Mary, Mary, how does your garden grow?

With the arrival of spring, the sun sets later in the evening, tulips will soon poke their noses through the soil, and we keep our fingers crossed that the usual spring blizzard will decide to stay away this time around.

After five months of winter, it’s easy to forget that food does not come from the freezer or the corner store. We should remember that, with the arrival of spring, Manitoba offers a variety of delicious, wholesome foods produced in our very own backyard. Manitoba is one of the most fertile areas in North America!

So why not consider planting a garden this year? There is something about growing our own food that brings us back to basics, helps us escape the daily grind and reduces stress. Visualize the fresh garden peas, zucchini cakes and cold cucumber soups!

Make a commitment now to celebrate our fertile soil with your family by planting a garden. The whole family can participate: children, grandparents, aunts, uncles…  Set aside a corner of your garden for friends who live in apartments or seniors’ residences. You will get to see them more often, and they might be able to give you valuable weed control tips. You and your children will learn about the “garden to table” process and be amazed to see the fruits (or vegetables) of your labour. So put the kids in the wheelbarrow, give them each a small shovel, and start digging!

If you’re a beginner, start with a small garden. You can plant a one‑hectare garden next time around! Start with your favourite vegetables. You can add more next year. However, if you’re an expert gardener, challenge yourself by planting a new kind of food! Radical radicchio, feisty fiddleheads or tasty tomatillos. Finally, if your yard is too small, you can grow vegetables or herbs in pots on your patio. Dill, parsley, rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano… mmmm. Also, cherry tomatoes and peppers are beautiful ornamental plants. They add colour and spice, and are easy to grow!

Looking for a specialist? There’s one on every corner. After all, we are in Manitoba. Ask them questions about gardening methods—tricks of the trade that you will pass on to your children and grandchildren.

No time for a garden? Always on the go? Why not take the family out to the farmers’ market? It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with the family and discover the various foods that are produced in Manitoba. Let your children choose a new food and find out together how you can prepare it. Take advantage of the freshness of local products by adding them to your recipes or freezing them. Or make preserves and offer them as gifts! Jams, chutneys, stewed fruit. These make such personal, original gifts.

And what about fruit? Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, saskatoons, wild cherries… All of these small fruits are packed with antioxidants and are an excellent source of nutrients. Buy them at the market, or better yet, grab your hats, mosquito repellent, sunscreen and your ice cream pails and set off on an adventure. Go pick strawberries and raspberries at the nearest pick‑your‑own fruit farm. Or ask about the best spots for blueberry picking.

Celebrate the arrival of spring as a family! Make an effort to eat your meals together even if you have to eat after the kids’ soccer game. Research shows that children who eat meals with their family on a regular basis eat more nutritious foods, perform better in school and adopt good eating habits, which they maintain for the rest of their lives. And the time spent with your family will provide you with invaluable memories. It’s the cherry on top!

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