Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Introducing the young to gardening on Strawberry Sunday

I so enjoy helping someone new to gardening learn about its joys. It’s especially fun when that person is a child. Whether working with an adult or child, however, I believe in mixing the “chore” with the pleasure.

Since she was able to overcome her fear of bees to go into garden with me, I’ve been gardening with our goddaughter, Anna. She’s a fourth-grader now who also helps her dad in his garden. When she asked if she could come over on Sunday, I told her yes, if she would work in the garden with me. Knowing we have ripe strawberries to pick, she readily agreed.

We started out with the most laborious task—weeding a couple rows of the garden. The weeds aren’t too bad yet (even though it has rained so much) so that didn’t take us long.

Next, we planted two rows of beans. I decided to experiment this year with kidney beans and pinto beans. I’ve never eaten either of them fresh so would like to try that. Plus, we can leave them on the vines to dry and use in the winter. Sounds like an easy plan to me.

Then, we came to the strawberries—so ripe that they’re almost purple,
 so juicy that you just have to accept you’ll have a few pink spots on your shirt if you nibble while picking. Anna kept exclaiming that she had hit the jackpot as she found cluster after cluster of strawberries just glowing as if shouting “pick me now!”

With Jim’s help, we gathered so many strawberries that we had more than enough for a good batch of jam. So we decided to start with chocolate-covered strawberries. We melted dark chocolate chips then dipped, dried, dipped, dried, sampled, dipped until the only chocolate left in the pan was what we could scrape up with a few more berries.

Then Jim took over for the jam-making lesson. They separated berries, removed the stems and leaves, added the ingredients to the pot, sterilized the jars and lids. “It smells like cotton candy in here,” Anna said. And so it did.

While the jam cooked, we went outside for some fresh air and to harvest asparagus. I showed Anna how to cut it under the surface and we carried in a good bunch that we could eat for supper. I cut it, tossed it with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper then put it in a foul pouch with some sliced onions.

After Jim finished the jam, he put the vegetables and Rainbow trout on the grill while I made us green salad. Neither Ann nor I had ever tried Rainbow trout and we both loved it. When Jim pulled the crunchy skin from the foil, Anna first turned up her nose at the idea of eating fish skin. Then she decided to try it, declaring, “I can’t believe I just ate fish scales.”

Of course, we had chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert.

Now if we can just get those weeds out of the raspberry patch, maybe we will have a raspberry Sunday sometime next month.

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