GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY! by Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park

photo by Sonya Sones

One of my favorite things to do is eat. I have a lot of favorite foods, but at the top of the list are the things I’ve grown myself.

I’m NOT a good gardener. In fact, I’m a terrible gardener—I have the opposite of a green thumb. A brown and shriveled thumb, maybe? Even so, I’ve managed to grow tomatoes in several places: in my back yard, in a raised bed, in a tub on the small deck of a city apartment. The tomatoes I’ve grown myself are the best I’ve ever eaten, red and ripe, sweet and tangy, juicy and sometimes still warm from the sun.

My other favorite thing to grow is raspberries. Picking raspberries is like a treasure hunt. There are thorns guarding the berried treasure (berried treasure, get it?), and the fruits themselves are like rubies. Better than rubies, really, because they’re just as beautiful, but so good to eat!

What does this have to do with Earth Day? By growing my own food, I’m learning a lot about plants—and animals (squirrels, birds, worms, bugs…). I’ve gained respect and admiration for the farmers who grow our food. Most important, I’ve learned that for us human beings, healthy soil is the start of the food chain: Without soil that’s free from harmful chemicals, we don’t get delicious and healthy tomatoes or raspberries.

Or burgers or fries or pizza! Those foods start out as plants that grow in the ground: potatoes (fries), wheat (the flour for burger buns and pizza crusts), the grass and corn that feed beef cattle. All of it begins with good healthy dirt! In fact, I’m so interested in healthy dirt that I wrote about it in my book PROJECT MULBERRY—see Chapter 11.

Many fruits and vegetables, like raspberries and tomatoes, need good soil, room to grow, and plenty of sunshine, as well as a gardener who will watch over them and water them when they need it. Maybe you don’t have the space to grow these kinds of plants, but there is a food that you can grow no matter where you live: Sprouts!

Sprouts are easy to grow. There are many different kinds, some mild, some spicy, all delicious in salads and sandwiches. All you need is a plastic food-storage container, paper towels, water, and seeds. Look up ‘growing sprouts at home’ on the internet, and you’ll find many sites that give you detailed instructions. Easier still, you can grow sprouts on an ordinary sponge: Best of all, it doesn’t take long: You’ll be eating sprouts in just a few days.

Growing your own food, even something as easy as sprouts, is FUN. I hope you’ll try it!

Linda Sue Park is the author of both picture books and novels for young readers. She has written many award winning and best-selling titles, including A Single Shard (2002 Newbery Medal), When my Name was Keoko (PW and SLJ Best Book of the Year) and A Long Walk to Water (NYT’s Bestseller).  Enjoy exploring

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