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
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
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
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
I'm not worried about United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
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

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker