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    Food: Things You Can Grow With Your Kids

    Grow food with the children in the comfort of your own home!

    "I create recipes for a living and adore food. I adore trying new recipes and when I was pregnant I was convinced that because I had looked up toddler food and baby-led weaning then it was all going to go incredibly well, think again. What I learned was that children live in a dichotomy of complete trust and mistrust. They trust that you are the person who can without a doubt protect them from the monster under the bed when they call you at 2, 3 and 4am, but they mistrust you when it comes to believing that you have not laced their food with poison."

    Completely crestfallen that my children would not be ‘those’ fussy kids by simply giving them food, a cook, and they will come philosophy I decided to go back to the drawing board. What I have since found is that children were completely detached from the process of food, for them it was just stuff appearing on their plates. They needed to take ownership of what they were putting in their bodies by growing and cooking with me. I went from having 2 very fussy children to having children who request kale and carrot burgers.

    You do not need a huge amount of space to successfully grow food, there are crops that can be grown in hanging baskets, containers, bins or a square foot raised bed. We start our seeds on windowsills Once they are on board with phase one you can have an open dialogue about what foods need different conditions and why we have to buy them.

    Rainbow chard

    Growing rainbow chard had not been on my radar but the bright colours on the seed packet were enough to woo my five-year-old. They are incredibly easy to grow from seed in a small space and you should be able to get a full year of food out of these plants.

    Both the jewel-coloured stems and the leaves are edible but have different cooking times so I cook them separately. Treat the leaves the same way you would any other dark green leafy veg. Children will love them for their almost magical colours towering in the garden.

    The stems can be roasted or fried and although they will be paler they will retain their colour. Try them in a quiche or make small breadcrumb burgers. Simply cook the leaves with a little butter until wilted then place them in a food processor with fresh breadcrumbs, spring onions and herbs of your choice. You can then form them into little green burger-shaped patties and fry or bake. These can be made in advance and frozen before baking.

    Beetroot

    These are great little root vegetables! Fully hardy, you can eat the roots and the leaves. They come in golden, stripy and classic purple. They are easy to grow and can be cooked in a variety of ways.

    Children will love them because they are colourful and sweet. They will over winter too so you can keep up your veg growing throughout the year. Try whizzing up a red beet up in hummus most children are partial to dips and tortilla chips and especially excited by bright colours. Cubed and slow roasted with a little salt they will look and taste like sweets!

    Kuri squash

    Squash are surprisingly easy to grow and actually do very well in a UK climate. People often shy away from growing them as they are scrambling vine plants that take up a lot of space but did you know you can grow them vertically.

    Kuri squash is small and you can get an inexpensive frame from a garden centre or DIY shop and train the vine upwards with garden twine. The fruits are small so they will not rip off the plant as they grow on a frame. Children will love them because they look like mini pumpkins and pumpkins are just cool. The flesh is sweet too.

    Honestly, it is such a versatile hardy crop; roast them, stuff them, use to stuff pasta or cook into a risotto, make them into

    Courgettes

    These are another crop that is often thought of as too hard to grow or not a UK crop. Yes you will need a sunny garden for this one but I have a sunny plot in Yorkshire and mine do really well so you don’t have to move to Italy for this one.

    Like the squash, you can grow this vertically from a raised bed or large container so ideal if you have a sunny wall with a sturdy trellis. Children will love them because they do not have a strong flavour so you can easily add them into things they already like such as a tomato sauce served on pasta.

    Cook the sauce as normal with the added courgettes and use a stick blender to get rid of the lumps. Due to their subtle flavour they can be added to most recipes such as the savoury cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting pictured the recipe can be found on my own blog. You could even try cutting them into batons and serving them as crunchy fries. Use an air fryer to keep things healthy.

    Kale & Spinach

    Adding these two vegetables to a growing list for children might seem like crazy talk but stick with me.  Both of these leafy vegetables are fully hardy, they over winter, they are fast growing so children will see fast results.

    Once they have grown something from seedling to the plate they will be open to trying more food. You can also add these to many different things such as creating your own pesto all you need is a blender and some olive oil. You can even add kale and spinach to a fruit smoothie. If you use a strong sweet fruit such as mango or pineapple the only thing they will taste is sweetness.

    You can even cut the leaves and freeze them for a smoothie mix. A good quality blender or smoothie maker and you can play with all of the flavour combinations.

    Garlic

    This is a wonderful crop to grow over winter. You will save a fortune as garlic is a good cropper. You will be able to add flavour to children’s meals with ease. You can even bake a whole bulb of garlic and when it is soft it is sweet and can be squeezed onto bread or pizzas. You grow them over winter so it is great to keep children excited by the garden growth and will teach them patience as unlike spinach, they are a slow crop.

    Herbs

    This is a great way to start your children experiencing new flavours. Rubbing the plants in the garden is a fantastic sensory experience for even the youngest of gardeners. Some herbs such as mint can invasive so container growing is ideal. You can grow most herbs in our climate although you may find some of those will be annual and not perennial in the UK. Try and step beyond the herbs you are used to.

    Lovage, Russian Tarragon, Sorrel, Marjoram, Thyme, Rosemary, Herb Fennel, Tansy, Lemon Verbena, Mint are all hardy and perennial. They will make attractive additions to your garden and tasty treats to your garden. Although perennial herbs will return in the spring and summer they will need cutting down to the ground in the winter so you will need to do an autumn harvest.

    Tie the herbs into little bunches and hang them to dry. Children will like being able to experiment with flavours and their taste buds will be matured in the process.

    Blackcurrants/Jostaberries/Blueberries

    Soft fruit is a classic for children. Strawberries are surprisingly hard to get a good crop from and many soft fruit bushed com with thorns and then the excitement of harvest is taken from the children and gives them less ownership. Blackcurrants, jostaberries and blueberries an all be container grown. They take a couple of years to give a really good crop but then you are good to go.

    Children will love them because children love fruit, they are easy to grow and they can harvest the berries themselves.  You will love them because as well as instant nutrients eaten straight from the bush you can also make jams and cordials where you get to control the amount of sugar that goes in.

    That rounds up eight reliable crops that you can grow in even the smallest of spaces and will get children to eat just about anything. If you are looking to get serious about growing food with children researching vertical gardening and square foot gardening is a great place to start and will make the most of the space you have and still leave you with enough garden for little ones to play in.

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