A BUNCH of budding gardeners are preparing to harvest the rewards of a nine-month gastronomic voyage - led by their taste buds.

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Pupils from North Denes and Greenacre primary schools in Great Yarmouth and Peterhouse in Gorleston have been taking part in the Norfolk Food Discovery project since October, and now have spades and trowels at the ready for the final part of their culinary escapade.

The project, spearheaded by rural educational charity The Country Trust, aims to teach children from deprived urban areas about the countryside on their doorstep and how they can use it to grow and cook good food.

Through the scheme the pupils have been learning to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs from scratch in their own allotments. Local chefs have then been coming into class to teach them how to cook their produce with recipes they can take home and serve up to their families.

They have also visited farms to understand the journey of food from plough to plate and turned their hands to selling by setting up mini farmers markets in the school playground, to share the fruits of their labour with members of the community.

And the green fingered enthusiasts are now preparing to put all their new found growing and cooking skills to the test when they host their own celebratory harvest feast for friends and family next month.

Amy Wilkin, year four teacher at Greenacre, said her students had enjoyed watching the progress of the seeds they had planted grow into food and believed the in-class cooking sessions had “opened their eyes” to the dishes they could create with fresh produce.

She added: “Before cooking with the vegetables, the children were reluctant to try them. They are beginning to opt for different meals for their school dinners, whereas before many of them would just stick to sandwiches.

“I have enjoyed seeing their enthusiasm towards something they may have considered as ‘boring’ beforehand and it was lovely to see how proud they were of their farmer’s market that they held in the playground.”

Miss Wilkin also praised the extra activities the project provided for the children, including video recording, writing and creative activities, and thought it was important that Norfolk children knew where their food comes from, especially considering the county’s rich farming and food producing heritage.

She added: “The children were surprisingly unaware of how farming surrounds them in this part of the country, and it opened their eyes. Children have enjoyed understanding the journey of their food, and learning how efficient it is to grow their own.”

The project, which has been funded for three years until 2014 by the Big Lottery, has also involved students from three primary schools in Norwich; Catton Grove, George White and Henderson Green.

Organisers hope the success of the project will now help secure outside funding so they can continue to work with the county’s urban schools after 2014.

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