Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snacking in the Garden

Wherein a comment about Froot Loops gives SustainaMom hope….

A week or so ago, I read “Food as Religion” over at Arduous Blog. I always appreciate Ruchi’s thought-provoking posts, but this time I also really, really, really appreciated the comments on the post.
I, myself, am a Pollanite (although I probably eat less meat than he does... and definitely wouldn't get caught buying Froot Loops)….
— Thistle (of Sleeping Naked is Green)

What? There has to be a story behind this?
To be fair to His Pollanness, I believe he was buying Froot Loops for his notoriously picky eater son- I'm not sure anything makes you compromise your food ideals like an obstinate child. ;)
— Ruchi
I wasted about an hour searching for verification for this potentially libelous Froot Loop accusation, but I didn’t find anything about Froot Loops, per se.

However, I did find hope. Beautiful, soul-filling hope. In the form of interviews where Pollan talked about his son’s picky eating habits.

Excerpts from “Michael Pollan, Garden Fresh,” an interview by David Beers in The Tyee. Comments are Pollan quotes:
"My 16-year-old son Isaac has been a very complex, tortuous food story. He was a terrible eater. One of the reasons I got interested in writing about food is he didn't eat anything. I love food, my wife loves food, and he just was tortured about food. He was one of these kids -- and there are many of them -- who only ate white food. He ate bread, pasta, rice, potatoes. There are a lot more of these kids than there used to be. I'm not exactly sure why.

"But he basically found food scary and overwhelming….

"A very interesting turnaround happened about two years ago. He discovered food. He became very serious about it, partly through cooking."
Pollan comments that gardening also helps expand kids’ willingness to try new foods. We’ve seen this in our home, because my son will eat a few green beans when he’s helped pick and snap them. But as soon as the summer’s over, and the beans wither, he’s done. He eats nothing green 9 months out of the year. No frozen green beans, no canned green beans. Nothing.


To be honest, I have been struggling with my gardening plans this year. I enjoyed last year’s garden — especially my first square-foot garden — but I didn't really have time to weed and care for the the regular tilled-ground garden. And don’t have the money to build more than one additional square-foot garden this year. So I was thinking I’d scale back.

But with the renewed hope that my kiddo will try new foods, I’ve renewed my determination to grow more than I did last year! And I’m going to choose more foods that said kid can eat right off the vine. (He likes green beans raw, but I’ve read too many can be harmful, so I won’t let him eat but one or two.)

However, I must admit that I’m a bit of a picky eater, too. And this will only be my third year of gardening. So I’m still overwhelmed and would love suggestions for foods that can be eaten right off the vine.

We have blueberries and strawberries that he might try this year. I’ll plant more watermelon, which he ate one time last year. He’ll eat carrots — and I learned that I need to plant carrots very early since they did not do well in the heat last year.

What else can we plant that can be eaten straight off the vine? Someone tell me about the sugar snap peas, which I’ve read can be eaten raw. I'll try anything that has a crunchy texture. Ideas? Inspiration?

(Also, I loved all the suggestions for "Gardening with a Toddler" last week, and I've borrowed Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots from the library to make the garden more kid-friendly. Thanks for the inspiration.)


Wendy said...

Early peas - before the peas inside get round - are delicious. My children eat them straight off the vine - pod and all ... and even the leaves are edible (and delicious). The caveat is that you need to plant them early, early - as soon as you can work the ground, because they like cold feet. Give them something to grow up, too. They're vines and need support, but not stront support.

Grape and cherry tomatoes are also fun for kids. Grape tomatoes, especially, are incredibly sweet. My daughter loves them straight off the vine.

You might also try some edible flowers. Nasturtiums are fun and pretty. Scarlet runner beans are amazing, and the pretty red flowers are delicious.

Some other pick-and-eat favorites include raspberries (which are wicked easy to grow - but be sure you either have time for annual pruning or the space not to care ;), cucumbers, and leaf lettuces.

My kids have a blast in the garden all summer. It's fun to watch them graze ... literally ;).

Anonymous said...

Sugar snap or snow peas can definitely be eaten raw, right off of the vine. They are sweet and crunchy and delicious and very easy to grow. If you use the square food gardening method I believe you can plant 16 per square!

Another suggestion is to get a cherry, grape, or pear type tomato plant. One year I thought I was having problems with the fruit not ripening or being stolen by birds until the little neighbor boy confessed that he had been snacking on the ripe ones!

Green Bean said...

I agree with both Wendy and Kikiverde - sugar snap peas and shelling peas are big favorites at our place. My boys really love the snap ones but won't eat them anywhere but in our own yard!

Agreed on the cherry tomatoes, though neither of my boys will eat ours. Grapes and blackberries are big winners and you can probably still get some bare root. I've heard blueberries are great but we had no luck with those.

As far as edible flowers, I had no idea you could eat the flowers on scarlet runner beans! I'll have to try those. My boys like borage which has pretty blue edible flowers, is great for pollinators, and reseeds itself readily (great for lazy gardeners like me!)

Helena said...

Cherry tomatos! My now-two-year-old loved them last summer, so I'm planting a bunch this year so we have enough. :)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I don't have any suggestions for snackable plants in the garden, but I can tell you that the Froot Loop reference was from when Arduous saw Michael Pollan speak in person.

SustainaMom said...

Thanks for all of the suggestions, everyone! I'll definitely try edible flowers and peas. Maybe he will pretend he's a deer or something and eat those. Totally forgot about blackberries; that would be awesome! We'll have cherry tomatoes like the last two years, and he's tasted them several times, but he's just so darned scared of the texture :( Kikiverde, if he'd steal our neighbor's tomatoes, I'd pay them a fortune to grow some for him!

Erin - Thanks so much for that link. I hate that I missed that post last year. I probably would've read Pollan by now if I'd realized where his interest from food began. I have "The Omnivore's Dilemma," but food is such a difficult subject around here that I haven't read it yet...

Renee @ Loca-faces said...

I would try some new varieties of cherry and grape tomatoes, especially if the ones you've grown in the last few years were common varieties. you'll get a lot more flavour from some of the more unusual, but less transportable, varieties. The red super sweet 100 is, super sweet. We like the yellow grape. They taste quite different from each other and have varying texture. The grape is firmer in my experience.

Same with cucumbers. I'd try some of the different varieties.

A good seed source like Seeds of Change or FedCo will get you craving for more... and give you some great ideas. A farmer friend wrote a great post recently on their own perusing of the seed catalogs- it's an inspirational read with good pics.

I'd also suggest growing some nice smelly plants, like lemon verbena - which makes simply awesome tea - and mints. You'll find the kids love the smell on their hands after stroking the plants.


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