Cabbage has been known for thousands of years as a miracle food for good health. Kids can grow beautiful organic cabbage, an annual cool season crop that improves in flavor and sweetness in cold weather, in their raised bed garden, and plant it in the fall. Cabbage is a slow grower that takes up a lot of space. Kids can plan for a two feet square area for each cabbage plant and use a row cover to protect it from pests and weather. Cabbage is rich in vitamin K, C, A, calcium, fiber, and omega 3. It aids digestion, detoxifies the stomach and upper colon, kills bacteria and viruses, and stimulates the immune system. When kids eat organic sauerkraut, fermented cabbage, they are filling their stomachs with beneficial bacteria and microorganisms in the gut that plug gaps in the intestinal wall and reduce many diseases. Cabbages come in several varieties, to plant in the fall and harvest in early spring, to plant in early spring and harvest in summer, and to plant in late spring and harvest in fall. Late varieties are best for sauerkraut, providing the largest and longest keeping heads. As with all veggies in the brassica family, rotate these plants to prevent soil-borne diseases. Kids can harvest cabbage by removing the head, cutting a cross in the top of the cut stalk, and several smaller heads will grow. Crunchy cole slaw, raw shedded cabbage with carrots and onions, makes a refreshing salad. Steamed, grilled, or pan roasted, cabbage is great as a side dish with other veggies or in soups, stews, and rice dishes.
During the short winter days, kids need food to lift their spirit. Everyone knows that eating fresh organic fruits and vegetables is the number one habit for healthy living. They are also the foods that most lift our spirits. However, healthy organic foods tend to be more expensive and people have found it is easier and more convenient to consume prepared processed foods. Studies have shown that trans fats, which are vegetable oils that have been transformed into solid fats, increase the risk of depression, cancer, and cardiovascular system problems. Trans fats are found in a vast array of processed foods, baked goods, French fries, candy, crackers, fried foods, and at fast food establishments, as they tend to have a longer shelf life and greater flavor stability. Fresh picked organic fruit and veggies are sweet and flavorful as well as an incredibly rich source of vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber, flavonoids, plant sterols, and antioxidants, making kids healthier and happier. Local organic foods, that have been harvested early in the day before coming to the Farmers Market, look and taste better, and are able to retain more nutrients than foods that have traveled half way around the world and take four to seven days to reach the supermarket shelves. Growing organic food in a school garden, backyard, or community garden, makes it convenient and economical to eat much more in season fruits, berries, and veggies. Researchers have told us over and over again that half of a typical meal should consist of fresh fruits and veggies, but most kids and adults don’t eat anywhere near that amount. Kids eat what they grow. Pointing kids to the joys of growing and cooking their own food instills positive eating habits, leadership skills, and better attitudes. Cooking and eating is about enjoying and taking time to eat healthy food and socialize around the family table. Local organic food lifts the spirit, with a variety of fresh, diverse ingredients, delicious flavors and delightful aromas that balances bodily systems and supports mental performance.
Kids can plant leafy greens in the fall and continue sowing at three week intervals to have salads throughout the winter in Southern California, as in the picture above in my plot at Las Flores Community Garden. Lettuces, spinach, arugula, chard, mustard, and other stir fry greens and salad fixings thrive in cooler temperatures. In fact, leafy greens have a sweeter taste and more vivid colors after a frost. Many of these cool season crops will bolt in hot weather, and an emergence of flowering and seed development rather than leaf formation ends the harvest. Salad leaves as alternatives to lettuce heads have become popular with their rich spicy flavors and superior nutritional content. These leafy greens bring outstanding broad based nourishment to the table with vitamins, minerals, and a wide variety of phytonutrients. Arugula, mustard, bok choy, collards, and kale come from the cruciferous vegetable family, while spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens come from the amaranth family. Kids can start organic seeds indoors or sow directly in their raised bed garden in autumn. Mulch with compost and cover the seedlings with row covers or cloches to conserve soil moisture and protect from pests. Kids can harvest by cutting the outside leaves and leaving the plant to continue growing. Fresh leafy greens are delicious in salads, lightly steamed, or in a quick stir fry. For the best nutrition, harvest leaves in the morning. The more leaves kids harvest, the more will grow.
Broccoli is not only one of the healthiest veggies kids cans eat, but it also makes a beautiful landscape plant in the backyard garden. Broccoli is a prolific annual cool season crop, hardy to frost and light freezes that thrives best in a sunny location that is sheltered from the wind. Broccoli is rich in phytochemicals, vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber, a nutritional powerhouse that fights cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Kids can start organic broccoli seeds indoors and when the starter plants reach 3 or 4 inches tall take them outside for several hours in the heat of the day to harden off for a couple of weeks. Plant the seedlings under a row cover to protect them from pecking birds and other pests and to keep the soil moist and warm. To prevent the spread of soil borne diseases rotate the placement of brassica plants, like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, each season in the garden. Space the plants about two feet apart. As the central flower develops, it may be necessary to stake the plant to keep it stable. To harvest, cut off the heads and side shoots while the flower buds are closed and the heads are dark green. Cut the center head first, leave several inches on the stalk, and add compost to encourage the side stalks to develop over the next six weeks. Kids like to dip raw broccoli, along with other veggies, in hummus. Broccoli and broccoli stems are yummy in soups, rice, quinoa, and lentils. And kids love broccoli in pasta.
Kids love these decadent tarts which are organic, vegan, and gluten free. Heart healthy almonds and energy rich dates are a perfect pairing to create a crust for a sweet coconut milk pudding with organic kiwi slices. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a six cupcake tray with parchment paper liners. Scatter 5 ½ ounces of organic raw almonds on a baking tray and toast for 8 minutes with a few shakes in between, remove and allow to cool. Whizz the almonds in a blender or food processor until finely chopped. Add 7 ounces of organic medijool dates and blend. On a floured surface, divide the dough into six balls, roll out the date pastry, and cut into disks using the cupcake liner as a guide. Drape the date pastry over the pan, press into the edges, and trim off any excess. Bake for 10 minutes and cool completely before filing. Put 1 cup organic canned coconut milk in a pot with 3 tbsp organic sugar, 1½ tbsp cornstarch, ½ tsp vanilla, and pinch of sea salt and cook over low heat until thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Pour the pudding into the date crust tarts and refrigerate 1 hour. Decorate with fresh organic kiwi fruit slices on top.
The climax of my many visits as a small child to the date groves in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, the largest date producing region in North America, was sampling the rich date shakes and date candies that are not only yummy but good for you. Date Palms have been cultivated for centuries in Arabian counties. Dates are rich in vitamins and minerals, providing energy and fiber. In 1912, the King Solomon Date Tree was imported from Arabia, grew healthy in the Coachella Valley, and now produces 3,600,000 offsprings each year. In California, the medjool is the king of dates because of its size, flavor, and texture and has become popular worldwide. Dates are delicious baked in cookies and cakes, mixed in rice dishes, and blended in shakes. Date Energy Balls have been enjoyed for thousands of years and were a staple with travelers during the Middle Ages. This no bake, one bite dessert is perfect for hikers today. Put 5 ounces organic medjool dates roughly chopped, 2 ounces organic almonds, 2 ounces organic pistachios, 1 tbsp organic canola oil in a food processor until ground and resembling breadcrumbs. In a large bowl, shape into balls the size of a walnut. Place the balls in the refrigerator to set. Finish by rolling each ball in either organic toasted sesame seeds or shredded coconut.
Cauliflower is a wonderful winter veggie in the cabbage family with abundant health benefits in its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. The picture above, taken this November, is my first cauliflower this season. Cauliflower comes in many colors: snowy white, orange, green, and purple. An annual veggie that is hardy to light frosts, cauliflower will bolt in the heat and tastes better after a light freeze, making it a great crop to plant in the fall. Start the seeds indoors and when the starter plants reach 3 or 4 inches tall take them outside for several hours in the heat of the day to harden off for a couple of weeks. Plant the cauliflower seedlings in a raised bed filled with rich organic soil and cover with a floating row cover, a light weight synthetic fabric that allows sunlight and water to pass through to protect the newly planted seeds and seedlings. These covers can be installed over PVC pipe hoops to create insulated tunnels along garden rows to retain heat and moisture and keep out pests. Leave enough space, about 2 feet, between the plants to allow them to fully develop. Water regularly and when the head begins to develop, wrap the leaves around the head and bind them with twine to hold them together to prevent discoloration from the sun. When the head is 6 – 8 inches in diameter, harvest by cutting the head just below the first set of leaves with a sharp knife. After harvesting pull the entire plant from the soil to avoid soil born diseases. Fresh from the garden cauliflower can be added to pasta, rice, or soups to make a delicious and nutritious dish. Hearty cauliflower can be sliced through the stem and roasted with herbs. Kids also like organic steamed cauliflower mashed with organic red potatoes.