Farmer’s Market Project: Make a Salad with Kids

Written by Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer

I am so excited.  It’s finally May, which means that the farmer’s market is now open!  Well…we’re lucky — there is a winter market near me.  But I never went (I know, I know).  I just love the outdoor market in the summer, with all of its fresh produce, warm sun, lots of healthy people running around….  It can be overwhelming, but it is an amazing experience.  Even when things are a bit expensive, I go at least once a month just to be there.

My kids are getting a little older now (almost 4 1/2 and almost 3, plus a 9-month-old) and we’re starting to do a little homeschooling with them.  One major part of their education this spring and summer is on gardening and growing.  We just painted some clay pots and planted their vegetables of choice (my 4-year-old chose watermelons; almost 3-year-old chose pumpkins), and we’ll be watching them grow throughout the season.

But man cannot live on pumpkins and watermelons alone. :)

That means when we visit the farmer’s market, we’ll be doing a fun project.  Try this with your kids!

Vegetables at the Market

We have some pretty neat farms that exhibit at my favorite farmer’s market.  Many grow heirloom and unusual varieties of vegetables.  They’re often ones I’ve never cooked with or even heard of.  Of course, I grew up eating SAD and that meant frozen peas, corn, broccoli — the “usual.”  So when I run into radicchio or mustard greens, well…I’m not always sure what to do with them!

I hope my kids will be different!

At the market, I’ll be allowing my kids to choose several different vegetables of their choice.  These may include things like:

  • Swiss chard
  • Asian greens
  • Kale
  • Herbs
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes (including heirloom varieties)
  • Peppers (various types)
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Bok choi
  • Eggplant
  • Kohlrabi
  • …and lots more!

There’s no telling what you’ll find at the market.  Not all of these things will be in season at once.  And not all of them are in season yet.  Wait a couple months though and you should find most of these. :)

The only way to learn about these vegetables is to dive in and try them.  Let your kids select a few to take home with you.  Encourage them to sample whatever is out for that purpose, or purchase some and encourage them to taste what you’ve bought.  Make sure to get a wide variety…and don’t be afraid of them even if you’ve never heard of them or cooked with them, either!

Image by limevelyn

Take Your Veggies Home

Bring the veggies home and see what you’ve got.  What was in season?  What’s the most unique thing you have?

We’ll be taking the time to look up the veggies we bring home so we can learn more about them.  We already know when they’re in season and where they’re grown, but we want to know more.  We’re looking to answer questions like:

  • What family are these veggies from?  What more recognizable veggies belong to this family?
  • Are there other varieties of this veggie?
  • What’s the best way to prepare it?

…and then, we’re going to eat them!

Our research has told us how best to prepare our veggies.  I envision a salad, because this early in the season, it’s greens that are mostly available.  Of course, if you decide to try this later in the season (or we try again!), feel free to try cooked dishes, too, if you prefer.  Some of these vegetables are definitely better if cooked.

Let your kids help you in the kitchen.  Older ones can help to chop the veggies; smaller ones can tear greens for salad or use a spoon to stir.  Watch what happens to the veggies if you cook them — do they lose a lot of water and shrink?  Do they change color?  (Purple string beans do!)

Then comes the most fun part…eating them!

Taste the Veggies

Kids can sometimes be reluctant to eat veggies.  Even my kids, who have always had several varieties offered, often finish everything on their plates and only pick at the veggies.  (This does vary by day — some days they only want veggies; others they completely refuse.)

When kids are invested in a project, though, they’re a lot more likely to taste.  Since the kids chose their own veggies and helped to prepare them, they will probably at least want to take a taste!  If they’re nervous (mine probably would be), let them know they don’t have to eat it if they don’t like it.  But they need to take a little taste!  And so do you. :)

Helping Kids Taste Those Veggies

Although it won’t be feasible for many families to go to the farmer’s market (or grocery store, if there are no markets near you) everyday or even weekly, you can still involve your kids in choosing the vegetable dishes you prepare and helping to actually prepare them.

Sit with your kids and look through cookbooks (ones with lots of pictures, if at all possible) and recipe websites.  My kids love doing this.  Have them choose which dishes look interesting and add them to your meal plan.  Ask them to help you prepare them when it’s time.  When they’re involved in the planning, it’s totally different than simply having it served to them.

Plus, it’s awesome to teach your kids early to select a wide variety of veggies, to learn about what’s seasonal, to learn the importance of local eating, and to learn how to cook and prepare traditional foods.  What a gift to give them!

