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Garden Detectives

September 24, 2012

The tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are turning bright colors as they ripen. Squash and pumpkins are swelling as does our anticipation for the coming season. But before you pick those fruits and vegetables, take the opportunity to explore them with your children.

An activity that has worked well in Phipps’ Edible Garden is our garden detective game. We ask children to help us find fruits and vegetables. We describe the shape of the plant, its color and flowers. We talk about what part of the plant we eat and how to prepare it. Then we send them off armed with a garden ID guide. What happens next is fantastic; children scavenge the garden like scientists with an enthusiasm for fruits and vegetables that is hard to believe!

Harvesting your late summer crops can also be a time to talk about taste. Sampling cherry tomatoes and comparing them with bigger tomatoes like an ‘Ox Heart’ tomato has been a hit in our garden. Comparing size, shape, and color of tomatoes are great ways to introduce tomato varieties.

So now what? Once you have collected the harvest, have you wondered what to do with all of it? Canning and pickling are great ways to preserve vegetables. Below is a recipe for dill pickling so you can squirrel away some of those summer favorites. Your green beans, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers and zucchini will all work well. Kids can help by preparing the vegetables, washing, cutting and stuffing the jars.


  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 to 4 small red chiles (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh dill fronds (about 1 bunch)
  • Prepared Vegetables


In a medium saucepan, combine white vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seed, celery seed, red chiles (optional), and ground turmeric. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Arrange prepared vegetables and dill fronds in one or more jars. Pour hot brine into jar to completely cover vegetables and seal jar. Refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours (or up to 1 week).

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