Fed Up with Your Little Picky Eaters? Why not Growing Veggies with them?Naturely
As a kid, I hated veggies from the bottom of my heart. I remember vividly how my mum tried all kinds of trick to force me to eat more veggies, yet my dad always joked that I was allergic to any food that was green in colour. And guess what? My daughter seems to inherit the exact same trait. Whenever I gave her some broccoli or cucumber, she would taste it first and immediately spit it out. Sometimes, she would sneakily pass it to my husband or throw it on the floor. Imagine after all of the planning, shopping, chopping and cooking, veggies end up everywhere except my little girl’s tummy. How frustrating!
I had learned the hard way that nagging my daughter and doing tricks or hiding veggies in her favourite food never helped her to eat more veggies. Why? Because veggies then got associated with punishment or negative experience. Instead, I have found a better way to cultivate a more positive relationship between my daughter and vegetables, which is simply letting her grow veggies in our little garden. If you haven’t tried it before, below are some ideas on what veggies to grow with your little ones to help you get started.
1. Cherry tomatoes
This was the first plant that my daughter and I grew together. We were browsing through the seed catalogue and my daughter suddenly pointed her tiny finger at a picture showing a whole bunch of deliciously red round tomatoes. She said, “I like red colour.” That’s how we decided to buy this specific variety of tomatoes called Cherry Cocktail.
It literally took every member in my family to plant this first cherry tomato tree. I prepared the soil, my daughter helped me sow the seeds in a container in our backyard and my husband eagerly set up a few wooden stakes to support the vines as they began to grow so fast. When our first few cherry tomatoes blushed red that summer, my daughter excitedly plucked them from the vine, popped them in her mouth and shouted for joy, “Mommy, tomatoes are sweet.” And from that moment onwards, I knew exactly how to encourage my daughter to eat more veggies.
If you are feeling excited and can’t wait to try growing tomatoes with your little one, here are my top 3 tips to reap the best cherry tomatoes every single time.
- Choose a big container: The bigger, the better because tomato plants need a lot of space and soil.
- Not too much water, not too little water: Before watering, put your finger into the soil about an inch or two. If it feels dry to the touch at your fingertip, add water until it drains out the bottom of the pot.
- Plant your tomatoes at a warm and sunny spot: Happy and healthy tomato plants require unobstructed, direct sunlight for 6 to 8 hours a day. Also, don’t plant these sun lovers too early because frost or early spring cold snaps can be harmful to the seedlings.
2. Alfalfa sprouts
“I definitely don’t have a green thumb because all plants in my house are in sorry shapes. How can I grow veggies with my child?” If this sounds like you, you have to give alfalfa sprouts a try, because I can guarantee you this is the easiest thing to grow for everyone. You can grow it indoor, in a couple of days without any soil. No special gardening tools or fancy kits are required because all you need is some old Mason jars, a piece of cheesecloth and some rubber bands. How good does that sound? Here is how I have been growing alfalfa sprouts using recycled containers right in my kitchen.
- Put a tablespoon of alfalfa sprouting seeds into some old Mason jar (you can use any old glass jar that you already have) and cover the seeds with water.
- Put the cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. If you got the sprouting lid, then go ahead and use it instead of the cheesecloth. Let the seeds soak in a cool spot, out of direct sunlight, for at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Drain the water out of the jar, rinse the seeds with fresh cold water, drain again and let the jar sit upside down (with the cheesecloth still secured by the rubber band) to allow the water to drain.
- Place the jar in a cool spot, out of direct sunlight. Rinse and drain the sprouts every morning and night for 3-4 days. Your kids might love doing this because they can watch the sprouts grow every day.
- After they have sprouted to the length of my liking, I would rinse them well, then replace the cheesecloth with its original sealed lid and refrigerate. These tiny little microgreens can last up to 2 or 3 days in the fridge and taste great in sandwiches which I usually make for my little princess in the morning.
I can’t count how many times we had no luck growing carrots. After several months of waiting till harvest time, sometimes all we got were big bushy tops and tiny leggy carrots. Imagine the disappointment! But it’s okay, and we still reserve a small area of our garden for this tricky plant’s seeds every 3 weeks from early spring because nothing beats the joy in my daughter’s eyes when she gets to pull some carrots off the ground. Here is what you might want to keep in mind before getting started.
- Before planting the seeds, don’t forget to dig up the soil, add in some compost, turn the soil over and remove all rocks and hard sticks since they are likely to obstruct the carrots’ roots.
- After planting the seeds, water carrots daily for the first few weeks because if the seeds dry out, they won’t germinate.
