Breaking Bread: Kids learn not to turn noses up at vegetables
Broccoli and cauliflower often meet with sideways glances and wrinkled noses from the 12-and-under set.
That was the case with Brooklynn Mills, a third-grader at Easthaven Elementary School on the Southeast Side of Columbus, Ohio.
The 8-year-old took part in a vegetable tasting at her school, which included a baby carrot, a cherry tomato (the fruit that takes like a vegetable) and a sugar snap pea.
When the tasting ended, Brooklynn had taken a tiny nibble from the carrot, but no other veggies in the paper serving cup had been touched.
“I don’t eat this,” she said, and then, to quickly defend her habits, added, “I eat fruit -- bananas, pears, strawberries.”
“The carrot is good,” her classmate Jailynn Brown, 9, interjected. “They’re all good,” she added, showing off her empty cup.
Exposing students to fresh vegetables from the ground up is the goal of Teaching Gardens, a program sponsored by the American Heart Association this month at Easthaven and two other Columbus middle schools, Ridgeview and Champion.
The program is part of the heart association’s Healthy for Good movement, to provide garden-based nutrition education to youngsters in hopes that it has a lifelong positive effect.
In addition to the vegetable tasting, Easthaven students constructed wooden garden boxes, planted vegetables in them and created seed balls from clay to take home and plant.
Andrew Nash, a third-grade teacher at Easthaven, said the school’s lunch program includes a daily vegetable bar, so he knows that many of the students will partake -- although, he added, the veggies might be covered in ranch dressing.
Nash said he often allows students to sample unique vegetables he takes in his lunch, including seaweed, but he won’t tell them what it is until after they’ve tried it.
The carrots, tomatoes and snap peas this group was sampling were a far cry from seaweed, but for many students the sampling was their first.
The sugar snap peas were pleasantly surprising to some who had never tried them.
“It’s sweet, like candy sweet,” said fourth-grader Ricardo Bautista, 10, who asked, “Can I take some home?”
When votes were taken, the carrot was the consistent favorite, with snap peas finishing second and cherry tomatoes always last.
Easthaven Principal Vern Miller, observing the activities, noted that he understood the students’ feelings about the tomatoes.
“I’m not really a fan,” he acknowledged.
I guess kids aren’t alone in not always mixing well with vegetables.
Here’s a recipe for pasta with cherry tomatoes that, hopefully, might change some minds.
TOMATO “SALAD” PASTA
Recipe from “Back Pocket Pasta” by Colu Henry (Clarkson Potter, 240 pages, $28)
Makes 4 servings
2 pints cherry, grape or baby Sun Gold tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
¼ cup torn basil leaves, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons torn oregano leaves, plus more for garnish
¼ cup good-quality olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ pound short tubular pasta, such as penne
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, red pepper, flakes, herbs and olive oil. Stir together gently to coat the ingredients and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to come together.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt and return to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain.
Add the hot pasta directly to the bowl of tomatoes and toss to coat. Stir in the cheese and toss again.
Serve in bowls. Garnish with additional parsley, basil and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Pass additional grated cheese at the table, if desired.
PER SERVING: 498 calories, 15 g protein, 70 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 7 g sugars, 18 g fat (4 saturated), 5 mg cholesterol, 615 mg sodium
-- Lisa Abraham writes about food for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @DispatchKitchen.