Kids can visit the Farmers Market once a week for fully ripe produce picked at the peak of perfection and a diversity that is constantly changing with the seasons. This variety of produce ignites creativity in the kitchen and provides a healthy nutrient balance. The closer a food is to having been harvested the more powerful its content of textures and nutrients, making it more delicious and more effective in combating disease and improving the health and wellbeing of the family. The taste difference between a fresh picked organic peach and its canned, jarred, packaged, or conventionally grown with poisons equivalent is two different things entirely, one filled with life and one not so much. Food is medicine. Eating fresh, local, seasonal, organic fruits and veggies saves time and money at the doctors office and on prescriptions. Eating food that grows where we live also helps with our allergies and immunities. Just picked local seasonal organic ingredients have surprisingly complex flavors and taste amazing using simple recipes, like roasting veggies with a sprinkle of organic extra virgin olive oil and sea salt in the oven.
Kids love to visit the Farmer’s Market, tasting the local organic fresh fruits, smelling the flavor within, and talking to the farmers that grow them. Buying organic produce from small local farmers helps to financially sustain their farms while bringing the best food available home to our families. Kids learn where their food comes from and of the adventures farmers have bringing the food to market. Buying from local farmers is economical and eco-friendly, saving the energy used to prepare food for shipping and the fuel used by trucks to transport it. The available produce changes with the season bringing a wide range of crop diversity, depending on the climate and soil conditions of the region, which brings a healthy variety to the table. A tip farmers give kids is not to wash the produce until you are ready to use it and don’t refrigerate it until it is fully ripe.
Kids can create an elegant meal with hearty slices of roasted cauliflower on a power packed bed of quinoa hash. Cauliflower is low in calories but filling as it is high in fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Quinoa is a superfood, a plant-based source of complete protein, gluten-free, rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Kids can rinse ½ cup organic quinoa and add 1 cup of water in a pot, bring to a boil and simmer 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°. Using all organic ingredients, scrub and chop 1 sweet potato, 1 celery stick, and 1 carrot, as the skins are rich in vitamins, and steam with ½ cup of peas, ¼ cup of onion, 1 minced garlic clove, and 1 minced seeded jalapeño. Slice the cauliflower down the middle to get 4 or 5 steaks. Slice 12 organic mushrooms. In a small bowl, mix 2 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil, 1 minced clove of garlic, with minced sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Brush the mushrooms and both sides of the cauliflower steaks with the oil mixture and place on on the pan. Roast for 20 minutes. Mix the steamed veggies with the quinoa and add 1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup homemade roasted tomato sauce, and ½ tsp sea salt. Place the cauliflower steak with mushrooms on top of the quinoa hash to serve.
Fermentation is a healthy way to preserve foods, converting the starches to be more digestible and introducing living probiotic cultures into our guts to help absorb more of the food’s nutrients. Microbes are everywhere in the environment, floating in the atmosphere, in the oceans, soil, and in our guts. When leaves fall in the forest, microbes decompose them into soil-building humus to feed the trees. Microbes also decompose the food being fermented, and as they consume the sugars in the food, they produce alcohol and acids. There are two types of organisms that play a key role in fermentation and often these two types are used together: bacteria (lactobacillus and acetobacter) used to produce yogurt, pickles, and vinegar; and fungi (wild yeasts and molds) used to produce bread, wine, beer, and cheese. In the gut, these beneficial microbes keep the small percentage of harmful bacteria in check and activate our immune systems.
Fermented foods are not only good for us, but have fizzy and tart, savory and satisfying complex flavors. High quality sea salt is the key factor in fermenting vegetables in brine, a saltwater solution that acts on food by drawing water out of its cells, killing any harmful bacteria, and changing the pH of the environment. Kids can ferment their harvest by filling jars with organic veggies from their raised bed garden. Pictured above are peppers, squash, tomatoes, carrots, and rice salt (koji) with sea salt, spices, and pure water. Wash and chop the veggies to be fermented. Crush a garlic clove and place it at the bottom of a glass jar, add herbs and spices, and fill the jar with veggies leaving 1 inch at the top. Dissolve 2 tsp sea salt into ½ cup of water and pour into the jar, submerging the veggies beneath the brine. Fasten the lid loosely and allow the jar to sit on the counter for 1 – 2 weeks, depending on the vegetable, to ferment. Open the jar daily to release the pressure of the CO2. Taste the veggie to test the salty, sour flavor. Slow the fermentation by placing the jar in the refrigerator and eat within 2 weeks.
