I posted the pic our two year old eating chives on tumblr yesterday.
The Greedy Gardener summed up in a comment my entire philosophy on the importance of providing real food to our children:
I think the best way to encourage kids to eat veg is to grow it at home – it becomes part of every day life rather than a penance rewarded by cake
I was scarred for life when Bunny (our child’s nickname, one of many) was a few months old and we stayed with friends who had two daughters, about ages 4 and 6. If it didn’t come in a package or look like white pasta, they wouldn’t eat it. Period.
So much packaged food is something to eat, but it isn’t food.
Children 100 years ago didn’t survive on squeezable fruit sauce and puffed toddler snacks. They ate food that was cooked and prepared in a kitchen.
Children of developing countries don’t have Go-Gurt.
Toddlers in India eat – wait for it – Indian food.
Spices and all.
Street food in Rio de Janeiro (and everywhere else we went in Brazil) is real food – kids have cups of fruit, pastries filled with meat and cheese, sticks of roasted cheese…
Not everyone can grow vegetables for their kids or manage a garden – the reality is people work multiple jobs, don’t have the know how to get started, don’t have the hours in the day to get it going or the space for a few containers. But the importance of farmer’s markets and access to real grocery stores (produce at Wal-Mart and Target matters, regardless of the farming practices) is so fundamental.
Smart phones are bringing the internet into households that never before had it (to both low income and rural communities). Buying fresh vegetables, looking up how to cook them and serving them with meals is a vital part of raising healthy kids. Even if only a few times a week, it matters. Adding them to a frozen pizza before cooking it is legitimate.
I’m preaching to the audience if you’re reading this. But realize your influence as gardeners. You can grow a child’s love of herbs, fruits and vegetables:
- Invite a busy neighbor and their child over to pick a few strawberries.
- Let your nieces and nephews smell all your garden herbs and choose a few for dinner. Better yet, make grilled cheese sandwiches in a skillet with the herbs.
- Help the Sunday School teacher do a few lessons on sowing seeds and reaping the rewards (radishes are fast and fun – you can scare up something to grow them in and you can tote back and forth to church for a month).
- Bring bunches of mint to the BBQ and let the kids munch on it and add it to their lemonade.
- Ask your own kids how you should share your garden.
Last spring, Bunny wasn’t quite 2 and I called her over to the chives. “You can eat these, would you like a taste?” She opened her mouth. I gave her a piece and she cried. I gave her a cracker, told her “It’s ok” and that they taste better when added to other foods.
This spring she has been really into smelling everything, especially the rosemary (which I constantly cook with). When we got to the chives, she said they smelled like onions and that she wanted to “taste it.” Her eyes got wide and she said “Those good, mom!”
Now she picks them at will, bringing me a few to eat as we get ready to garden.