Having grown up on a farm in northern Wisconsin, spring always makes me a little nostalgic. My mom would plant this huge garden, which I guarded and protected daily from wandering animals. In fact, she still tells the story of how she worried I would uproot things as a toddler when I rambled up and down the rows. So she told me I needed to pat the plants and talk to them. Unfortunately there are pictures of me floating around with a little kerchief on my head patting cabbages.
If my brothers are reading this, please, do not publish them. Seriously. I mean it.
But after I left the farm I fell into the rut most of us fall into, the time crunch. I found it difficult to squeeze out that extra time and convinced myself that take-out was an acceptable substitute. Looking back now as a middle-aged woman, I had a pretty sloppy first half. I finally admitted that things needed to change for me and my whole family.
That’s when I rekindled my love affair with vegetables.
Guess what, it’s springtime! Soon there will be a wide-ranging selection of seasonal foods. So here are my top six ideas for getting more veggies into your family’s meals.
1. Plant your own garden. Even if you’re a city dweller, if you can find a small space for a pot or two with peas or tomatoes, kids will love this. What better way to teach them about food and where it comes from than to plant seeds and cultivate the fruits of your labor? If you have room, even a small four foot by four foot plot can yield a nice bounty. Check out Pinterest for some great tips.
2. Buy a salad spinner. These are very economical and are true multi-taskers. I use mine to wash any greens or light-weight vegetables I buy or grow. You can also use the exterior to toss or serve salads for a quick dinner and wash one less bowl! Bonus tip: Let your kids do the actual spinning. Involving them in food prep makes it much more likely they’ll enjoy eating it. And they’ll probably get a kick out of the contraption.
3. Take your children with you to the farmers’ markets. What a great place to see all the colorful foods available in season. Let them help you pick out foods they find visually appealing. Afraid they’ll pick something you’re unfamiliar with or can’t prepare? Fret not! There’s this crazy thing called the internet; you can find recipes for anything there. I promise.
4. Don’t have a big farmers’ market community near you? How about a grocery store? Yes, it can be a pain to schlep kids through the supermarket, but hey, how else would they learn about selecting and preparing food. Spend most of your time in the produce section and let them pick out some things. (See number three above.)
5. Plot out a rough menu and cook ahead on weekends if you can. You can prepare a lot of things in advance to make quick dinners when you need them on crazy weeknights. Wash your produce and greens in advance so it’s not a chore when you need them. Store washed greens wrapped in paper towel in a zip-top baggie with the air squeezed out. This will prolong their shelf life. You’re welcome.
6. Got picky eaters in your house? Buy a spiralizer. This is my most recent purchase and it is crazy amazing. For roughly $40 you can have a professional quality tool with four different blade options. This is great for zucchini, squash, onions, potatoes, carrots, beets… See where I’m going with this? You can make ribbons or curl up just about anything, and what kid wouldn’t love that? Hello, sweet potato curly fries? Yes, please. Not sure what to do with it once it’s cut up? See number three above, you’ll find more recipes and tips than you can shake a stick at.
Huh, why would you shake a stick at anything? Why is that even a saying? It was probably made up by a farmer. Sometimes we can be an odd lot. But we do grow pretty awesome food.