The Gigantic Turnip

The Gigantic Turnip by Aleksei Tolstoy is a Russian folktale illustrated by Niamh Sharkey. The story is about an old man and old woman who plant turnips in their garden, along with other vegetables, and discover that the turnip is quite large when they harvest. The turnip is so large, in fact, that they enlist the help of their farm animals to pull it out. The animals increase in number with each attempt, beginning with one cow and ending with six yellow canaries, providing a great opportunity to emphasize counting. In the end, it is the strength of a tiny little mouse that provides enough leverage for the crew to pull the turnip out of the ground! When all is said and done, everyone (animals included) enjoy turnip stew.

Each time the characters tried to harvest the turnip, they “pulled and heaved and tugged and yanked,” so we did the same thing, with old scarves! Each parent and child grabbed an end of a scarf and pulled! The kiddos got a kick out of this activity, especially if they pulled “harder” than their parent!

Our second activity this month was more about process than outcome, in my opinion. We planted turnip top scraps in cups of water. In several days, the scraps are supposed to sprout turnip greens out of the top. We didn’t have great luck with ours growing and I haven’t had a chance to check with the others to find out if theirs grew, but for my child, it was the process he enjoyed. He liked pouring the water into the cup himself from a little (kid sized) pitcher, picking out a turnip top from the pile, and putting it in the water himself.

Independence is really important to my blossoming 3-year old and I’m guessing he’s not alone!  This activity is a great way give kids complete “control” over a little project. There are many vegetable scraps that kids can “plant” and watch grow (many people have success with theirs growing, I am just known in our house for not being able to keep plants alive…so don’t take mine as an example!). We have found a lot of success in our home with letting our kids use a small pitcher at meals for pouring drinks too. They love the control and they get to practice this fine motor skill.

Naturally, we had to cook something with turnips to get our turnip scraps! Our snack for this meeting was, of course, turnip stew, just like the characters in the book eat. I used this Eating Well Turnip Soup Recipe. We did not make or eat the “salad” cited in this recipe. I doubled the turnips but not the liquid, so that it was thicker, like a stew. I think this recipe could be made even more “kid-friendly” by reducing the rosemary. It’s an overwhelming flavor that many kids aren’t accustomed too. For adults, it’s a delicious way to eat turnips!

This meeting was about something that grows IN soil, but our next meeting is all about US getting to play in the soil. Keep an eye out for our upcoming “very dirty” meeting post!

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