8. Harvesting and cooking

8. Harvesting and cooking

Suggested Timing: May/June

The harvesting and eating of food from plants is both a task and a celebration. It is the culmination of the ongoing care, collaboration, and partnership between human and non-human life.

Short Film: Harvesting


By the end of this unit, you will enable children to:

  1. Recognise what and when a crop is ready for harvesting, by considering the season and crop development
  2. Harvest, discuss and share favourite vegetables
  3. Revisit knowledge and expectations about growth
  4. Assess factors for growth or lack of growth/death of plants
  5. Involve the community in aspects of harvest celebration
  6. Collect, read, and prepare recipes
  7. Help prepare and cook vegetables for eating
  8. Write comments about the prepared/ cooked food
  9. Write blogs and newsletters
  10. Plan for continued watering and harvesting during the holidays

1. Taking Stock of the Harvest

Children can make observations and take measurements for each plant type harvested, recording both data and verbal descriptions. Through measurements, children can appreciate that produce comes in different shapes and sizes. Produce is normally weighed in kilograms.

Activity 1A: Weighing in

 A simple table can be devised to record the weight of each harvest.

Activity 1B: Observing and Appreciating

Through verbal descriptions and physical handling, children can pay attention to the appearance of produce. Is the external skin lucid/shiny or opaque? What about the thickness of the skin?

Activity 1C: Successes... and Failures

The observation and study of the produce can lead to questions and discussion about:

•    Why have some managed to grow to full-size where others may not have?
•    Have any diseases affected the crops?
•    Have certain conditions helped with exceptional growth?

Activity 1D: Research

Children may wish to research what is the biggest vegetable ever produced, or find out about vegetable exhibitions in parks and garden centres.

Useful Resources

2. Harvesting - a time to celebrate!

Harvesting is an important activity in many cultures across the world. Festivals related to the harvest can involve the whole community coming together to share and eat some of the produce.

Activity 2A: Choosing Favourites!

In class, children can discuss favourite dishes and find out about the ingredients. Each child can take home some of their favourite vegetables to share with their family.

Activity 2B: Recipes

Parents can get involved in harvesting by sharing recipes or ideas for cooking particular vegetables. Each child may be given the task of collecting a recipe from home to share in the school.

Activity 2C: Creative Writing

In class, children may be engaged in writing a blog or a newsletter about the harvest, and to publish some of the recipes they have collected.

Activity 2D: Sharing the Harvest

With the help of the headteacher the school may organise an end-of-year picnic to invite parents to visit the garden, pick some vegetables and enjoy some of the cooking.

Activity 2E: Planning for Continued Tending and Harvesting

A group needs to be created to maintain the garden and to help with the later harvests – for example harvesting continues after summer with the late potatoes… through to Halloween!

Useful Resources

Short Film: Cooking

3. Seasonality

Knowing that different vegetables are in season at different times of the year helps children to appreciate how different foods and recipes have been developed for different times of the year.

Activity 3: Seasonality

Children can gather information on what is available in local supermarkets and compare with a Scottish crop calendar to see where the supermarket varieties come from. Teachers can use this to engage in discussion around why these differences occur (climate, sun) and how the crops and fruits come to our supermarkets. Discussing transport of foods leads to ideas around energy use, pollution and sustainability.

4. Food Preparation

As well as understanding the seasonality of foods, and developing sensory appreciation of the diverse qualities of different fruits and vegetables, it is important for children to begin to develop some culinary life skills.

Activity 4A: Enjoying a harvest meal

If you can enlist the help of the school canteen staff, it may be possible to use the crops harvested from the garden to prepare a small meal for children and parents.

Activity 4B: Helping make a harvest meal

If the canteen staff, or suitably experienced external people from the community, are willing, it may be possible to take small groups of children at a time to prepare simple meals in the school canteen, or kitchen, if available.

Activity 4C: Home cooking your harvest

As “homework,” children can take the crops home and, with the help of their parents, prepare the food for their family and write a report about how they found it. Recipes or the grown produce can be sold at a small price to increase revenues for the garden; but vegetables can also be used for art work and fancy displays.

5. Tasting

Learning to grow and prepare local vegetables that are available ‘in season’ is an important step in understanding sustainability. It also links with other concepts such as time, the weather and the seasons (latitude). Children will also learn that the nutritional value and taste of foods is best when the food is in season. Such understanding can be enhanced through activities linked to tasting of food.

Activity 5A: The “Taste Adventure”

Using their five senses of taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight, children can explore the different properties of vegetables, foods and spices. With sufficient practice, children will be able to develop these senses and learn to appreciate the different qualities of foods and how they can be used in food preparation.

Activity 5B: The classroom restaurant

After harvesting and cleaning crops that can be eaten raw, such as lettuce, radish, carrot, rocket, the classroom can be turned into a taste appreciation restaurant. Children can sample each of the crops; feel the crunch, taste the flavour, and be asked to write a sentence about each of them.

Activity 5C: Scoring and sharing

Children can also give a score out of 10 for each of the crops they have tasted. The class can then discuss their experiences and whether they have tasted these crops before. They can also discuss why different people experience tastes in different ways, and what types of foods are healthy and why they are important nutritionally.

Useful Resources

You have reached the end of this unit. To assess your knowledge before starting the next unit, please complete the short quiz found at the link below. 

Please note: you will have to enter your email address at the start of each unit quiz if you wish to be sent a Garden Schools Certificate of Completion once you have worked through all 8 units and quizzes. 

Complete the Harvesting and Cooking quiz