by Kaia Nightingale

What are our true golden leaves?

Felix is a great two year old. I had dropped by his Nana’s kitchen to get a couple of gallons to water two recently planted hickory trees when he asked he could join me. “Sure! Come along!”

He bravely waded through shrubbery that was taller than he, some with prickles, and watched curiously as I poured the water.

“By the time you are a teenager, you’ll have a wonderful harvest of big nuts every year from these trees that will then be very big and tall. But right now, they are little baby trees, with little baby roots, so they get thirsty quicker than big trees. They need extra care, so we’re giving them a drink.”

Felix was on a roll, happy to accompany me to the vegetable garden. “Now these are really little baby plants,” I said. “On a hot day like this, they are very thirsty. So what we do is we water the roots of each little baby, avoiding the leaves.”

I watched for a while as Felix tried to figure what was the path and what was the bed of baby plants, and to aim the water in the right place, but after a puddle grew in a non-planted area, I decided this was a two person job. He valiantly held the main weight of the hose and I pointed the nozzle. “This one grows up to be a tomato plant. This one is nasturtium. You can eat the flowers and leaves in salads. This is a lettuce. Would you like to taste it?”

Felix picked a leaf, and took a big bite. “It’s food! You can eat it! It’s tasty!” he exclaimed.  Some basil was peeping up nearby. “You might recognize the flavour of this leaf.”

Felix picked a leaf as gently as he could, and popped it in his mouth. “I know this!”

He then marched along the paths calling out, “This is food! This is food! I can eat it! It’s TA-A-ASTY!!!”

Last year Felix was one, perhaps just a little young to make this connection, so I was enormously honoured to be with him in his moment of revelation. This is where food comes from!

I flashed for a moment on a recently read article that highlighted the many homes that no longer have kitchens, that these days most children are lucky to see fresh vegetables come out of a Styrofoam supermarket pack, let alone pick it fresh.

Felix came with me to turn off the hose. “This is food! This is food!” he continued triumphantly, waving majestically to all the plants around, like a prince who had discovered gold on his land.

“Wow, hold on there, I said. “Not everything is edible. We only eat certain plants. . . Nope, not that one, not that one either. . .” I tried recalling as much as I could from Martha Webber’s edible wild food course I had recently taken.

He stooped down beside a plant. “Is this food?”

“It’s a dandelion. You can eat that. Find a really nice new leaf –- how about this one?”

Felix smiled as he chomped on it. What a find!

I feel honoured and privileged to accompany this adventurous two year old as he discovers his world, and to reflect on the marvel of our plants who capture sunlight so we can live.