Vegetables are often much maligned among children – or picky eaters. It can be hard to enjoy a plate of vegetables, especially if you’ve had a bad experience with them in the past. If the thought of kale or wilted cabbage deters you from gardening, there are many other palatable vegetables to consider for a flourishing garden. Many of these vegetables are low-maintenance, making them ideal candidates for kids to grow.
Vego Garden’s Kids Garden Raised Bed is an ideal raised bed suited for kids. Despite its name, the kid’s garden bed can actually accommodate a medley of vegetables. You can easily fit 6 tomato plants in the summer, or 16 carrot plants in the fall. You can also use it as an herb garden to grow mint, basil and rosemary. Below is a recommended list of vegetables to grow, whether for kids or for picky eaters that habitually shun vegetables on their plate.
Reasons for Pickiness
If you’ve ever read Pseudonymous Bosch’s The Secret Series, then you probably know what a supertaster is. While the books may take liberties with the term, the basic definition still stands. For those that are unaware, supertasters can taste certain flavors and foods more intensely than other people due to the increased number of taste buds. The inverse of a supertaster is a non-taster, which refers to someone with a dulled perception. To them, most foods taste flavorless and bland. Whatever the reason, kids and even adults often do not like to try something new, particularly vegetables.
How to Get Kids to Eat Their Vegetables
One way to get kids and picky eaters to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diet is to introduce them to vegetables that are less universally disliked, or are popular with almost everyone. Try fun dips or experiment with creative ways to serve vegetables as snacks. Another way to get kids to try vegetables is to introduce them to the joy of gardening – they will be more likely to eat what they grow. Activities like gardening can help them transform their relationship with food and inspire curiosity about the natural world. When trying new recipes, ask them to help prepare dishes, which will expose them to healthy habits and create self-reliance.
Sweet peas, also called sugar snap peas, are sweeter and larger than snow peas. Snap peas, unlike English peas, can be eaten whole. A favorite among kids and adults alike, sweet peas are known for their sweet, crisp flavor. They can be peeled from the pod, shelled, and eaten as a snack, or cooked. Because they are vining plants, they will need a vertical support system, such as a trellis, to support the weight of their vines. In addition to being fibrous, sweet peas are very nutritious, containing vitamins B, C, and K, and other essential nutrients.
Potatoes are a ubiquitous crop that can be planted in the ground in rows or mounds, in raised beds, and even in potato bags. For consistently abundant harvests, consider growing potato plants in raised garden beds, as they tend to perform exceptionally well under the optimal drainage and soil conditions provided by raised beds. Due to their high versatility in recipes and neutral taste, potatoes are recommended for beginners, offering something tasty for everyone. For mashed potatoes, choose Yukon Gold potatoes, which lend a creamy, rich texture. Fingerling potatoes, available in shades of purple, white, and red, are easy to roast and taste great with a side of ketchup.
With their robust red color and small size, cherry tomatoes are great for snacking and as additions to salads. Encourage kids to eat healthier by introducing healthy snacks, such as cherry tomatoes paired with mozzarella on sticks. A caprese salad, with its fresh basil and fluffy mozzarella combination, is sure to appeal to those that don’t typically like salads. Although usually made with sliced heirloom tomatoes, they also work well with cherry tomatoes. Grape tomatoes, which are elongated in appearance and shaped like a grape, can also be grown, though cherry tomatoes are sweeter and juicier, making them more chewable.
Corn on the cob, with its crunchy texture and refreshing tastes, has long been considered a summer staple, and is one of the most approachable vegetables. Considered a starchy vegetable and a cereal grain, corn contains high amounts of insoluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Despite its expansive coverage, corn is easy to grow, though it does require ample room and well-drained nutrient-rich soil. They can even be grown in raised beds – a 3 x 6 ft or 4 x 8 ft raised bed will often suffice. A heavy feeder, corn uses up large quantities of nitrogen, making them ideal companion plants for nitrogen-fixers such as beans and other legumes.
This funny sounding squash is a prolific, rapidly-growing plant, coming to maturity in about 45 – 55 days. Zucchini prefers warm weather and full sun, so wait until the temperature is at least 65 °F before planting. When growing zucchini in a traditional in-ground garden, it should be planted in mounds or hills, though that is not necessary if it is grown in containers or raised garden beds. One delicious way to include zucchini is to combine it into savory omelets for breakfast. Zucchini can also be cut into noodles for a healthy, vegan meal – it is very low in calories – about 40% lower than other vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and other squash varieties.
Lettuce is an easy-maintenance cold weather crop that can survive temperatures as low as 20 °F. Loose leaf varieties, the type commonly served in salads and sandwiches, are the easiest to grow. Try growing lettuce in different shades like reds and purples and see if there is a difference in taste. Although iceberg lettuce has a reputation for being less nutritionally dense than other lettuce varieties, it is a good choice for picky eaters who shy away from kale, spinach, arugula, and other leafy greens.
Growing an avocado plant from seed from a supermarket avocado can seem like a fun DIY project, but it is unlikely to be fruitful – it can take up to 15 years for a tree grown from seed to produce fruit, which tends to be sparse and lousy. If you’re serious about growing avocados, it is better to purchase a seedling from a garden center. As it is a tropical crop, it grows best in temperate climates, in zones 9 -11. Nevertheless, even if you do not plan on planting them, avocados are a delicious ingredient in many health-conscious dishes. Revered for their silky texture and versatility, a popular recipe for avocados is to pair them with an over-easy egg on toast.
Whether cooked or raw, carrots can be easily integrated into snacks and meals. For an easy take-away snack, serve with a classical ranch dressing or a zesty garlic-infused hummus dip. In addition to improving vision, carrots also have beneficial effects on immune function – a reason it is often paired with oranges in immunity beverages. For an interesting gardening experience, choose rainbow carrots. These unique carrots are often eaten raw or cooked, but they can also be roasted or glazed with herbs for an added layer of flavor.