This week, I was walking through the Steamboat Boys & Girls Club garden with a group of kids when I heard what most parents wish their children would ask.

“Can I have a lettuce snack?”

The kids eagerly pinched off a few lettuce leaves from the row and gobbled them like sharks.

This garden was created with funds raised during the 2023 Be Great Bash, as part of the Clubs’ Healthy Bodies 2.0 initiative to provide kids with healthy snack choices, physical activity, and Friday yoga sessions. Steamboat’s Club garden is located two blocks from the Clubhouse, behind Soda Creek Elementary School (kids use Club bikes and scooters to visit twice a week). A second Club garden is located at Craig, where the raised beds are situated on-site between the Clubhouse and the play field.

Both gardens reveal just how much kids do indeed love vegetables: They love to plant them, to watch them grow, to water them (and everything else nearby), and to eat them—even if that results in intense and unfamiliar flavor sensations.

Like toddlers, BGC kids still love to explore by putting stuff in their mouths. At the Club gardens, they can do just that–and most of the herbs and vegetables that grow here aren’t part of kids’ daily diets. Radishes? “I think I had one once,” one child tells me. Chives? That plant’s purple flowers are pretty enough to make kids want to eat them as well as the green tubular leaves, which taste like onions and garlic. I show a group how to rub their thumbs on a mint leaf and then smell that thumb. “It’s like Trident gum!” one exclaims.

The garden plots let young visitors touch, smell, look, and taste–all the sensory elements that kids like to combine when learning about new things.

At Craig, visiting instructors add to that sensory discovery with interactive lessons on soil composition and seed germination. One workshop leader from Colorado State University demonstrated the difference between clay and loam by having kids stand in a dense, tightly-packed group. “You’re clay,” the instructor explained, while other kids acting like water tried (and failed) to pass through the cluster. The demonstration taught kids why clay-dominant soils are hard for many plants to grow in. Then, the instructor dispersed the group so that the water actors could pass through freely. “That’s the kind of soil that many vegetables need to grow,” she explained.

Learning plant science is just one of the benefits of having gardens that Club kids can access. Another benefit is teaching kids where food comes from. Seeing that, kids become more interested in eating vegetables that may not be part of their daily diets. The more familiar these foods become, the more likely it is that kids (and the adults they grow into) will choose these edibles on their own.

That’s the theory, anyway. Right now, the Club gardens simply give kids a way to be adventuresome with flavors. Radishes take kids’ tongues on a roller-coaster ride of peppery-sweet sensations. Lettuces here taste sweeter and more tender than the ones from the grocery store’s bagged salad kits. Discovering that, kids start begging to have a lettuce snack.

To that we say, absolutely yes!