After a summer watching the progress of a vegetable garden outside South Fayette Township Library, a group of children celebrated with a harvest party.
Their palates weren't ready to appreciate the pleasure of peppers on a pizza, but they had the chance to smell, touch and taste vegetables and herbs that are traditionally toppers.
For the first time, a garden plot had been planted in the courtyard of the Millers Run Road municipal building, nestled among the library, senior center and township offices.
It pleased visitors and staff alike, library director Rebecca Long said.
"It became one of those projects everybody took ownership of," she said.
Prior to their weekly storytime in the library Friday, 16 children under age 5 grabbed handfuls of mozzarella from plastic baggies and sprinkled the cheese onto four sauced pizza shells.
Ms. Long baked the pizzas in the oven in the senior center.
"They're 5," she said. "They just like cheese on their pizza at their age."
While the pizzas baked, storytime leader Dotty Jones read the illustrated book "Pete's a Pizza" by William Steig and led songs about sprouting seeds and growing peas. "Until one day, the pods went pop!" the kids sang.
Afterward, children ate their cheese pizza slices, while having the chance to experiment with common pizza toppings such as cherry tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil and oregano, all picked that morning from the garden.
"Take some home if you like how they smell," Ms. Jones said.
Maggie Saad, 4, said the herbs smelled "good" and added that she likes picking berries from her garden at home in Oakdale.
Dorothy Saad said her daughter and son, Daniel, 2, garden a little every day. "They love digging and picking in the weeds," she said.
Charlotte Eggleston, 2, went bowl to bowl sampling red and gold cherry tomatoes. She held up a red tomato and declared, "These are my favorite ones!"
In June, kids in the storytime group had crafted colorful signs for the garden bearing their names and identifying the plants.
Some children, like Alisa Dufort, 3, had planted marigolds to deter pests.
Ms. Long said crops such as tomatoes were about done producing, while pumpkins and squash were continuing to grow.
Home Depot donated plants and supplies for the garden. A volunteer weeded, and the public works crew watered every morning.
The project brought together township staff and served as an opportunity to show children how food grows, Ms. Long said.
"Sometimes it's just a shelf or cart in the market and you don't get to learn where the food comes from," she said.
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: email@example.com. First Published October 10, 2013 1:21 AM