From a Cook's Garden: Peter Rabbit Style Garden

The best way to encourage children to eat fresh vegetables is to let them graze before dinner on tender garden spinach or snack on sugar snap peas, but be warned that eating fresh from the garden is guaranteed to turn then into food snobs. Supermarket produce and frozen peas from a bag will never hold the same appeal again.

Planning a children's garden involves the whole family, and a good place to start is at the dinner table. Discuss what foods can be grown, and how long it might take for a head of broccoli to mature.

Kids will appreciate the food on their plate far more when they've spent a whole summer nurturing it from seed.

Plan to grow crops that have a "wow" factor, such as giant pumpkins, or carrots that mysteriously grow underground, or Easter Egg colored potatoes. Include quick growers such as lettuce and spinach, which can be easily sown by seed. When kids are young, never allow them to think they are in the garden to "work". Always keep it fun and full of little games, such as a strawberry picking contest or finding the largest bean or growing the tallest vine.

Let the kids help out with the planting and weeding and simply give up the notion that the garden has to be perfect and neat.

In the Children's garden, there should be plenty of pathways so little feet won't step in the soil, and a fence to protect the area form roving chickens or dogs. Keep the garden organic, and assign different roles for each family member, so everyone has a job and can contribute to the family meal.

And if you have time to start a children's garden at your children's' school, it will help their teachers integrate a natural way to teach math, English, science, art and ecology, as well as a healthier way to eat.

Blueberry-Zucchini Bread

Makes one 9-by-12-inch loaf

Everyone loves blueberry season and since they are ripening just as the zucchini is starting to get big, the two are natural partners for a tasty quick bread.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup plain yogurt

2 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium zucchini)

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 pint fresh blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Lightly butter and flour a 9-by-12-inch baking pan or bread loaf pan, tapping out the excess flour.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter on high speed until smooth.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the vanilla and yogurt. Gradually add the flour mixture until combined.

5. With a wooden spoon, fold in the zucchini, lemon zest, and blueberries and stir gently until the ingredients are just blended. Pour into the floured pan and tap on the counter to even the batter.

6. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Ellen Ecker Ogden is a garden design coach and the author of The Complete Kitchen Garden.


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