When my then eight year old son was at the pediatrician’s for a checkup, the doctor asked me about his diet, wondering if he regularly ate a variety of different foods. He’s a pretty picky eater, I replied. She then turned to my son and inquired what kinds of foods he liked to eat. I know she was expecting to hear things like pizza and French fries. Instead, he thought for a few moments and then replied, “Well, I really like Leek and Gruyere quiche.” The doctor turned to me in amazement and said, “He doesn’t sound very picky to me!”
Well, actually he was. He wasn’t eager to try new foods. (And he did like pizza and French fries, BTW.) But he wasn’t “vegetable-phobic.” One of the reasons my son didn’t turn up his nose at many kinds of vegetables is that they weren’t unfamiliar foods to him. Our meals always included lots of different kinds of vegetables and fruits. When soup was served, it was homemade winter squash bisque or broccoli cheese chowder rather than anemic noodles and over-salted broth from a can. A layer of chopped spinach added color to mac and cheese. Pancakes had chopped apples or blueberries mixed into the batter. A bowl of chopped fruit turned into a delectable dessert with a sprinkling of toasted coconut. My strategy was to offer a wide array of produce as a matter of routine without making a fuss about trying or finishing anything.
But equally important, he’d grown many kinds of vegetables himself in our home garden. The leeks in his favorite quiche didn’t strike him as strange or weird because he’d helped to plant and harvest them. Tomatoes, beans, and zucchini he’d helped nurture were always enticing. Even eggplant, peppers, and chard were worth a taste when he grew them himself.
Now this didn’t mean my son was crazy about every kind vegetable I served, or that a new combination or presentation didn’t meet with some skepticism. He’s never warmed up to lettuce-based salads – the texture of the raw greens just doesn’t appeal to him. Today as a young adult he still isn’t a very adventurous eater, but he includes a healthy variety of fruits and veggies in his diet. Gardening played a vital – and enjoyable – part in building his sound nutritional foundation, one that will support his good health far into the future.
Need guidance Growing Veggie Eaters? Browse through these great resources:
- Garden Stories: The Hornworm Incident
- Your School Garden Questions: Answered! (part 1)
- Reflections of a Perfectionist Gardener
- My Kids Aren’t In the Garden
- Digging Into Soil
- Maintaining Youth Engagement in the Garden All Summer Long
- Strawberries in a Hanging Basket
- Plant a Seed and Watch it Grow – or Not
- Monarch Monitoring
- Say YES to High School Gardening Intensives