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My husband and I are not picky eaters, and we were 100 percent those people who said, “We won’t let our kids be fussy about food.”
Karma is funny that way, huh?
Our three-year-old daughter is not the pickiest eater on the planet, and for that I’m thankful. Staples in her diet include hummus, bacon, chicken, pork, apples, and yogurt, and on good days green beans and grapes. But you’d be hard pressed to find her eating broccoli, potatoes, carrots, and other veggies. Expanding her palate is a work in progress, and our family has explored several strategies.
One way we’ve exposed fruits and vegetables to our daughter is through our garden. My husband and I have had vegetable and herb gardens our entire married life because we enjoy the entire process of building a raised garden bed, tilling the soil, and watching small seedlings and plants mature and produce beautiful, fresh food. Our weekends center around getting our hands dirty, weeding, and watering our little backyard food source.
Now, the garden serves as a tool to get our daughter excited about food that may otherwise be unappealing. Not only does she learn where tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, cantaloupe, and onions (to name a few) come from, she can be hands-on when we pick the food and cook it. Getting her involved in growing, harvesting, and preparing the food takes a lot of the “scary” out. I’m okay when she pops a fresh tomato in her mouth and doesn’t chew it, because to me getting the fruit/vegetable in her mouth is half the battle. In time, she’ll chew the tomato and taste the fresh, delicious burst of juice as the skin pops open.
Interested in starting your own garden? Here’s are fruits and vegetables we’ve had success with and are fun to watch grow. All of these take mostly full sun and require watering every day during the hot, Texas summers.
Banana peppers: Banana peppers are one of our favorite vegetables to grow! We only grow one plant because just one produces more peppers than we know what to do with. The bright yellow peppers add color and cheeriness to the garden (a plus for getting kiddos excited), and they taste delish when pickled.
Bell peppers: Bell peppers are another easy plant to grow. The plump peppers can be consumed when green in color, or you can wait until they turn red to pick and eat. Red peppers tend to be sweeter than green peppers — something to keep in mind when encouraging kids to eat them! Our daughter hasn’t been convinced to eat a pepper yet, but we finely chop the peppers and use them in spaghetti sauce, salads, and many other recipes.
Cantaloupe: If you were to ask our daughter, this is hands-down her favorite thing we grow. The flesh is so much sweeter and juicier than any melon in the store! Plant cantaloupes in a separate garden bed as they take up a lot of space, and water them A LOT.
Cucumber: A slightly trickier vegetable to grow is a cucumber. Like cantaloupes, cucumbers take up a lot of garden real estate, so reserve ample room. Pick the cucumber when it is a rich green color and about seven to nine inches long. If you wait too long, the vegetable will be tangy and leave a weird aftertaste — a sure turnoff to young, picky eaters.
Tomatoes: To be honest, we’ve had mixed success with tomatoes. We either don’t water enough, plant them in a too shady space, or the doggone birds eat the beautiful red fruit before we can scurry out to pick it. (Note for next year: invest in protective netting.) But when the conditions are right and we DO beat the birds, tomatoes offer an easy lesson for kids in telling when the fruit is ready to be picked. Like a game of hide-and-seek, our daughter loved searching for red, ripe cherry tomatoes.
Watermelon: We personally did not grow watermelon this year, but our neighbors did and it is FOR SURE on our list to grow next summer. We eat watermelon like it’s going out of style in the hot months, so it’ll be fascinating and tantalizing to grow our own. Our neighbors said it was relatively easy, so we’ll attempt it with gusto! Plus, growing the fruit gives parents and kids a chance to compete in a watermelon seed spitting contest . . . which means some picky eaters will have to eat the fruit if they want to compete. A win-win for all!
What do you grow in your garden, and how do you involve your kids?