The 5280 field guide to taking your child’s learning outside of the classroom—and into the world.
—Jan Von Holleben / Trunk Archive
If your kids pick it, they’ll probably eat it. Five veggies worth planting in your backyard plot.
Chef Eric Skokan’s kids love fresh vegetables from the garden—maybe even a bit too much. “At one point, I almost said to them, ‘Will you guys stop eating all of the vegetables?’ ” Skokan says with a laugh. “But that’s something no parent should ever say.” The chef and owner of Boulder’s Black Cat Farm Table Bistro and Bramble and Hare founded Black Cat Farm in 2007, along with his wife, Jill, to supply their restaurants—and family—with the freshest products. Embrace their dirt-to-plate ethos with these five friendly-for-kids-to-grow vegetables.
For the Dirt-Digger…Plant Fingerling Potatoes
Kids adore these no-two-are-alike tiny potatoes, which are ready to harvest in about 100 days. Dig a few out at a time, but make sure to fully harvest before the first hard frost.
Expert Tip: Mound soil near the base of the plants’ foliage to avoid growing potatoes too near the surface; this root shouldn’t sunbathe.
For the Insatiable Snacker…Plant Peas
As prolific and fast-growing as these plants are, peas rarely make it out of the garden; they taste that much sweeter when eaten straight from the vine. Rinse with water from the garden hose and enjoy.
Expert Tip: Sprouted seeds sometimes pop out of the dirt; just poke them right back in.
For the Child Having a Growth Spurt…Plant Mustard Greens
Perfect for kids who seem to grow overnight, this leafy green—akin to spinach—is packed with vitamin A, carotenes, vitamin K, and antioxidants.
Expert Tip: Mustard greens like cooler weather, so they’re a good vegetable to grow at the end of summer.
For the Observant Kid…Plant Carrots
Carrot seeds sprout quickly, but it’ll take 75 days before the roots are big enough to harvest. Take photos to track the growth (and make the waiting more palatable).
Expert Tip: When greens are an inch tall, thin them to three inches apart (snip them with scissors instead of pulling them out so as not to disturb the other plants).
For the Impatient Tot…Plant Radishes
This fast-growing veggie (many varieties take less than a month to grow) can be planted before the last frost for an early spring harvest. Want more? Keep sowing seeds every 10 days for a summerlong harvest.
Expert Tip: Don’t toss the leaves; you can eat those, too, just like other greens. — Callie Sumlin
—Illustration by Sol Linero
Use your new garden to take your child's lunch to the next level.
Crispy Fingerling Potatoes
Skokan Says: “Root vegetables and potatoes are a great way to make vegetables a treasure hunt. Digging into black earth and finding golden nuggets of potato—the kids just love that.”
2 pounds fingerling potatoes
oil for frying
1 clove garlic
Wash the potatoes. In a medium pot, combine potatoes with enough water to cover. Season the water with salt until it tastes like the sea (ask your kid to sample it). Boil the potatoes until they are tender, about 15 minutes (the potatoes should have almost no bite left). Drain the potatoes in a colander; allow to cool and dry.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat at least 4 inches of oil to 375 degrees. Once the potatoes have cooled a bit, flatten or smash them. Add the smashed potatoes, in batches, to the oil to fry. It is important that the potatoes are dry because excess water causes the oil to splatter. Fry each batch until golden brown.
While the potatoes are frying, cut the garlic clove in half. Rub the clove on the inside of a dry mixing bowl. Reserve. Fry each batch until golden brown, then move them to a paper-towel-lined plate. Transfer all the golden-brown potatoes into the garlic-rubbed mixing bowl. Season liberally with salt and toss the potatoes gently. Serve immediately.
Salted Radishes with Nori Seaweed
Skokan Says: “During the summers at my grandmother’s farm, I would walk into her garden with a saltshaker in my back pocket, headed toward the radishes. Pulled from the ground and given a quick rinse, I’d shake salt on them and munch away.”
