It’s harvest season! After all that hard work, it is finally time to enjoy the fruits of your labor…literally. If children were involved in planting the garden, now is the best time to get them involved in the harvest! I have found that being involved in the planting, harvesting, and preparing of healthy, homegrown food has a big impact on whether kids will eat it.
It’s one thing to have a healthy dinner placed in front of you at the table…it’s a whole different story when a child picks a tomato, helps to cut it up, adds it to the bowl, sprinkles salt, helps stir… or performs whatever jobs are age appropriate. For the child, it’s about the ownership, the “hey look what I made!” And typically…if they have a hand in making it, they are going to eat it!
So, give it a try! Here is a simple, kid-friendly recipe, that they can help with in so many ways! Tomatillo salsa! It’s great because tomatillos are easy to grow, fun to harvest, are super yummy, you can pack it with all sorts of healthy veggies, and kids love to dip things.
What you need for your Tomatillo Salsa:
- 2 cups tomatillos, seeded and diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1-2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (leave this out if your kiddos are opposed to a little spice)
- 1 lime, juice
- 1 handful cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Add salt and pepper to taste
Optional add-ins to boost the health factor: black beans, chopped kale (or any dark leafy green), grated carrots, or come up with your own!
Have children put on their “edible adventure capes!” These are invisible, so easy peasy.
Harvest ripe tomatillos, onion, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro in your garden or if you didn’t plant them, buy them from the local grocery store. Tomatillos are ripe when the fruit fills the baglike structure they grow inside. Usually the size of a large bouncy ball.
Unwrap your tomatillos from their bags. Kids usually love to do this part, however they are sticky! Rinse off all of the veggies.
Dice tomatillos and tomatoes and remove seeds. Chop everything else up too. With supervision, even young children can help with this part. I give even my youngest a butter knife to “help” chop up the tomatoes. It ends up being a pile of mush, but I just add it to the bowl anyway and he feels great that he had a part in it all. If you are adding in kale, the little ones can help to break it into small pieces. They can also help to grate carrots or onions, depending on your type of grater. Mine is an old-school grater that tries to grate my fingers every time, but they make safer ones that children can use.
Add it all into a bowl and stir. Have the kiddos taste test and adjust as needed.
Enjoy the harvest and have a blast going on new new food adventures together!
Helping Kids Make Healthy Food Choices . . .
As the director of education at our local community garden, I teach the value of eating local, organic, real food to over 200 students a year. As a mom to three young children, this education is instilled in our daily life. I’ve had lots of time for trial and error with this, so I’ll share what I have learned about helping kids make healthy food choices. First, I have found that giving kids the wheel and letting them be in charge of their choices, creates a fun atmosphere. It allows them to go on a “edible adventure” when trying new foods. As soon as there is a mandatory aspect of eating the food, the fun aspect disappears and the kids shut down. Keep the aspect of “free choice” involved, such as “choose two veggies that you want to try.” Maybe purple potatoes are more appealing than carrots – as long as they are trying new veggies…it’s a win-win.
I’ve seen that a simple reward for being brave and trying new foods works wonders. Such as “if you want desert, eat your carrots…it’s your choice.” This keeps the ball in their court, however they only get the reward if they choose to eat their vegetables.
Finally, I speak in ways that keeps it light and fun, such as “what a brave guy trying that juicy tomato!” Or “look at those muscles! I think they just grew after you took that bite of kale!” Keeping the fun in trying new foods allows kids to feel like it’s a game and we all know that kids like to play games!