My ten year old has explained to me in her words the reason kids do not like vegetables. She insists the majority of kids she knows is being raised on a diet rich in artificially flavored fast food meat and sugar laden snacks that come from a box. Once they taste and sometimes just smell real vegetables they immediately demonstrate disdain using words like blech and gross with extra syllables.
My daughter learned at a young age she would starve if she didn’t eat the meals prepared for her that included many vegetables. Perhaps she has acquired a taste for vegetables and likes most of them even weird varieties like artichokes, mushrooms and cabbage.
There are various theories as to why kids do not like vegetables. Kids have more taste buds than adults so maybe vegetables are overwhelmingly flavorful to them. Kids do not like bitterness. This one puzzles me because there are only a handful of bitter vegetables. My favorite has to be the scientific research; yes scientists have researched this pressing issue and have detected a gene that gives the carrier a heightened experience of bitterness. They have named this remarkable gene TAS2R38. It’s not likely to be easily recalled.
It’s back to bitterness. Kids that don’t like bitter foods can easily avoid kale, broccoli and dandelion greens along with black coffee and craft beer while still eating nutrient rich carrots, mushrooms and sweet peppers which are technically fruit.
Getting kids in the garden helps them to gain a finer appreciation for vegetables and fruits they might otherwise avoid. Asking kids to remove sod or spread manure is not the way to get them interested in growing food, however. Nor is asking them to turn compost or work amongst the bees acceptable.
Kids like to plant seeds and water the garden. They like to dig holes that don’t always have a purpose. Kids especially like to harvest vegetables and fruits from the garden.
Armed with properly fitting gloves and a bin or basket, kids make great harvesting companions and can get to the low-growing peas, beans, tomatoes and peppers virtually eliminating the need for us older folks to bend over, something that becomes increasingly difficult with each growing season. They can fit between rows and spot the splash of red in the strawberry plants. They can find every last potato deep in the soil and meet many an earthworm along the way.
Getting kids in the garden can often begin before the garden is even growing. Now is a great time to share seed catalogs or make a trip to the local garden center where seed packets are colorfully displayed.
Allowing kids to choose what they grow will make them much more interested in eating the vegetables or fruits the plant produces. While not as exciting as getting a new puppy, kids appreciate the time it takes to nurture the plants, water the plants and protect them from high winds or an unexpected frost.
There are no pizza seeds but there are seeds that will grow the numerous toppings that can turn a junk food into a nutritious and delicious meal. Just the same there are no chicken nugget seeds but there are plenty of seeds that would make a complimentary side dish to a roasted chicken you bought from one of many fantastic family farms in our region.