2 bunches small radishes
¼ cup sea salt
1 sheet nori, cut into 1-inch bits
In a clean coffee grinder, combine the salt and nori; grind until fine. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Wash the radishes thoroughly, but do not dry them. Transfer the radishes to a serving bowl. To serve, dip the damp radishes into the salt bowl. The seaweed salt will stick to the radishes.
Sweet Mustard Greens and Flowers Salad
Skokan Says: “The family of mustard greens is divided roughly in two: One half has the pungent and spicy varieties, and the other tends toward sweetness. This salad takes advantage of the sweeter, not-so-spicy leaves. Late in spring, our early-planted mustard greens begin to go to flower, creating cascades of delicate yellow blooms. As broccoli is a close mustard cousin, it is not surprising that the flowers taste like a sweet version of broccoli.”
2 quarts various mustard greens, such as mizuna, tatsoi, bok choy, mispoona, baby bok choy, and loose-leaf Chinese cabbage, washed and spun dry
¼ cup basic vinaigrette
2 cups mustard flowers or other edible flowers
In a large mixing bowl, combine the greens and vinaigrette. Season with salt and toss well to combine. Divide the dressed greens among four salad plates and top with the flowers. Serve immediately.
1 cup sunflower oil
2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt
In a container with a tight-fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt. Seal the container and shake it vigorously, like a bartender would shake a cocktail. Immediately pour out the desired amount because this vinaigrette separates quickly. Re-shake to combine between uses if it stands for longer than 15 seconds.
Carrots with Tarator Sauce
Skokan Says: “Often dishes geared toward children are too simple for adults. Here is a dish that pleases everyone. My kids prefer the carrots raw in this dish, but Jill and I love them roasted.”
1 2-pound bunch of carrots
1 cup sunflower oil
Remove the tops from the carrots. Trim and peel the carrots if necessary. Wash the carrots and dry. Cut the carrots into finger-size pieces, each about 4 inches long. Transfer the carrots to a medium mixing bowl. Add the sunflower oil and season with salt. Toss to combine. Transfer carrots to a baking sheet and place in the oven.* Roast carrots until tender and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer the roasted carrots to a serving bowl and top with tarator sauce. Serve immediately.
*Alternatively, to serve raw, simply transfer the prepared carrots to a serving bowl and top with tarator sauce.
1 cup toasted almonds
2 tablespoons roasted garlic
¼ cup sunflower oil
In a food processor, combine the nuts, garlic, and 2 tablespoons water. Process on high speed until very smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary. With the motor running, slowly add the oil until fully incorporated. Season with salt and lemon juice. Store in a tightly covered container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Spring Pea Soup with Mint, Lemon, and Crème Fraîche
Skokan Says: “At the farm, I had [peas] planted right by where the kids would get out of the car. When I went to harvest them, there was practically nothing left; they had eaten almost all of them. When our farm’s peas arrive in sufficient numbers to make the first bowls of this soup, I know farming season has arrived in all of its glory.”
1 ½ pounds peas, shucked (reserve pea shells)
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 quart vegetable stock
8 ice cubes
¼ cup crème fraîche
¼ cup mint leaves, julienned
12 pea flowers (optional)
6 pea tendrils (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely julienned
In a medium saucepan over high heat, blanch the shucked peas in boiling salted water until their color brightens, 20 to 30 seconds. Strain the peas and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice water. After the peas have chilled, strain and set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the reserved pea shells, onion, garlic, potato, and stock.
Boil until the stock is reduced to three-quarters of its original volume and the potato is very tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor. Add half the peas. Blend until velvety smooth, adding water if the soup is too thick to easily puree. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Add the ice cubes and crème fraîche, and stir until the ice cubes have melted.
Season with salt and lemon juice and place in the refrigerator to fully chill, about 1 hour. To serve the soup warm, return it to the saucepan and warm fully over low heat, 10 to 15 minutes. Divide the soup into four soup bowls. Top each with the mint leaves, pea flowers, tendrils (if using), and lemon zest.
—Courtesy of Ashley Davis Tilly