Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2009. All rights reserved. See other posts on fair use.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from walking kids (and adults!) through my garden, it’s that a cute name or a vibrant color goes a long way toward getting kids (and adults!) to try something new. A few years ago some friends’ kids, then aged about 5 and 9, were walking through the garden to see what was new. When I showed the older son the banana peppers, he told his younger sister, “Hey, these are bananas!” She expressed disbelief, and I told her that they were sweet peppers that just looked like bananas. “Can I have one?” she asked. “Of course,” I told her, cutting off one for her and her brother. They both wiped them off on their shirts and then chomped into them. As they made their way back to their car to go home, they asked their parents if it was okay for them to take the peppers in the car. They snacked on them all the way home. Now these kids are pretty adventurous eaters, but I’ve seen similar things with other kids who were less adventurous. If it looks pretty or sounds fun, kids will try it!
Today I picked some chard with beautiful deep green leaves and bright red stems. I always think ruby chard is pretty, but this time of year, it makes me think of Christmas. Try this one on your kids: use small ruby chard leaves in a salad with other rosy vegetables and maybe some white cheese or creamy dressing to make a Christmas salad. You could even call it a reindeer salad. Just don’t call it chard, which is definitely not an appealing name. If you can’t find baby ruby chard in your CSA basket, farmer’s market, or grocery store, you still have time to grow it before the holidays. Begin by soaking the seed to give them a head start. If you have a cold frame, you can grow them in there. If you don’t have a cold frame, don’t despair. Just use heavy clear plastic–like that old shower curtain liner you need to replace–to heat up the ground and protect the seeds and seedlings as they grow. Keep the ground under the plastic watered well, and keep the plastic a few inches off any seedlings and growing greens. If you plant this week, by Christmas you’ll have beautiful baby greens! And Swiss chard of every color packs a wallop of nutrients, including more than 700% of your recommended daily value of Vitamin K, which will help you keep strong bones. For more on chard’s amazing nutrient value, see here.
Real lettuce varieties you may want to try for holiday spirit include deer tongue (a deep red leaf type lettuce) and Marvel of Four Seasons (a red and green crinkly lettuce), both from John Scheeper’s Kitchen Garden Seed, and Botanical Interests’s Valentine Mix. You can start all of these and get some baby lettuce by Christmas too!