UNIQUE MARKET FINDS; and how to get kids to eat them

IMG_8498Walking through the local farmer’s market is a feast for the senses. It’s a journey full of colors, smells and flavors – some familiar and some new and interesting. Farm markets will soon be stocked with all sorts of unique vegetables. From turnips and kohlrabi to chard and fennel, there are many choices that perhaps you’ve never even tried yourself. Maybe you’re afraid to buy them because you’re certain your kids won’t touch them. Here are a few simple recipes that will help you introduce these vegetables to your family along with some general tips for helping your children try new foods.

TIPS FOR ENCOURAGING YOUR KIDS TO TRY UNIQUE FOODS

  • Let your child shop with you and help make choices. They’ll be more excited to try something new if they had a hand in picking it out.
  • Allow them to help prepare meals. Sure it takes a little longer, but if they taste the new ingredients as they are going into the dish, they will be more likely to eat the meal because the foods in it aren’t unfamiliar and scary.
  • Introduce new foods in combination with familiar ones. Don’t serve up a new vegetable along with a new main dish all in one night. Try mixing a new taste in with an old one. See my recipe below for an example. It’s not about hiding the flavors, it’s about making the new experience a pleasant one.
  • Talk about how the new food is similar to some they know. For example, when I first introduced my children to persimmon I tasted it first and explained to them that it is like a combination of cantaloupe and mango, two foods that they know and love.
  • Don’t force it. Never force your child to eat (or even taste) any food. That means no bribing them to try even just a bite in return for dessert or for other privileges. This leads them to believe that the food is so terrible that you have to offer them something in return, plus it sets a bad precedent that they will always get a “reward” for trying new foods.
  • Don’t make a big deal about it – If you introduce the new food by saying “We’re having a new vegetable for dinner tonight! You’ve probably never even seen it before.” You’re likely going to be met with resistance. Simply offer it up as part of the meal and let everyone discover it as they eat.
  • Model good behavior. Whether you realize it or not, your children are watching what and how you eat. If you don’t care for the taste of a new food, be conscious of how you react. You don’t need to announce that you didn’t like it. If asked, politely say that perhaps you might like it more next time.
  • Don’t give up. It takes some children at least a dozen times trying a food before they like it. When they say they hate it and make faces, you can respond by saying something like. “I’m sorry you don’t like it yet. Perhaps you’ll like it better next time.” This lets them know that tastes are acquired.
  • Start young. Breaking bad habits is so much harder than building good ones from the very start.

COOL KOHLRABI

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This odd looking vegetable is a member of the cabbage family and therefore features a similar sweet yet peppery flavor. The bulbous bottom is the part most commonly consumed, but the entire plant is edible. The skin has a rubbery texture like broccoli stems and can be white, light green or bright purple. When buying Kohlrabi pick vegetables that are firm and solid, not soft or squishy. Trim off the leaves and peel or slice off the most outer layer of the bulb.

APPLE & KOHLRABI SLAW

I used my “combine new foods with familiar foods” tip and paired this unique vegetable with one of their favorite foods… apples! The flavor of the sweet juicy apple helped diminish some of the peppery, sour taste of the kohlrabi and the sweet dressing brought all the flavors together.

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What You Need:

  • 2 small kohlrabi, outer skin cut off, sliced in matchsticks
  • 1 tart apple (Pink Lady or Granny Smith), sliced in matchsticks.
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • salt
  • pepper

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Add in kohlrabi and apples. Toss and serve.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

IMG_8549They were excited about the apples which made them interested enough to be willing to try the new dish. They asked about “the green things” and wondered what those were. I told them it was a crunchy vegetable called kohlrabi that tastes a little like celery (which is not a lie). They mostly just ate all the apples first and when they tasted a bite of the kohlrabi they did lose a bit of enthusiasm. My middle daughter made a face, but the other two ate most of what was on their plate. They didn’t love it YET. BUT, no one made fake vomiting sounds or started crying, so in my book it was a successful first taste of one very unique vegetable from the local farmer’s market!

FUN WITH FENNEL

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Fennel or Anise is a crunchy, somewhat sweet vegetable with a white or pale green bulb with long green stalks topped with feathery green leaves. Fennel is a part of the same family as parsley, carrots, dill and coriander, but it’s licorice-like flavor is similar to no other.

Here’s a recipe that I used to introduce my children to the flavor of fennel. Again I paired it with something sweet with which they know and love… mandarin oranges. Cuties to be exact! And salmon is always on the list of favorite dinners here.

SALMON WITH ORANGE FENNEL SALSA

IMG_8532What You Need;

  • 1 lb. wild salmon fillets
  • cedar planks
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • pepper
  • zest of one orange

For Salsa:

  • 2 mandarin oranges (Cuties), peeled
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 1 tsp. EVOO
  • 3 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • pepper

Soak cedar planks in water for one hour or more. Heat grill. Place salmon fillets on planks. Brush 1 tsp. olive oil on salmon. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, pepper and orange zest. Place on grill. Try not to lift the cover often. Keep a close eye on it and water nearby in case plank catches fire. Cook salmon until preferred temperature. I like it cooked through so I cooked it for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare salsa. Combine oranges, fennel, oil, orange juice, ginger, salt and pepper. Stir well and set aside. When salmon is cooked, spoon salsa over top.

While they didn’t eat the fennel as quickly as the oranges and the salmon, they all tried it without me forcing them to take a bite. We talked about the unique flavor of the fennel, what we liked about it and other vegetables it reminded us of.

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GREAT GREENS

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Northeast Ohio farm markets are brimming with locally grown greens such as arugula, collards, kale, mesclun, mizuna, mustards, mache, spinach, and more. This week the kids and I chose escarole and swiss chard to create a colorful salad to accompany our salmon dinner. Escarole is part of the endive family with peak season from June through October. There are many varieties of Chard. The greens can be prepared like spinach; the stalks, like asparagus.

ESCAROLE & SWISS CHARD SALAD

Some kids love salad while others won’t touch it. I find that when I add a bit of fruit to a salad the kids gobble it all up. Suddenly they’ve gotten all that green goodness in their bellies without even thinking about it. Most days I usually put only vegetables in our salads, but to tone down the slightly bitter, pungent flavor of the swiss chard and escarole, I decided some sweetness would make the kids more willing to try this one. The escarole looks similar to romaine which is a green we commonly eat and the beautiful red veins of the chard paired with pear and dried cranberries made this salad enticing enough for my kids to give it a try. Local berries from the farm market would also be a great choice.

What You Need:

Escarole, 1 head, chopped

Swiss Chard, a few leaves, chopped

1/2 cucumber, sliced

1 pear, sliced

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup feta, diced

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

For the Dressing: 

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1 tsp. honey

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 garlic clove, minced

Chop lettuces and place in bowl. Top with cucumber, pear, cranberries, feta and walnuts. In a separate bowl combine dressing ingredients and mix well with a whisk. Spoon over salad.

My kids didn’t even notice that the salad I made used greens that they had never tasted before. The salad looked familiar enough that they asked for some and ate it, no questions asked. After they had tried it and inquired about the pretty red leaves of the chard, we talked about the new lettuces they had just eaten.

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FORMING NEW HABITS

By creating a positive experience with new foods, children will be more likely over time to keep trying them and eventually may learn to love them. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and kids don’t learn to love vegetables overnight. So this summer as you stroll through your local farm market, don’t be afraid to pick up some of the unique and beautiful veggies that perhaps you haven’t even tried. Embrace them and use them as a way to teach your children about all the many gifts from Mother Nature.

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