Thursday, 21 June 2012

a closer look at some of the plants we eat

You know what?  Our school vegetable plot is doing marvellously well.  Warmed by the June sun and weeded to within an inch of their lives, the raised beds and now bursting with plants-that-are-meant-to-be-there (as opposed to weeds-which-are-not).

We have hard-to-walk-past-without-sneaking-one-into-our-mouths raspberries…..


and equally irresistible redcurrants…..


that gleam like jewels on a summery June afternoon.

Taste one of these and you get the juicy fruit - plus a mouthful of seeds.  Because of course that’s what fruits are - special containers for seeds.  And some of these special containers for seeds are good to eat along with their seeds (and some containers we can eat but we leave the seeds behind in a core, as when we eat an apple).

Now then - what about these?


At the moment the fruits (with their seeds inside) are green, but when they are red and ripe and ready to eat we pop the whole lot into our mouths, just like we do with raspberries and redcurrants.  Tomatoes (for that is what these are) are another type of fruit we eat along with their seeds.

And now look at this strange plant.  See the yellow flower, already with its petals about to fall off?


See that prickly fat green bit behind the flower?  Yes, that is also a fruit, because as we know, once a flower has been visited by a bee and pollinated, the seed container (fruit) behind the flower gets fat as the seeds inside develop.  This one will be a cornichon when it grows up.  When we eat cornichons (or cucumbers) we are eating the juicy fruit - along with their seeds.

How about these?  Do you recognise what they are?


Also seed containers.  But this time, we usually throw away the containers (here they are called pods) and eat just the seeds inside.  You might be able to see them, just starting to grow.  Peas they are of course.  When we eat peas we are eating the seeds of a plant. 

Here are some plants where the part we eat is not visible at the moment.


Yes, they have flowers.  And yes, of course the flowers will grow fruits after they have been visited by an insect and pollinated.  But these fruits are NOT the part we eat (and be careful because even though they look a bit like tomatoes, these fruits would give you a nasty tummy ache if you tried to eat them!)  No.  These are potatoes - and the part we eat is hidden under the ground.  When we eat potatoes, we are eating what’s known as a tuber, which is the special name for something fat that grows on and in the roots of a plant.  In fact this part is so special that new potato plants can grow from old potatoes, rather than from the seeds that you’d find inside those tummy-ache fruits.

Can you think of another plant where the part we eat is hidden under the ground?  Rabbits like these too!

Finally (for it is almost lunchtime and we need to get back inside and wash our hands) take a quick look at this plant.


Give one of those pretty purple flowers a bit of a squeeze and sniff your fingers.  Mmmm!  It’s lavender.  Yes, your mummy may sometimes smell like this, because lavender is used to make perfume.  But you can also eat lavender flowers.

What do you mean you can’t eat flowers?  Of course you can (well, some flowers at any rate)! 


Who wants to try?  Just be careful - bees also love lavender - and you wouldn’t want to bite on a bee…..


they are very sharp!

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