The Francis Cope House
One Awbury Road
Philadelphia, PA 19138
Teaching kids to reap the benefits of veggies
March 23, 2012 | By Virginia A. Smith, Inquirer Staff Writer
Howard Brosius is trying to be heard above the buzz of a dozen small children recently liberated from day care. "Who wants some black-seeded Simpson?" he shouts, holding up the ruffled, light green leaves of this 150-year-old lettuce variety.
In a room full of veteran vegetable gardeners, this would provoke a stampede. Here, in a small classroom at Awbury Arboretum in Germantown, the kids have no idea what black-seeded means or who Simpson was. But they know whatever "Mr. Howard" is offering, they want.
At the mention of free lettuce, the pint-size scrum homes in. Each child gets a leaf or two just plucked from growing tubs in the greenhouse-like room next door. The tubs are filled with seedlings the children planted on earlier visits - beets, parsley, basil, mesclun, chives, chard, radishes, carrots, onions and scallions, not the sort of thing you'd think 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds would clamor for.
But there you have it. They're eating not just heirloom lettuce, but stems of parsley, chopped scallions, and beet greens. They line up for spinach and radishes, for crying out loud, even if they are dressed up with cream cheese and peanut butter and plumped inside celery boats and lettuce wraps.
This is Brosius' goal - to instill in young children a taste for fresh vegetables and to teach them how to grow their own. This, he believes, is an easy entree into the larger natural world, with its many insights and benefits. Not the least of those is good health.
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