Cash might not grow on trees, but maybe on cab­bage leaves

The News & Observer - - Triangle & N.c. - BY JOE JOHN­SON jjohn­[email protected]­ald­sun.com

A Morrisville fourth grader has a green thumb and a gi­ant cab­bage to prove it.

Harini Nir­malku­mar grew a 24.7 pound cab- bage last year and won a $1,000 sav­ing bond from Bon­nie Plants, which spon­sors “Kids Grow Green: Cash­ing in Cab­bage,” an an­nual con­test for school chil­dren.

“It was a lot of work,” Harini said.

“I came home ev­ery day and watched it grow,” she added. “It takes a lot of pa­tience. I learned a farmer’s job is re­ally hard.”

Harini’s cab­bage was one of many in the state that made the cut. Her en­try was se­lected last spring in a ran­dom draw­ing at the N.C. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture. Mmore than 22,000 third graders across North Carolina par­tic­i­pated in the con­test. Across the coun­try, more than a mil­lion stu­dents grew a cab­bage.

Harini is a stu­dent at Ster­ling Montes­sori Academy and Char­ter School in Morrisville. Last fall she took home a spe­cial hy­brid cab­bage that’s de­signed to grow into a gi­ant, of­ten big­ger than a bas­ket­ball. Some have reached 40 pounds, the com­pany said.

Bon­nie Plants seeks to “in­spire a love of veg­etable gar­den­ing in young peo­ple and con­tinue to ‘grow’ our next gen­er­a­tion of gar­den­ers.”

Harini’s fa­ther, Palanisamy Nir­malku­mar, said the ex­pe­ri­ence was a great one for her.

“She learned how much work it takes to grow some­thing,” he said. “And she’s more ex­cited about eat­ing veg­eta­bles now.”

“We knew it was a big cab­bage,” he added. “We didn’t ex­pect it to be the first-place cab­bage.”

DIS­AS­TER AL­MOST STRIKES

As Harini’s cab­bage be­gan grow­ing, she learned rab­bits love nib­bling on the plant’s the suc­cu­lent leaves.

“I didn’t think they would grow back,” she said.

But they did.

To pro­tect the cab­bage, her fa­ther put a net around the plant. And the cab­bage quickly re­cov­ered.

Harini said she learned cab­bages need at least six hours of full sun­light each day. She also learned how wa­ter and fer­til­izer make plants grow faster. It took about three months for the cab­bage to reach its fi­nal size, she said.

EN­TER­ING THE CON­TEST

I CAME HOME EV­ERY DAY AND WATCHED IT GROW. IT TAKES A LOT OF PA­TIENCE. I LEARNED A FARMER’S JOB IS RE­ALLY HARD. Harini Nir­malku­mar

By the time Harini’s cab­bage was ready to har­vest, it had taken over an en­tire corner of her fam­ily’s gar­den, she said. It was about three feet across and they thought it was at least 20 pounds.

They picked the cab­bage. They took pic­tures and sub­mit­ted them to the con­test and waited. The cab­bages were judged on size and ap­pear­ance. Af­ter the best in each state were se­lected, the en­tries were sent to the com­mis­sioner of agri­cul­ture and the win­ner was drawn.

“This is a won­der­ful way to en­gage chil­dren’s in­ter­est in agri­cul­ture, while teach­ing them not only the ba­sics of gar­den­ing, but the im­por­tance of our food sys­tems and grow­ing our own”, said Bon­nie Plants pres­i­dent Stan Cope. “This unique, in­no­va­tive pro­gram ex­poses chil­dren to agri­cul­ture and demon­strates, through hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence, where food comes from.”

Sub­mit­ted

Harini Nir­malku­mar of Morrisville grew a cab­bage that weighed in at 24.7 pounds last year won a con­test spon­sored by Bon­nie Plants.

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