Every year, it’s the same. By the time our Ohio winter is waning, I am deep in the throes of a fresh vegetable craving. March is often so cold that my garden still seems like a distant dream. The same goes for a meal including anything fresh-picked from the back yard. Lucky for us, Cincinnati has had plenty of warm days already this year. We have been able to pick and cook some homegrown deliciousness, and in a matter of just a few weeks, you and your kids can be doing the same.
So, what do you plant that will grow quickly enough to harvest before the kids lose interest? More importantly, what can you grow that the kids will actually eat? I have a few solutions.
To be honest, even though I passionately love most vegetables, radishes are not usually my favorites. I will skip them in a salad or a relish tray. They are so fast and easy to grow though! Some varieties of these pretty little gems are ready to harvest in as little as 20 days, and they don’t mind the cool soil of spring one bit. I was determinted to like them, and I have found two ways I actually do enjoy radishes.
My favorite way to cook nearly every vegetable is roasting, and radishes are no exception. To roast, trim tips and greens and slice in half. Place on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. You know you have the right amount when the radishes are coated without having excess oil on the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can add additional seasonings at this point to if you want to. Garlic, rosemary, or thyme would all be good. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until radishes begin to brown and are easily pierced with a fork.
The second way I prepare radishes is pickling. We enjoy these on grilled burgers, as an accompaniment to Asian food, or alongside some hummus and pita chips for a snack.
1 bunch of radishes, washed, ends trimmed. very thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, peeled, sliced into very thin rings, rings separated
1½ cups white vinegar
½ cup water
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs kosher salt
Add radishes and onion to a pint sized Mason jar or bowl with a lid. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Pour liquid over vegetables. Cover and chill for at least an hour, but if you can wait two or three days, they are even better. These store easily in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
Green Onions and Chives
I could hardly believe it, but these spring veggies poked their heads out of the ground before Valentines Day this year. Chives are perennial and come up every year with no help from me at all. With our mild winter, some of the onion sets we had inadvertently left in the ground over the winter are already flourishing as well. Because both of these are so easy to grow, we use them—somewhat interchangeably—throughout the growing season in a hundred different ways.
Most often, chives get tossed into scrambled eggs along with a bit of goat cheese or Boursin. Green onions sprinkle the top of sweet and sour chicken or beef and broccoli. Here are a few of the recipes I use most often for these prolific vegetables.
Pot stickers You can easily substitute a small bunch of chives for the green onions in this recipe.
Goat Cheese Quiche (with chives or green onions)
Chive and Cheddar Biscuits I could be happy to never eat another cheesy biscuit at a seafood reastaurant as long as I keep these babies on hand.
A kid favorite, right? I know, I know. Trust me. You can (probably) get your kids to eat kale. Even though my super-picky middle child claims red peppers (and Brussels sprouts and cabbage and onions and mushrooms and….) make him barf, he willingly ate this delicious soup. Plus, kale is a cinch to grow. It loves cold weather so much that the seeds I planted last fall have produced a harvest all winter long.
Sausage, Kale, and Potato Soup
2 Tbs olive oil
1 14 oz package smoked sausage, sliced into rounds
1 large onion, diced
2 tsp minced garlic
1 large bunch of kale (4-5 cups), stems removed and sliced
3 cups peeled, diced potatoes
1 32 oz carton plus 1 15 oz can low sodium chicken broth or stock
1 Tbs chicken base *optional—see note below
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sausage. Top with kale and garlic. Sauté until onions soften and kale wilts, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes, broth, chicken base, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add cream. *I realize not everyone keeps chicken base on hand. It is not essential to this recipe so feel free to leave it out if you don’t have any. I think it adds extra richness and helps me get my soup properly seasoned without being overly salty. If you use the base, you will not need much additional salt.
These are another version of a roasted vegetable that my kids
love tolerate. At least turning the leaves into chips make them appealingly crisp and salty. Plus, they become dip-able as well. And kids love dip, amiright?
To make kale chips, remove the center stem from about half a bunch of clean and dry kale. Very dry leaves are key here. Tear leaves into large pieces. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet without crowding the pieces. They won’t crisp up if they are too close together and air can’t circulate around them. Drizzle with ½-1 tablespoon of olive oil. Massage the oil into the leaf pieces. Really get in there and work it until the leaves are evenly coated.
Sprinkle on about ¼ tsp salt (kosher or sea salt works best) and a bit of pepper. It might take a little experimenting to get the seasoning just right for your taste. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 8 minutes. Check your chips to see if they are crispy. Continue cooking, checking every few minutes for doneness. Again, timing will take a little experimenting depending on your particular oven.
Whether you decide to sow some seeds in the back yard or visit a local farmer’s market, I hope you and your kids enjoy the fresh flavors of spring!