Kids in Asia eat biller melon stir fry with chilies, vegetables, rice, and oil, but many think it is the bitterest vegetable they have ever tried. Bitter melon is a fruit related to cucumbers, and is ready to harvest in late summer. Organic bitter melon grows well where summers are warm and long. Like other melons, it rapidly grows long vines. Kids can plant the melon to grow up a trellis or fence to keep the air circulating the melons and to save space in a raised bed garden. Why eat something so very bitter? When prepared properly with fat and spice, the bitter melon can become addictive. Plus a balance of bitter and sweet is a stimulus to the appetite. Grapefruit is the sour fruit most kids in the West know, but bitter melon is popular across all of Asia for its healing properties. It is considered a miracle antioxidant, helping those with asthma, diabetes, and HIV. The bitterness comes from nutrients called cucurbitacins which are said to cleanse the blood, aid digestion, and kill cancer cells. This melon is exceptionally rich in vitamins and minerals, with phytonutrients that help weight loss, bacterial infections, and skin inflammation and wounds. Rinse the melon, cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and slice. Toss the sliced melon in a bowl with sea salt and let sit at least 2 hours, tossing occasionally to help reduce the bitterness. Rinse the melon and use a towel to squeeze out excess liquid and add to a coconut milk curry. The melon slices can also be blanched in boiling water for a minute or two to reduce the bitterness, drained, and then added to a stir fry.
Kids can sprout just about any raw organic whole grain, bean, or seed in a matter of a few days for a fun addition to most any salad. Sprouts are the plants most nutritious stage, and they are concentrated natural sources of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids. In a jar with a lid, kids can create a miniature kitchen garden of tiny power packed plants. Lentils, chickpeas, and beans are rich in protein; during the germination process, the sprouts synthesize new protein and a surge of vitamins from the carbohydrates and fats. Wheat berries, rice, millet and other whole organic grains have all the essential nutrients of the grain magnified when they are spouted. Kids can combine one part whole grain, bean, or seed with 3 parts pure filtered water in the jar. For grains and beans use a ½ cup, for seeds, like quinoa, alfalfa, or chia start with 2 tablespoons. Cover the top of the jar with two layers of cheesecloth secured with a rubber band, and let soak out of direct sunlight at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours. Turn the jar upside down over the sink and drain the water through the cheesecloth. Remove the cheesecloth from the jar, refill with water, put on the lid, and shake to rinse. Remove the lid, cover with cheesecloth, secure with a rubber band, and drain into the sink, shaking out all the water. Kids can also use a sprouting jar with a screen lid to rinse and drain the sprouts, like in the picture above. The soaking water is rich in nutrients and can be used in soups or to water plants. To make sure that mold doesn’t grow, kids can place the jar upside down in a bowl on an angle so the sprouts can continue to drain and air can flow through the cheesecloth. Let set for another 12 hours and repeat the process until the beans, grains, or seeds sprout, 1 – 5 days. Keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days for a bright, crunchy, energy filled addition to a salad.
Summer squash varieties, crookneck, pattypan, sunburst, and zucchini, are fast growing and prolific, producing fruit in 40 to 50 days. Summer squashes are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants with skin that has phytochemicals that fight diabetes, protect the liver, and suppress coughs. Kids love squash mixed in pasta, rice, stew, or blended into sauces. Kids can also eat fresh, firm zucchini blossoms that are slightly opened to stuff, sauté, and bake. Squash blossoms are said to be clarifying and to serve when you wish to be understood. Native Americans think of squash as one of the three sisters in a garden, with corn and beans, whose roots nourish each other and when harvested make a nutritionally balanced meal. Kids can start the seeds in small pots in late spring and transplant in early summer to a larger pot or raised bed garden filled with rich organic soil. When harvesting in mid summer, kids can use clippers to cut through the stem 1 inch from the fruit when it is 4 to 6 inches long. The small fruit are called courgettes and are best eaten fresh as they do not store well. If left on the plant, they are called marrows and will grow tougher fruit a foot or longer and will store well.
A fresh picked organic fruit smoothie for breakfast is an energy and mood booster! Kids and toddlers love smoothies which are a delicious and convenient way for kids to get fresh vital nutrients necessary for good health. Organic fruit grown at home to the peak of perfection is filled with essential nutrients and tastes especially sweet and vibrant and make the most flavorful smoothies. Organic fruits from the Farmers Market or local farm produce stand are a better choice than supermarket organic, which may have been picked unripe and shipped many miles. Smoothies are quickly and easily assimilated by the body and contain all the fiber of the fruits used so they keep kids fuller longer. Apple, pear, melon, and pineapple are mildly sweet; apricot, berries, fig, grape, orange, peach, and papaya are sweet; ginger, grapefruit, lemon, and lime add zing; and bananas, mango, and avocado add rich and silky textures. Kids can choose one ingredient from each group or choose one color of fruit for a flavorful smoothie.When bananas get too ripe, kids can remove the peel and put them in a plastic bag in the freezer to save for future drinks. Frozen bananas have the texture of ice cream and make smoothies rich and creamy mixed in the blender. A blender or a high speed Bullet is quick and easy for kids to use. Kids can rinse and chop the fruit, keeping the thin skins on but pealing away the skins of citrus fruits and bananas, pop them in the blender, and mix. Kids can drink the smoothie immediately to get the most nutritional value and most fabulous taste.