Switch meal preparation from being a chore to a celebration of your family’s achievement
Have you ever been to a Farmers Market, or a produce market and purchased a vegetable because it appealed to one of your senses, even if you did not know what the exact reason was that you purchased it?
Maybe a bunch of purple carrots, an orange beetroot or a striped eggplant or yellow zucchini caught your eye? I am thinking about an item that was probably not on your shopping list. Something that you purchased based on it’s look, feel or smell?
This type of shopping inspires me to create. It makes me want to make something worthy of the ingredient that managed to capture my attention. Has this ever happened to you? Has it resulted in ideas whirling around your head. Have you been excited about how to use it, combine it with other ingredients, or have you imagined how you might serve it?
Collecting fresh produce grown in your own vegetable garden is an even more powerful way to invoke this appeal. No more meal time monotony. It is not a possibility when you have the option to collect fresh ingredients as they are ready. Variety and seasonality will direct your menu choices rather than a rotating shopping list of the same items every week
If you have not felt or experienced the scenario I described above, I encourage you to. The fresh vegetables that you harvest from your own garden (or container garden) are exciting! It is very exciting because they represent the work and pride that your children have placed, their attention, effort and care that has been provided to the plant.
If your children have planted, watered, and watched the plant grow
If they have monitored it – probably intensely to see if it is growing, to see if it is ready to harvest
If they have asked every question possible in relation to the growth and harvest of that vegetable
They will want to try it
Involving children in growing fresh food is THE most effective way I have encountered to introduce fussy eaters to new foods and start to remove those barriers and objections. Children are naturally interested in things that are a result of an activity they have been involved in.
- Ask the kids to tell you their ideas of how they would like to eat the vegetables that they have helped to grow
- Come up with some new ideas together and try them
- You may be surprised by the ideas that the kids come up with
- Make the meal a celebration of the family achievement
- Talk about the growing process and the things that were learned
- Discuss the next time you will grow this item and what else you may do with it
- Decide what you will plant and grow next
This excitement, celebration and enjoyment of the vegetable or herb that you have grown together can be used to create momentum. Momentum to grow fresh food and momentum to incorporate it into your family meals.
Plant more if there is still time for it to grow in the season, or make a note to plant it again next year when the season comes around. Start a conversation about what you may try to grow next and add to the dinner table.
A family vegetable garden is a wonderful opportunity to explore heritage varieties of vegetables. There are countless seed varieties. Try purple carrots, yellow tomatoes, purple capsicums and yellow beetroot. The kids are sure to want to taste these amazing looking varieties, especially when they have planted and cared for them prior to collecting them for dinner.
If your child is not overly enthusiastic about their first taste of the new vegetable don’t be discouraged, try using it another way – try it raw, grate it, steam it, mash it, pair it with something else that they love. Add it to the family meal in a way that you know they will enjoy. Let the kids identify it on the plate as theirs and if time permits get them to help with the meal preparation.
Growing your own fresh food provides you with the most tasty version of any vegetable, herb or fruit that you are ever likely to taste. When a food item is home grown with care, attention and no chemicals it will always taste better. Harvest it when it is ripe and ready and when you need to use it. It will be at the peak of it’s freshness. Fresh produce needs little preparation, let it shine unadorned and undisguised. If the weather is warm try it raw to benefit from the full nutrient make up.
Collecting produce from your vegetable garden that the family has grown results in so many educational experiences for children. They learn responsibility, patience, confidence, seasonality, color, timing, seasonality, to name just a few. From my personal experience I have found that growing our own vegetables has given me a heightened respect for all that is involved in the process, respect for nature and respect for my family’s input. This experience means that I do think carefully about how I am going to use our harvests. This may be because I have just one or two of the gloriously sweet fennel bulbs to use so I want the meal that I use them in to be special, or I have so so so many zucchini that once I have made every zucchini recipe in my repertoire I need to come up with some new ones that the family will enjoy. This can result in trying new ways of cooking or eating these items. You may be inspired to try preserving, making a sauce, dehydrating or freezing.
This process of growing is a wondrous experience for children and adults alike. As we move into Spring and the soil warms it is the perfect time to start your own family vegetable garden if you are yet to do so.
The family meals that you can create using your own fresh home grown vegetables is limited only by your imagination and that of your children.
What will you grow first?
If your family already has a vegetable garden I applaud you and request that you share this post with a friend who may benefit from starting one with their family this Spring. Thanks! x
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