Want your kids to eat their veggies – try gardening!

Written by: Sarah Cobb

Recently, I had a very unexpected moment – my 4 year old got excited about herbs and veggies – a fantasy few parents experience in a lifetime.  Normally, I can expect her to eat a few raw carrots and sometimes even a small portion of steamed veggies.  At home, we have lots of discussions about the “just one bite rule” or the “just shove it down bite” to make sure she tries new foods.  Occasionally, I sneak in a puree – but by this age, I think I’m at the point where my big girl should start to understand and accept that real veggies are a part of her everyday meals.  The results to date have been less than desirable.


A glimmer of hope occurred last summer on our garage deck garden. Keep in mind this post is coming from someone who does not possess a green thumb.  Simplicity is key!  We had some typical plants and flowers and threw in a few herbs and veggies.  She was so excited to watch them grow and was over the moon when we got to pick mini-peppers, arugula, tomatoes, and herbs.  Everyday when we went by the garden, on our way to the garage or to play in the sprinkler, she would literally rip off arugula and basil leaves and down them with a smile!  One important note – be sure to point out plants that are food and those that are not – this can be very confusing.

So this summer – the garden plan is in full swing.  We planted flowers and this weekend we are headed to Gethsemane Garden Center (5739 N Clark St @ Victoria St) to pick up some easy to grow herbs & veggies– I’m thinking arugula, mint, and whatever else their super helpful staff can recommend as low-maintenance edibles. We usually opt for small plants versus seeds – skipping the wait is worth it.

Thanks to Daily Candy Kids Chicago, some great tips from the Gethsemane garden masters: Urban Gardening - How to Plant an Apartment Garden

Wondering what to do with all your fresh summer picks? For fun and healthy family options visit Purple Asparagus, a great Chicago non-profit educating children, families, and the community about eating that's good for the body and the planet.  Recipes Courtesy of Melissa Graham's blog - Little Locavores. I can’t wait to try the Watermelon “Cakes” and Tomato Salad on a Stick:

Watermelon "Cakes" with Honey Yogurt and Blueberries

Makes 1 - Because of its size and color watermelon can be a fun fruit to work with. You can use melon ballers and cookie cutters to make fun shapes. You can juice it, you can make boats- the possibilities are endless.  

  • 1 slice of watermelon
  • 3 tbsp. yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • handful blueberries
  • 1/8 cup rice puffs

Cut out two watermelon discs with a cookie cutter. Mix the yogurt with the honey and spread half of it on one disc. Put the other disc on top. Decorate with the yogurt and blueberries. Sprinkle with rice puffs.

Tomato Salad on a Stick (Makes 12 to serve 4 as a snack)

  • 2 ounces fresh mozzarella bocconcini or 1 ball fresh
  • mozzarella, cut into 12 ½ inch cubes
  • 12 small cherry tomatoes or 6 cut in half
  • 12 small to medium fresh basil leaves
  • 12 5-inch bamboo skewers or toothpicks
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus more to drizzle
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Skewer a cherry tomato, a basil leaf and a cube of mozzarella.  Repeat with the remaining 11 skewers. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with coarse sea salt and pepper if desired.

Happy summer and good luck getting your little ones to eat the green stuff!  Share you favorite summer kid-friendly recipes with us at info@npnparents.org.

Posted on June 13, 2011 at 12:36 PM