Want your children to eat veg?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Then get them growing their own, says Mark Hix

When I was at school one of the subjects we studied was rural science. We had a large patch of garden devoted to the propagation of potatoes, corn and other vegetables. We were taught how to prepare the ground and how to plant and sow – and then we patiently waited for the results.

We also kept chickens and we were taught how to kill, pluck and draw them. Home-grown chickens, as anyone raised on a farm will know, have a far better flavour than some of the additive-packed, cage-reared birds on our supermarket shelves.

A combination of rural and domestic science – instead of the more usual metalwork that boys studied – in the fifth year equipped me with a range of really useful skills, many of which sadly aren't part of today's curriculum.

Like most teenagers, my daughters Ellie and Lydia aren't particularly keen on helping to weed the garden, and the same applies when it comes to peeling and prepping vegetables. But I think it's so important that children learn about growing and cooking their own food from the youngest possible age – witness the amazing success enjoyed by the recent Independent on Sunday campaign "Let Children Grow".

More than 700 schools signed up to the scheme, which aims to reconnect children with the food they eat. Once you get children interested in growing veg, they'll be much more interested in cooking them too; and the health benefits are obvious.

I, like many others, fear that the UK could end up with a generation of children who have never grown anything.

Pea shoot, radish and spring onion salad with herb mayonnaise

Serves 4

All three of these salad ingredients can be easily planted by children or adults and will grow reasonably quickly; and what's more, there are quite a few varieties of radishes and spring onions on the market as well as from seed catalogues these days.

You can also plant a mixture of peas, sugar snaps and mangetout which will continue growing through the winter – some of which are known as snow peas, hence their ability to withstand the cold weather. Even the herbs for this mayonnaise can be easily grown by the children, so they can lay claim to the whole dish.

You could get the kids to help you make a homemade mayonnaise for this recipe, or just buy a good-quality version.

15-20 radishes, washed and trimmed
A couple of handfuls of pea tendrils, washed and dried
8 spring onions, cleaned
A couple of good pinches of sea salt

For the dip

2tbsp chopped green herbs (such as parsley, chives, tarragon or chervil)
3-4tbsp good quality or homemade mayonnaise

Mix the herbs with the mayonnaise and season if necessary.

Cut the radishes in half lengthways if they are large and the spring onions into two or three sections lengthways.

Arrange mixed or in individual piles on plates with the dip in a pot or spooned on to the plate.

Fried courgette flowers

Serves 4

All the squash and pumpkin family produce great flowers that can be harvested continually for a couple of months and then cooked. The flowers are best harvested when the sun is out and when they have fully opened – so you will have to send your kids out into the garden to pick them at just the right time.

I prefer courgette flowers that have been simply fried in Parmesan batter but you can also carefully stuff a little mozzarella or ricotta into the flower before frying; although you need to be careful as sometimes this creates too much moisture and makes the batter go soggy.

It's important to get the batter as thin and as crisp as possible and what works really well, too, is a packet of tempura batter mixed with a little finely-grated Parmesan, although the following recipe is easy enough.

You can serve these fried flowers on their own as a starter or appetiser, or make a mayonnaise-based sauce with, say, pesto mixed in to accompany them, or even a salsa with courgettes, peppers and tomatoes, etc.

8 large courgette flowers
120g self-raising flour
200ml ice cold water
20-30g finely grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

To make the batter, slowly whisk the water into a bowl of flour until you have a smooth consistency. Add salt and pepper and the Parmesan and give it a final whisk.

Meanwhile, heat some vegetable oil to 160-180C in a deep-fat fryer or heavy-based saucepan (but no more than half full). Test the oil by dropping a little batter into the oil. If it browns after a minute or so then it's ready.

Dip the flowers into flour first and shake off the excess before dipping into the batter. Cook them 3 or 4 at a time for a couple of minutes until they are crisp and light golden.

Remove the courgette flowers from the oil with a slotted spoon and put on a plate with some kitchen paper on it and lightly season with salt. If you have made a salsa, serve the courgette flowers on top.

Creamed sea spinach on toast with a poached hen's egg

Serves 4

It's important to get children out foraging so that they appreciate that not everything we eat has to be bought from the shops. Food for free is a great motivating device, whether it be for mushrooms, berries or sea vegetables. If you're struggling to find sea spinach, then you could improvise with a selection of spring vegetables, or even some baby spinach leaves, chard, cultivated sea kale, imported samphire, etc – though these tend to be a lot more expensive.

500-600g sea spinach, stalks removed, washed and dried
200ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of bloomer loaf
4 hens' eggs

Cook the sea spinach or vegetables in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes until tender, then drain and squeeze out as much water as possible, reserving a little to help blending. Coarsely blend in a food processor then transfer to a saucepan. Add the cream, season and simmer until the mixture is thick, re-season if necessary. Toast the bread on both sides and poach the eggs.

To serve, spoon the creamed sea spinach on the toast; place the egg on top.

Spaghetti with garden greens

Serves 4

My greens, herbs and salads often start bolting – ie coming into flower – if I slacken off on the cutting and feeding. I used to throw them on the compost, but they are great just wilted and tossed into pasta with butter, garlic and olive oil.

4 servings of spaghetti

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
100ml olive oil, plus extra
120g butter
2-3 handfuls of bolted greens and herbs
2-3tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water, according to the manufacturer's cooking instructions, then drain and reserve a little of the cooking water. Gently cook the garlic in the olive oil for a couple of minutes. Chop the greens if they are large and remove any woody stalks and add to the garlic with the butter; season and cook with a lid on for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid and toss together with the pasta and a couple of tablespoons of Parmesan. Re-season to taste; add more liquid or olive oil so the dish is nice and moist.

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor