferring it raw. 16 out of 18 students said that they LOVED broccoli. That’s 89%!
What spoke louder than the data to me, however, was the laughter, the tears, the widening of eyes, and the expressions of delight that accompanied our harvest that day. That a child could feel such emotion over food is a testament to the respect one gains for even the most humble of vegetables when you ave the memories of growing it yourself. And those memories make the broccoli taste so sweet.