Most children are open to the idea of starting a garden, but keeping them interested until it’s time to harvest your crops can be a challenge. Then there’s the whole matter of getting your little darlings to eat the veggies they’ve grown. Before you write off the idea of getting your children to eat homegrown veggies, take a look at these tips.
Give each child their own plot
If you have room for a big garden, mark off a small plot for each child to care for – sibling rivalry is real! Let them pick their own plants to grow and help them make labels for each plant so they’ll remember what they have to look forward to. Get them their own tools, gloves, and watering can, too. Never underestimate the excitement that a full watering can offers.
Let your child decorate their plot with painted stones, colorful decorations, and maybe even a scarecrow using some of their old clothes. The more inviting and exciting the garden is, the more likely your child will want to work in it.
Let them pick their plants
Whether you grow your vegetables from seeds or buy seedlings, if you let your children help choose what to grow, they’ll be more likely to eat the crops. Older children (who have more patience than younger kids) may want to try growing everything from seed. Just make sure to check that you have enough time left in the growing season to start from seed or you may be disappointed by weak seedlings that can’t handle the weather.
Grow a rainbow
You say your kids hate all veggies and run a mile in the opposite direction if anyone even suggests that they eat something green? Fear not, there are tasty, fun vegetables for every palate, even picky eaters. Most children will at least try a cherry tomato, and many love a vibrant orange carrot. If you need to persuade picky eaters, why not try planting in a different colour?
You can find blue/purple varieties of potatoes, carrots, peppers, and cabbage. Carrots come in shades varying from white to a deep blue. Bell peppers (capsicums) grow in shades of bright red, orange, and yellow, as well as green and even purple. Plant a rainbow in your garden and watch your kids get excited about eating all the colours.
Plant some surefire, quick-grow goodness
If your kids are super impatient, make sure you add some veggies that grow quickly. Luckily, the vegetables that grow the fastest are also the easiest to grow. Leaf lettuce, cress, and radishes all grow in under a month and are very easy to care for. Bush beans don’t require as much space as their climbing cousins and they are ready to pick in as little as 45 days for some varieties. As an added bonus, bush green beans are fun to snap before you cook them, so kids will want to help in the kitchen, too.
Sweet vegetables for picky eaters
While fruits are fun to grow and eat, it’s good to show your kids that veggies can be just as sweet. Try planting some sweet potatoes for your kids to dig up. Or plant some delicious sugar snap peas – they can be eaten straight off the vine or cooked. And don’t overlook the humble capsicum – sliced and served with ranch dressing dip, they can be a tasty treat for kids and grownups alike.
Getting your kids to eat what they grow
Some children avoid vegetables like the plague, even the ones they’ve lovingly cultivated themselves. Luckily, there are sneaky ways you can get your kids to eat these foods without tantrums or tears.
Sneak it in
Some foods, like spinach and carrots, are easy to sneak into dishes your kids already like. You may have to get creative if your kids grew broccoli or cabbage and won’t touch it with a barge pole. Try mixing finely chopped broccoli into scrambled eggs and adding a handful of shredded cheese. As far as the cabbage goes, the leaves make a fun base for recipes like cabbage rolls filled with anything your kids like to eat.
You could also try blending similar-looking foods together, like cauliflower and potatoes, or carrots and sweet potatoes, then adding the purees to sauces, meatloaf, or burgers. Sneaky, yes, but also very good for your little garden gnomes.
Make ‘fun nuggets’
Almost any vegetable can be turned into a fun ‘nugget’ that kids will be happy to try, especially if they can dip it in sauce or ranch dressing. Try blending broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, egg, garlic, salt, and pepper together to make a sticky mixture. Add in breadcrumbs (enough to bind the veggies and egg together) and form ‘nuggets’ using a tablespoon. Dip each nugget into more breadcrumbs (this will help them hold together and have a crispier finish), then pan fry them or bake them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper at 400 degrees F (or 200 degrees C) for about 25 minutes, flipping about halfway through cooking.
Set a good example
Of course, kids aren’t the only ones who should be partaking of the garden’s delights. So go ahead and be the example your kids need – grow your veggies and eat them, too!
About the author
This article was contributed by Scott Jenkins from architypes.net. Scott’s favourite vegetables are raw broccoli and deep fried zucchini. When Scott isn’t frying zucchini, he’s tending to the vegetables in his own garden or casually riding his bike by the beach. To learn more ways to get your kids involved in the garden, visit Architypes. You can also follow Scott on Twitter.