By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — The picking was good.
A misty morning filled with friendship and learning gave children at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Derry a chance to get down and dirty in the club’s youth garden. They also picked the early fruits, or vegetables, of their labors.
The youth garden project at the Boys and Girls Club is in its fifth year, continuing to spread in popularity like a hardy perennial. It gives children a fruitful summer activity while teaching lessons about healthy eating and appreciating plants.
In previous years ,students reaped bountiful rewards and enjoyed tasty end products on the dinner table. Last week, it was all about picking early peas and strawberries.
Under the watchful eye of garden club member and youth garden overseer Blanche Garone, children who attend the club all summer long were able to get involved in this year’s garden and learn about growing food and tending to the plants.
This year’s garden began before school ended, getting children out to till and plant the plots at the far end of the Boys and Girls Club property.
Last week, peas and strawberries were ready to pick. The children kept a close ear to Garone and her garden club volunteers.
“If it’s red and dirty, that’s fine,” Garone said as she instructed the young gardeners to search for the red berries while separating the low-lying foliage. “The yucky ones can go on our compost pile.”
Some children noticed spiderwebs spreading across the plants. Others did their own taste test of the home-grown berries that would be used in ice cream sundaes later in the day.
“I can’t grow a garden at my house because we live in an apartment,” Jade Willis, 9, said.
Abbie Dumont, 9, said she likes learning all about the garden.
“It’s something I don’t normally do, but I’d like to get into it,” she said.
Garone encouraged her young charges to notice the different vegetables as they carefully meandered along the garden paths as rain began to fall again.
The children have planted tomatoes, peppers, sunflowers and other crops.
“I love this place,” Ally Abrams, 11, said. “My Nana had a garden, and here you can get out and do stuff, help the community and feed people.”
In past years, the young gardeners have enjoyed a season-end meal using up all their produce from the garden.