This weekend I took myself on a field trip to one of the local u-pick farms on a quest to find the world's best strawberries! I just may have found them, along with a dozen children who were visiting the farm too. Watching these kids running up and down the rows of strawberries reminded me that there is no better way to teach kids about fruits and vegetables than bringing them into the garden. It not only teaches them where their food comes from, but they enjoy the hunt, the fresh air and it tires them out, so you get a good nap afterward.
Right now strawberries are in seasons, but other berries will be ripe soon. Blueberries and Thornless Blackberries are always a big hit for U-pickers. For kids, lots of great fruit, low to the ground, and with no prickers are favorites! Apples can also be fun, especially if accompanied by an apple festival and hayride, but they can be a bit high for little people. Same goes for stone fruits (Peaches, plums, etc...)
I wound up over picking and now have four flats of strawberries in my refrigerator, but I'll give them as gifts to some of my coworkers and office staff. I also picked pea pods. Now, here is the cool factor. I put a bowl of washed strawberries and pea pods out on my patio deck while I was writing this article and before you knew it, 4 of my little neighborhood six year old friends came over for a visit (they do this frequently - I think it's to visit the dogs). They sat around the table sampled my berries and proceeded to devour the pea pods. I prefer eating sweet pea pods whole, but they loved to open each one and sample the jewels inside. How many children do you know how like cooked peas? None, right? How many children love fresh, raw peas from pea pods? All of them! There is truly something magical about fresh produce. We had the most wonderful conversation centered around fresh fruits and vegetables...and yes, kids will eat their vegetables. As an added bonus, one of them even said she wished I was her Mom - the power of food!
If you haven't shared memories of visiting a U-Pick farm with your children, I highly encourage it. I have been taking mine since they were in baby back packs and they still love the experience and the food. Here are some local U-Pick farms in North Idaho and in the Spokane area.
• The Hughes Farm - Post Falls. Phone: (208) 773-2584. Email: email@example.com.
• Promised Land Family Farm - Coeur d'Alene. Phone: (208) 512-3305. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• University of Idaho Soil Stewards Student Organic Farm - Moscow. Phone: (208) 885-9245. Email: email@example.com.
• Bodacious Berries and Fruit - Mead, Wash. Phone: (509) 238-2489. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Carver Farms - Newman Lake, Wash. Phone: (509) 226-3602. Email: email@example.com
• Cherry Hill - Mead, Wash. Phone: (509) 238-1987. Alternate Phone: (509) 238-1978. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Siemers Farm, LLC - Mead, Wash. Phone: (509) 238-6242
Dr. SeAnne Safaii, Ph.D., RD, LD, is an assistant professor at the University of Idaho.