As a pediatrician who is committed to preventing disease, I’ve become more invested in making sure my patients benefit from a protective diet of whole foods. Gardening is one of tne more useful tools I have used to promote healthy eating. As I discussed in earlier posts, kids who garden are more likely to prefer fruits and vegetables.
Over the years we have had our share of successes and failures in gardening. Here are some of the best edibles I’ve grown with my kids. I plan on growing these this spring at the Instructional Garden at my new pediatrics practice, too!
1) Radishes. What I love about radishes is they are fool-proof and FAST. Plant some seeds and in a few days they will be sprouting robustly. In a few short weeks these bright, colorful vegetables will be ready to pull out of the ground! We began growing these a few years ago, and despite the strong flavor radishes are now one of my sons’ favorites!
2) Cherry Tomatoes. One summer we found some giant “volunteer” cherry tomato vines growing between our rose bushes on the side of our house! We hadn’t planted them, and later determined they had grown from seeds spilled out of our nearby compost bin. Cherry tomatoes are easy to grow, sweet, and delicious! Kids love miniature versions of foods, so cherry tomatoes are a great way to encourage eating all types of tomatoes.
3) Carrots. The great thing about growing carrots, besides that it’s easy, is the joy that kids display when they pull them from the ground! Carrots grown at home can have surprising shapes and if you grow different varieties, can have surprising colors too. Have fun planting purple and yellow varieties, which can taste a bit different from the standard orange carrots.
4) Lettuce. Many greens like lettuce grow better in cool conditions experienced in spring and fall. Lettuce can grow easily from seed and can be re-harvested to keep your salad bowl full for weeks! Grow a seed mix to let your kids experience different tastes, colors and shapes of lettuce.
5) Kale. I have grown kale from seed and from small plants bought at the garden store. They definitely prefer cool weather, so put these in the garden in early spring. Kale chips, baked in the oven until crispy are a fool-proof way to encourage your kids to eat this powerful superfood. In all the kids cooking classes I have taught, I have never met a child who didn’t LOVE kale chips! A little kale can pack in some powerful phytonutrients into your fruit smoothies as well.
6) Zucchini. Plant zucchini and stand back! Once you get these into your garden, your kids will love seeing them take off! Zucchini is very versatile to prepare, blending well with casseroles and sauces. Grill them on a skewer with other colorful veggies like yellow squash, tomatoes and red onions. Zucchini can be used to add nutrients and texture to sweeter breads and muffins, too.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sites like Sprout Robot use your zip code to help you choose which plants can be started from seed and when to plant them.
Grow a garden with your kids. It’s an enriching experience that will promote discovery, health and happiness for years to come! Now get growing!!