Our Latest Recommendation for Lil’ Sprouts Book Club: A New Look at George Washington Carver
Lil’ Sprouts Book Club is a monthly Garden Collage feature where we spotlight nature- and garden-related books for kids age 2 and up that encourage green education. The books are designed to evoke the core mission of Garden Collage: to bring the garden (and nature) into people’s lives.
In honor of Black History Month and GC’s monthly theme of “innovation,” we chose the children’s book classic A Weed Is A Flower, which recounts the life of George Washington Carver, the famed American botanist and inventor. Carver was known locally at a young age as “the Plant Doctor” and over the course of his life demonstrated immense proficiency in a number of disciplines–including painting, singing, and the piano in addition to his more academic pursuits. Though he gained extensive fame across the country, Carver remained a humble man, loyal to Tuskegee Institute, where he taught, and forever curious about the world around him (his hundreds of recipes for peanuts, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes are available online). Painted with broad, textured strokes in rich, deep colors, author and illustrator Aliki’s book is an enduring story, one that is still relevant and meaningful even after almost thirty years of publication.
- What is something your favorite plant is used for? Can you find four different uses for it?
- George Washington Carver once served an entire meal made out of peanuts. Can you think of different ways to eat your favorite food?
- What do you hope to discover one day?
- Why isn’t a peanut considered a nut?
Contrary to its name, a peanut isn’t truly a nut– it’s actually a legume. The difference between a nut (like walnuts or hazelnuts) and a legume (like lentils, chickpeas, black beans) is that a legume will open on its own when it is ready to be harvested, whereas a nut typically has a hard outer layer protecting the actual nut, and will not open on its own. In fact, many of the foods we consider nuts do not qualify as nuts. Nuts like almonds and walnuts are actually “drupes”. A drupe refers to a fruit that is soft and pulpy, with a seed in a hard shell at the center. Another example of something widely considered a nut but which is not is the humble cashew, which is actually just the seed of a fruit.
- Why is it better to plant different crops each year?
Rotating crops through a garden helps maintain the health of the soil and ensures plants continue to grow strong. Different plants draw different nutrients up from the soil; alternating between plants ensures that the soil has time to “recharge” those elements. However, it’s important to remember to plant crops that won’t draw up the same nutrients– for example, cabbage and tomatoes both draw a lot of nitrogen from the soil, so you wouldn’t want to plant them back-to-back.