- Once the seeds have germinated and the leaves appear, join forces with your kid to separate every other seedling about 3 inches apart to make some room for the roots to grow.
- Be patient until harvesting. It usually takes us anywhere between 70 to 90 days, depending on the varieties, but it’s always well worth the wait.
If potato chips are the only thing related to veggies that your kid loves eating, then you’ve got to try growing potatoes with them. Last year, I started growing potatoes with my daughter. Right after harvesting, our homegrown spuds would usually be turned into so many healthy dishes that we cooked together in our kitchen. Who needs store-bought potato chips when we can have potato salad, crispy potato wedges, potato and bacon soup or baked potatoes freshly made? Yummy!
One of my best friends taught me this foolproof method to grow potatoes in a bag. At first, I thought she was kidding, but after giving it a try, it works like a charm. What’s more? I absolutely love the fact that I can reuse any kind of old bags such as burlap sack, grocery bags or even trash bag. All I have to do is to create some drainage holes, fill the bag with some nutrient-rich soil, then place it at a spot with lots of sunshine. My daughter will then take charge of planting the sprouted potatoes by burying them about 2 inches deep in the soil, eyes pointed up, and watering the soil well.
As the potato plants grow bigger, we usually have to add more soil so that just a few top leaves poke through the dirt. When the leaves eventually turn yellow and the foliage dies back, guess what? Time to stop watering and patiently wait for 2 weeks till we can dig deep and discover our treasures.
My husband and I both love the spicy flavour of radishes, but my daughter never wanted to taste them though she loves planting the seeds, then pulling the mature radishes from the ground. One day, I was making some pickled red radish from a dozen radishes freshly harvested from our garden. My daughter looked at the pickled radish and proudly declared, “I grew them all by myself. They’re all mine!” She then went on to try some of the pickles and guess what? She was sold on the idea of tasting pickled radish. What a pleasant surprise!
Apart from tasting so fresh, these little soil-dwelling gems are also the fastest to grow in my garden. Always take less than thirty days to grow from a bag of tiny seeds to a bunch of juicy radishes which are delicious in salads and great for snacking. How cool is that?
If you would like to grow radish in a container, simply pick up any old containers having 6-inch depth at the minimum and poke a few drainage holes at the bottom. Plant the seeds about 2 inches apart, then water regularly until they are ready to harvest. I personally love to pick them when the shoulder part of the radish showing out of the soil is about an inch across. Don’t wait until they grow bigger because that’s when they become dry and woody.
This is by far my daughter’s favourite veggies to grow. Why? Because she can grow her own personalised pumpkin, with her name carved on it. How cool is that?
If you are thinking of growing some pumpkin, here is a few tips that I have learned along the way to ensure my daughter’s personalised pumpkins are happy and healthy until harvesting.
- Make some space for your pumpkin patch, because the vines of an average pumpkin plant can grow up to twenty 5-6 metres.
- Pumpkin plants love to sunbathe for at least six hours per day, so choose your spot wisely and avoid shaded areas.
- Water them well, but avoid making the foliage wet. We made this mistake last time, and fungi were happily growing all over the foliage. Aargh!
Now comes the fun part! If your kid wants to have a personalised pumpkin, simply carve your child’s name into the skin of a pumpkin while it’s green and about the size of a softball. As the pumpkin grows, the scratch will scar over and by autumn, your kid would happily exclaim “That one is mine!”
If you don’t have so much space in your garden to accommodate the aggressive pumpkin vines, why not giving cucumber a try? With just a little space in your backyard, you can grow these deliciously crispy cucumbers by training them to grow upward on a trellis. What’s more? Their flavour is fairly mild, which makes it pretty kid-friendly.
I must say for a picky eater like my older daughter, it was not easy to encourage her to try tasting cucumber. But one day, my daughter helped me to pick a bunch of fresh cucumbers. We brought them to our kitchen, and I let her try making some cucumber and apple noodles with my new spiraliser. Perhaps the noodles looked fun, she started to put a few strands of cucumber noodles into her mouth and swallowed them. As I went on to make my cucumber and apple salad, she quickly devoured her tiny portion with ease. That’s how I learned the importance of letting your kid have more exposure with veggies, either through growing it or cooking it. Sooner or later, they won’t hesitate to give it a try. By the time you realise, your kid might no longer be that picky eater.
Admittedly, gardening with kids isn’t always idyllic, especially when our little ones are getting up close and personal with dirt. But I love the fact that my daughter has greater exposure to the outdoors, learns where her food comes from, and is now willingly to consume more fruits and vegetables. What’s not to like? If you are still thinking over, don’t wait. Just get up and let both your kid and your inner child have some fun with soil under the sunshine. Happy planting everyone!
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