Hey Boy, Don't Eat All the Rhubarb

As the farmers markets begin to roll and my garden grows among the weeds I am given the wonderful reminder of why we should always enjoy these events with friends, family and children. I can't quite say why exactly, but when we share the process of growing and obtaining our food with people we love, the food itself becomes more enjoyable.  
The best, most honest and simple examples come when I am with my son, Kadin. It started when he was a year and a half old and his habit of tasting everything from cat fur to dandelions. The cucumbers in my back yard were beginning to come in and there were 2 or 3 that were just the perfect size for his hands. The look on his face when I grabbed one and munched it down was a mixture of amazement and disbelief. And of course, he wanted nothing more than to follow suit.  To this day he still loves cucumbers from the garden or market. On the rare winter day when we bring a Mexican or California cucumber home, he could care less no matter how we slice it up.
And this theory works no matter what it is. Just yesterday, Kadin, now 5, was in the garden with me when I noticed that our entire plot was being overrun with little mustard sprouts. What would have been a simple and tiresome weeding event became a feeding frenzy on mustard (with the occasional spinach break). The same is true for us at the market. When we begin to really talk about plants and how they grow, he becomes much more interested in eating them. Add to this the freedom for him to pick out his own greens, carrots, berries, etc.  Well, I often have to buy my own.  

Perhaps this simply means that my kid is a freak of nature, but I think it really points to one of the many important reasons to get connected with your food and it's source.  Not only does this boy of 5 love vegetables, he is always right by my side, planting seeds, weeding, watering and of course, harvesting.  At this point, he even has his own garden where he gets full responsibility over what gets planted and how it is taken care of.  Last year?  Yes, his basil and tomatoes outgrew mine by a good foot. 

 As further encouragement to all of you who are still unsure, this interest in growing food usually carries over to cooking.  It can be a seamless transition from harvesting to washing, chopping and cooking.  When his friends come over, this enthusiasm for food of all kinds often becomes contagious.  My favorite is when one of his picky friends comes over and the mom has already told us that there is no way that their child will eat that.  Well, in my experience, when the parents are not around to tell them what they won't like and when they aren't there to pile a bunch of starch and sugar on their plate for them...they simply don't want to miss out on the fun that is the vast flavor of food.  Research about children and food shows that a large part of their likes and dislikes are due not to taste, but how they perceive it and if they think they will like what is offered. This explains the power of peer pressure, not just from friends, but also parents who have bought into the idea of kids menus and the label of "picky eater."

For further reading, insight and tips about getting kids to eat, I recommend: 



Lawrence Black is a writer and editor at Simple, Good, and Tasty. He can be reached at