Hello from the HillTop!
Like many parents, I deal a lot with introducing my children to a variety of foods. In some cases, my daughter could be considered a picky eater. She does not eat a variety of what is deemed “kid food.” Even though, she eats a wide range of foods at home. While she may not openly jump to loving all foods served, she at least attempts to eat them.
Over the past five years, our garden has continued to expand in what we grow each year. When I introduce a new item, typically I already have a preservation plan for it. Our garden splits between being a fresh-eating garden and a food-storage garden. In many cases, our kids are exposed to vegetables both directly from the garden and also preserved in some form.
It took time to get our kids to understand that we need to consume the food we grow. It has been a process, so much so, that I did the ultimate mom trick. I hid the vegetables from them in plain sight. Below are the best vegetables I found to hide from them.
While the most commonly grown squash is zucchini, there are numerous winter and summer squashes for you to pick from. We grow a variety of squashes: three variations of zucchini, a yellow summer squash, butternut, and two kinds of acorn squash. Many years it is more than this, but these are our standards. That is a lot of squash to utilize!
While winter squashes, when stored properly, have long shelf lives, summer squashes do not. There are many summer squashes that offer a mild taste. This mild taste takes on the flavor of what you are adding to it.
Food to add to: Most meatloaf recipes need some milk added to it. After baking with zucchini for years, I knew zucchini (and summer squashes) provided a hefty amount of water. You can substitute the same amount of shredded zucchini for the listed amount of milk. It works out perfectly and is a great dairy-free option.
Benefits: Summer squash offers a high amount of dietary fiber, aids in weight loss with its low calorie count and high water content, and the Vitamin A promotes healthy eye sight.
Personally, I think Swiss chard is under used. While I love lettuce, Swiss chard has a better texture, holds up longer in the refrigerator and cooks up beautifully. I started growing Swiss chard because I had it at a restaurant dish a handful of times.
Swiss chard is cold hardy crop, easy to grow and extremely prolific. We eat it raw, in salads and on burgers, but it has recently become our winter greens. When I have a large harvest, I wash, cut and blanch it, stuff ice cube trays and freeze them. As I’m cooking, I pull out as needed and add it into my dish. As a wilted green, it cooks up wonderfully and my kids love it. If you are a dairy-free family this is a great opportunity to kick up your calcium intake that you are lacking from removing dairy.
Food to add to: Our favorite use for Swiss chard is risotto. While it’s not overly hidden do to the pop of green against a yellow/off-white, it does not alter the taste drastically. We started it off chopping it really tiny and only adding a small amount. The kids ate more than they realized among their bites. As I added more each time, they had no issue because I told them they had eaten it before. I add Swiss chard to every possible dish! My kids love it!
Benefits: One cup of Swiss chard offers 10% of your daily recommended amount of calcium, has enough Vitamin A & K to meet your daily needs, and is a great source of magnesium.
Carrots are loved by many children, not just mine. Most kids I know prefer them raw, which is great, but do not sell yourself short. Carrots are a root crop that is considered a cool weather crop. If you are not aware, carrots come in a variety of colors. It saddens me that so many people do not realize that! Carrots can be found in reds, purples, yellow, orange and white.
We have grown carrots in the past. However, I have a love-hate relationship with growing them. You are supposed to grow them by sowing them directly in the soil. Keeping track of them is a pain, and normally I give up. My personal plan of attack this year is to grow them in my raised beds. Keep your fingers crossed please.
Food to add to: Carrot cake. Need I say more? Carrot cake is a classic and a wonderful way to show your kids that vegetables can be used in wonderful ways!
Benefits: The carotene antioxidants in carrots are linked to a reduced risk of cancer! That alone should put it high on your list. Carrots are also a good source of fiber, contains a B Vitamin (Biotin) that helps with fat and protein metabolism, and along with being a source of potassium.
I love eggplant. It took time for me to love it, but I do now. I do not prefer the traditional eggplant that people see in the grocery stores. I find those ones too much to use, being the main person in my family who consumes it. I also find that they can become bitter if not picked at the perfect time.
I prefer a Chinese variety known as Ping Tung Long eggplant. This slender, long variety is something I can use myself in one or two meals, one if my family does not realize that I’m hiding it in their meal.
Food to add to: Pasta is where I have found the best place to hide it for my children. I grate the eggplant, mixing it in with the pasta and sauce. Due to the inside color being white, it absorbs the color of the sauce used in that recipe.
Benefits: Eggplant is completely fat-free. It provides small amounts of varying vitamins. However, eggplant can provide 10% of your daily manganese.
During the peak of garden production keeping up with the high yields can be difficult. I was the heavy vegetable eater in the family. As each year past and I gardened more, I expanded the vegetables I grew. That meant introducing a larger variety of vegetables to my kids.
Most of the foods above, I had to start finding ways to have my whole family eat it because the vegetable proved to be very prolific. By mixing these vegetables into dishes, not using them strictly as a side, my kids ate them readily and benefited from their nutrients. As the kids have gotten older, we made the vegetables more prevalent and obvious in foods. By the slow, increased increments the kids had less resistant to eating the “weird” vegetables.
Now, when our garden produces, we eat and preserve the vegetables without having to tell the kids why. They know the vegetables are in their food, and we eat what we grow. As we tell them, you do not have to love everything you eat, but you have to eat it if it’s healthy for you. Start looking for ways to get your kids to eat the vegetables you grow or even ones you buy. This will make sure that you do not have to waste anything, your kids get the nutrients they need, and are not picky eaters.