Women like me, who grew up on SAD, have had to teach ourselves everything.  I learned to cook by watching the Food Network, reading cookbooks, reading blogs, and a lot of kitchen experiments.  How I wish I could have had someone to come alongside me and teach me to cook.  My own kids already know how to knead bread, shape meatballs, brew and bottle kombucha (check out my video), and a lot more!  To them, that sort of thing is totally normal, it’s just “what you do.”  I love that.

Involve your kids in the kitchen as much as possible.  It’s awesome for so many reasons.

How do you involve your kids in the kitchen?  Does it help them eat their veggies?

Top image by empracht

About Kate Tietje

Kate is a work-at-home mom to (almost) 4 kids -- Bekah, age 4.5; Daniel, age 3; Jacob, 1; and baby #4, due mid-March 2013. She is married to Ben, a wonderfully supportive husband! She blogs at Modern Alternative Mama, where she writes about natural health, real food, parenting, and all things “green.” She also recently launched Modern Alternative Kitchen, a site about traditional cooking, and is about to launch Modern Alternative Pregnancy. In her “free” time, she enjoys sewing, crafting, cooking, and playing with her children. Follow her on Facebook!

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Comments

  1. we do go to farmers’ market a bit, but we love our csa box! it is fun trying the new veggies, and finding fun recipes to make them appealing. my kids are good sports to try new things and have found stuff they now love that they hadn’t even heard of a year ago. pretty fun!

  2. This is a great reminder to have my kids help out more with dinner prep, something I’ve been neglecting to do lately. They’ve been helping me in the kitchen since they could stand on a stool and I have a lot of sweet pictures and memories. That’s one suggestion I have – to take pictures of the kids helping!

    I’m also really glad to hear that your kids sometimes shun veggies. I’ve been feeding mine (ages 4 and 5) a wide array of veggies since they were babies, but they still act as if they’re foreign objects!

  3. Megan at Montessori Moments says:

    If you think your little ones are two little to cut with a knife, let them try using a wavy cutter, wire cheese slicer, or egg cutter. I wrote a post about this on my blog, detailing some of the ways my toddler class (18 months – 3 years) prepares food independently – http://www.montessorimoments-dynamite.blogspot.com/2011/11/independent-food-preparation-my-toddler.html.

  4. My girls–especially my oldest–likes to help me “cook.” I let her toss certain ingredients in a bowl and stir, etc., although I feel she is still too young to cut, etc. We have their toy kitchen actually in our kitchen, so they can pretend they are cooking while I am!

    I love our local Farmer’s Market. They even have a playground, so it’s very kid-friendly. The only downside is that it’s located in a pretty affluent section of town, so the prices are really high. Everything is almost exclusively organic and local, but the prices are expensive, so it’s a catch-22 of sorts. (I can get a better deal on organics at our BJ’s–similar to Costco.)

  5. Great post! Having your kids pick out veggies will almost always get them to at least give them a try. I’ve found growing them works also – they LOVE to eat “their” lettuce and spinach. It’s very cute.
    Here’s my recent post on getting your kids to eat healthy foods:
    http://behealthybehappywellness.com/blog/2012/04/tuesday-tip-get-your-kids-eating-better

  6. the best part about farmer’s market lettuce: the bugs crawling through the leaves! of course it always makes me jump when i find them, but its good to know the lettuce is fresh and not treated with pesticides, so there are lots of buggies making their home there :)

  7. We are going our first big garden this year and it is fun to have the kids excited about growing their food. They love going to farmer’s markets with me in the summer. My kids also are going up differently than I did. Calories are units of energy, fats are necessary, and protien vitamins and mineral are something in nutritionally dense foods. The other day at lunch my son told me “Mom this broth is superb!” He knows I make it myself.

  8. My son is just over 2 and has been helping me in the kitchen since he was around 18 months old. I explain the difference to him between food we grow and can eat and food that comes from a box/can that needs to be prepared. It’s so exciting to see this now sink in! The house we moved to last July had a large garden. I’ve scaled it back, but kept some items. The asparagus is now coming up and he goes out with me to harvest and starts yelling “Grow, eat!” when he sees the spears coming through the ground. When we come home from the grocery store or market, it’s hard to stop him from eating all the veggies and fruits right out of the bag. Now I’m working on teaching him that we need to clean our food before eating it :) I’m thrilled with the fact that he loves his fruits and veggies so much.

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