My kids are veggie-challenged, green-phobic, liable to screech annoyingly before letting a sliver of broccoli touch their lips.
The irony of this is that they’re both vegetarians. While I’ve never offered them meat, neither have I kept them away from it. The result is that they don’t much like it, which I figure is better both for their health and that of the earth.
Despite their purported vegetarianism, my kids don’t consume lots of vegetables. In fact, the majority of their caloric needs are met through pizza, cheese, pancakes and pasta. Trying to cram the requisite five servings of fruits and veggies into their growing bods is a challenge.
However, summer and our home garden help the cause. Here are some of the veggies we grow that my kids will eat, often straight from the garden, thus soothing my worried mommy soul:
1. Sugar snap peas: If you haven’t already planted some of these, you might be too late, though it can be plenty cool in June in the Southern Appalachians, thus extending the season. Beware that these delicious veggies will wither and die once the sun starts scorching. Before then, kids can pull the sweet peas off the vines and pop them into their mouths, pods and all. My kids would rather sell their teddy bears than eat one mushy English-style pea, but last year, between the kids and Enviro-spouse, only a handful of sugar snaps even made it into the house.
2. Sungold cherry tomatoes: Although tomato sauce is a kid staple at my house, actual tomatoes are “slimy and too juicy,” says my girl. However, the kids love the sweet, small orange tomatoes that ultimately take over our garden every summer. Plus they’re great for throwing at their friends and make a pleasing splat against the back fence (thus, why there are volunteers growing all along the fence line).
3. Sweet baby lettuce leaves: One of the few veggies my kids eat regularly are lettuces and raw spinach. Because, as my boy says, “They’re crunchy, but they don’t taste like anything.” Plus, I let them make tiny spinach bowls that they fill with Parmesan cheese. Because lettuces spring up through the dirt, they aren’t ideal for eating straight from the garden, but they’re easy to grow and fun to pick.
4. Carrots: Another regularly-consumed veggie, but typically comes from a plastic baggie (or so my kids once thought). Carrots take all summer to grow (at least in my yard). Even so, pulling a long golden root from the ground, then washing and noshing it, provides great joy to my young ‘uns. I’ve also heard potatoes are fun, though I haven’t tried growing them. My kids would be thrilled with homemade French fries.
5. Berries: We have a profusion of raspberry canes in the back corner of our yard. They don’t produce tons of fruit (and it’s difficult to fight through the prickers to get to some of it), but like the sugar snaps, raspberries rarely make it out of the yard and into the house. This year, we’ve planted strawberries for the first time, though everyone I’ve talked to in the area says they haven’t had much luck with the ruby-reds because of the birds (not that I’m anti-avian).
6. Pumpkins: Not for eating at my house, but for fun. We haven’t yet timed them right so they’re ready for Halloween carving, but heck, we have totally scary Labor Day pumpkins.
Besides getting veggie vitamins into growing bloodstreams, kids can learn where at least some of their food comes from, that anyone can grow food, and that patience and stewardship typically are rewarded with yumminess.
So get those kid veggie gardens going. Trust they’ll eat healthily while playing outside. Supplement with vitamins, if you’re psycho-spaz mama like me. Happy summer growing.
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.