Let kids play with their food? Sure, sometimes!
Sometimes it's a great idea to let kids play with their food.
This is especially true when introducing them to a new vegetable or fruit. You can start right now in June with rhubarb, asparagus and greens from the Farmers Market. Rhubarb is easy to turn into a wand for a young princess or wizard, and if there is a small bowl of honey or maple syrup for dipping, a kid can enjoy the eye-squinching delight of its sweet-and-sour crunch. Asparagus is a vegetable that seems designed to be waved around at the dinner table. It can be steamed whole and dipped into Ranch dressing, or try my recipe below for roasted asparagus with lemon (below).
When I was 10 years old, I screamed every time I saw an onion in my food, but nowadays I plant at least 500 onion seedlings for winter harvest, not to mention shallots and garlic. So tastes can change! My dad coaxed me to eat lettuce by sprinkling it with sugar and rolling it into a little tube. If you want to avoid sweets, you could let children dip a leaf into their favorite dressing or roll it around a piece of pineapple. Green beans (and purple and yellow ones, too) are perfect finger food, too.
The Farmers Market is partnering with Carlton County's "One Vegetable One Community" project to celebrate beans in 2017. You can pick up free bean seeds at many area locations, including the Market. Beans take around 50 days to start producing, so growing a few plants, even in a five-gallon bucket, is a good way to let little ones experience the patience of waiting for harvest while enjoying the more immediate fun of watching plants sprout, flower, and produce tiny beans. And they will eat their harvest with pride, either with their fingers, or maybe even a fork.
Check out our Facebook page and website for kids' projects and games at the Market, and more info about dates, times and locations.
Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Zest
• Asparagus, whole stalks, ends peeled if desired
• Olive oil, 1-2 Tbsp
• Grated zest of 1 lemon (organic preferred)
• Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400. Put asparagus in a roasting pan and roll it around with your hands to coat it with olive oil. (This is a good project for kids.) Sprinkle with lemon zest and give it another toss. Salt and pepper to taste. Roast for approximately 15 minutes, checking and turning it after 10 minutes, until it's as tender as you like.