“What are these bumps on my cucumber?”
“How do watermelons grow?”
Kids can be tireless (if not relentless) with their line of questioning, but take a deep breath and go with it. Curiosity—especially when it comes to food—is a good thing.
If you’re stumped for answers, no sweat. We suggest practicing a little show, don’t tell by taking a trip to your local botanical garden. It’s a perfect experience for curious eaters of all ages to make connections between field and plate. It doesn’t hurt that they’re also usually pretty beautiful.
Located in some of our finest cities are sprawling botanical gardens that provide an oasis to explore. Many facilities even have a dedicated children’s gardens and offer drop-in activities where you can check out a range of activities related to plants, gardening, and food itself. You’re never to young (or old) to learn that tomato is a fruit, broccoli is a flower, and carrots are a root.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of five botanical gardens that are well worth visiting if you have the chance, whether you live in these cities or not. So, pile everyone into the car, train or maybe plane, and be ready to get your hands dirty. Time to smell the flowers and learn about them.
The Lou Glenn Children’s Garden just completed an extensive renovation that includes a new outdoor play area and expanded garden facilities. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, visit the Edible Garden Outdoor Kitchen to experience Garden Chef Demos. If eating is involved, we’re there (May–October).
The Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden attracts visitors of all ages with interactive programs like Dig In and Discover What Plants You Eat. The St. Louis Herb Society Garden features beds of herbs divided by use: culinary, medicinal, utility, and fragrance. So much learning to be had (June 6–August 29.)
The Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden grows 400 different edible plants. Learn about how to grow berries, fruits, veggies, and herbs along with effective gardening methods. It’s both fun for kids, and it also might inspire you to start your own garden. Drop-in activities at the Regenstein Learning Campus run daily from June through August—cooking class, anyone? If you already know you have a little chef on your hands, check out The Garden Chef Series on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (May–October).
The New York Botanical Garden is home to a plethora of programs and hands-on activities for families. Visit the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays afternoons for drop-in programs like Scent-Sational Herbs where you can smell, touch and explore how herbs are used in all parts of our daily lives. You will walk out smelling like heaven, all from nature’s perfume! Also stop by the Edible Academy tastings and cooking demos hosted at the Pine Tree Café on Wednesday mornings—the delicious dishes might just sway the fam to try a recipe other than chicken fingers for dinner (April 22–October 29).
The Hamilton Children’s Garden offers imaginative play areas and The Incredible Edibles program that teaches kids about where their food comes from—something we should all know about. For younger tots, check out the Seeds of Wonder play area that is designed to develop a connection with nature, fostering a love for the natural environment around them. Digging for worms has never been more fun (open all year).