Strawberries in the winter

Do small children understand all the hoopla about growing, shopping, eating local?

The short answer is yes, they do understand. On a very elementary, basic, primitive level.

When they are walking around in heavy jackets and notice that the grass is no longer a lush green, and the plants are brown and dead-looking, on some level they must understand that the season has changed. That the growing season, which follows the planting season, is finished now.

We live in a city. But we have a little urban vegetable garden in the back, and every since Ben was a crawling baby, he saw me and helped me tend to that little garden. We harvested and ate from that garden almost daily.

My child, and many neighbourhood children, understand about dirt and plants. And growing edibles. And flowers and butterflies and birds…

But I digress. Eat local…they say.

No time like the present to introduce them to the bigger picture.

Kids notice things. They ask questions. They ponder. And it hits home just how aware and interested 4 year old kids are when they approach you with their questions. Their thirst for knowledge is undeniable, and it takes little effort (but a lot of patience, thank you very much) to guide the child in this knowledge-quenching phase.

Rewind to a few weeks ago.

Back in November Benjamin and I went to a newly opened bakery down the street and picked out some little treats to have with tea that afternoon.

Ben picked out a little strawberry tart in a chocolate cookie cup. One for himself, and one for his toddler sister. The fresh sliced strawberry on top was the selling feature as far as he was concerned.

Later, as he’s munching his sweet, he says:

“I wonder why they make strawberries in the middle of winter…”

Now this is interesting for a variety of reasons. First, he knows about strawberries. He’s grown them in a pot at home, he’s been to a strawberry picking farm, and he understands that this is a fruit that grows in spring and gets harvested in early summer (up here in Canada).

Second, we have had one of the mildest Novembers I can remember. We’re walking around with light jackets, often forgoing a jacket all together. Despite this mild weather, Benjamin knows it’s winter. So he knows, perhaps instinctively, that there are no strawberries to be harvested here where he lives.

My answer was very basic:

“They don’t make strawberries here in the middle of winter. They get shipped in from a warm place in another country where strawberries are growing now.”

I realize I could have launched into the whole greenhouse growing operations and what have you, but he seemed satisfied with that answer, and besides, he had more pressing distractions to worry about:

His Mighty Machines DVDs we just picked up from the library.

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