CEDAR RAPIDS — Crowded around a pile of cucumbers, a group of curious 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds leaned in one-by-one to sniff a big jar of vinegar.
After taking a whiff, most of the prekindergarten students shrieked and wrinkled their noses at the sour smell.
Today’s lesson? How to make pickles.
The pickles are the culmination of weeks of work in Alida Kolthoff’s class at the Linn County Child Development Center, where students are growing some of their own food in an on-site garden.
Students planted the cucumbers they pickled; they’re also growing tomatoes, peppers, kale, green beans and watermelons.
“They get to see the growth process, and where their food is coming from,” Kolthoff said. “And they learn about kitchen hygiene and kitchen safety.”
Students in the class know the bees in the garden are “taking care of” their vegetables, when the veggies are ripe to pick, and how to safely cut up a cucumber.
It’s a handy skill, said 5-year-old Priscilla Musafiri, especially if you’ve recently had a birthday.
“I like cutting cakes for my birthday, and I like cutting pickles for school,” she said.
Students helped Kolthoff measure out ingredients for a sweet brine and then packed the soon-to-be pickles into jars Friday. In a few days, they’ll eat the pickles during snack time.
Well, some of them.
“They’re not huge fans,” Kolthoff admitted. Most students soured at their first batch of pickles — a dill variety — but she’s hopeful Friday’s sweet pickles will be more popular.
Last year, she noted, her class made 10 jars full of pickles and ate every last one.
“I think I like sweet pickles,” one student, Kendra Kodzode, said. “But not yucky pickles.”
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