Ask Annabel: your food questions answered

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Well-known author and children's food expert Annabel Karmel has ideas for growing and eating


Q:  We want to start growing our own fruit and vegetables within the grounds of our nursery to teach the children about where their food comes from. What do you suggest we plant first?

A: Growing fruit and veggies within an early years setting opens up a myriad of opportunity to get children learning about the connection with nature, food and nutrients – and spring is the perfect time to start.

By growing their own, children start to understand the seed-to-plate journey and they may just be inclined to try new and healthy foods if they’ve been involved in the process. We should always be looking at ways to help increase children’s fruit and vegetable consumption, and this is a great way to start (let alone the benefits of connecting with the outdoors environment and working together). 

Set aside time each day so the children can check on their crops. Get them filling up their watering cans and give them specific areas to take charge of.

This is a real and purposeful educational experience for children. And once your veg is grown, you can introduce children to the cooking. Aprons at the ready!

Here are my simple ideas to get started, whatever the size of your space…

  1. If you have a veggie patch, start simple with lettuces, tomatoes, runner beans, spring onions, carrots and strawberries.
  2. If you have limited space, tomatoes and courgettes are perfect for growing in large pots.
  3. Grow potatoes from seed potatoes. These can be grown in a potato sack or large container. Try different varieties.
  4. Window boxes are great for growing spinach and other salad leaves.




Please note this recipe requires a spiralizer.


2 large courgettes

1 large carrot, peeled 

2 tbsp olive oil 

1 onion, finely chopped 

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 tbsp fresh pesto

8 sun-blushed tomatoes, sliced

50g Parmesan, grated 



  1. Put the courgettes and carrot through a spiralizer to make long curls. 
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
  3. Add the onion and garlic and fry until soft.
  4. Add the vegetables and quickly toss over a high heat for a few minutes until just wilted.
  5. Drain away some liquid from the pan, then add the tomatoes, pesto and cheese.
  6. Season and toss together. Serve at once.


Makes 4 portions






200g couscous

450ml hot chicken or vegetable stock

75g cooked French beans, chopped

75g carrot, grated

6 spring onions, sliced

2 tomatoes, deseeded and diced

75g canned sweetcorn, drained


1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp honey

1 ½ tbsp olive oil



  1. Put the couscous into a bowl and pour over the hot stock.
  2. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to stand for 10 minutes or until all of the stock has been absorbed.
  3. Add the vegetables to the couscous and season.
  4. Combine the ingredients for the salad dressing and pour over the salad, mixing everything together well.


Makes 4 portions


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