Natural Foods – Underground, overground….

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By Judith Harries

This article investigates how lots of our natural food grows, in this country or other areas of the world: underground, overground, on trees, vines or bushes, or even as a type of grass. There are suggestions for how to grow some easier varieties of food, along with simple recipes, and even some stories, rhymes and fun activities. At the same time, children can be made aware of the importance of eating natural, fresh and healthy food as part of their daily diet.

child with vegetables


Many popular vegetables grow underground and are the roots of plants: carrots, beetroots, turnips, parsnips, radishes and turnips. They absorb water and nutrients (food) from the soil to store in the roots and are commonly eaten by humans as food. Potatoes are the exception because they are actually not roots, they grow on underground stems or tubers! Some vegetables like onions, garlic, artichokes and leeks are bulbs, and we eat the underground bulb that is packed with flavour.

Growing challenges

  1. Right on radishes
    These are one of the easiest root vegetables to grow with children because they can be sown directly into the ground or a pot and harvested after only a few weeks! They have a delicious and crunchy taste and are sometimes a bit peppery which may surprise the children.
  2. Perfect potatoes
    A more long term but fun project is to grow some potatoes. Start by ‘chitting’ the potatoes to improve the harvest. Sort and count some potato tubers into egg boxes with the ‘eyes’ looking upwards. When they start to shoot, plant them out, during February and March, in potato bags, sacks or buckets partly filled with compost. When the shoots poke through, cover them with more compost and repeat – ‘earthing’. Remember to water the potatoes regularly. In the summer, when the plants start to wilt, pull up the plants gently or tip them out and let the children hunt for the home grown potatoes.

Tasting challenge

  1. Potato poll
    Try cooking the potatoes in a variety of ways such as boiled, chipped, mashed, wedges, baked, and let children vote for their favourite in the ‘Potato poll’.
  2. Carrot and leek soup
    Make some tasty soup with the children. Let them wash, peel and chop five large carrots and three fat leeks. Fry one chopped onion and two stalks of celery in butter for five minutes. Add some garlic and parsley. Add the chopped carrots and leeks and 500ml of vegetable stock to the pan and cook for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Blend, season and serve with some bread rolls for a snack.
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