Back to school with healthy snacks
In January, most food gardens will have a variety of vegetables to harvest: corn, tomatoes, spinach, beetroot, brinjals, beans, carrots, green peppers and members of the pumpkin family like zucchini (courgettes) and butternuts.
Just listing these edibles sounds like a feast of possibility for anyone having to pack healthy lunch boxes for kids urgently needing to be weaned off the sweet stuff they lived on during the festive season and the summer holidays. But have a heart and think back to your own school days! Would you have enjoyed a lunch box filled with chopped up raw vegetables, a soggy tomato sandwich or perhaps cold leftover cooked green beans or pumpkin from last night’s supper, just because it is good for you?
Let us be more creative in teaching our kids that eating home-grown stuff is totally cool! Here are some ideas:
• Butternut salad – grate some raw butternut, carrots, and pineapple. Mix together and add the pulp of sweet, freshly picked granadillas (passion fruit) and spoon into a tub with a tight-fitting lid. You can add some yoghurt too, but it is delicious on its own.
• Roasted pumpkin seeds – wash the firm seeds of any pumpkin in a colander, pat dry, mix with olive oil, season with salt or a spice of choice (a little brown sugar and cinnamon is tops for kids), spread out on a baking tray and roast at 180°C until crisp and toasty. The seeds can be sprinkled over anything, but are also just great to snack on as is.
- • 4 zucchinis – sliced into batons of about 10cm long
- • 2 beaten eggs
- • 2 tablespoons of flour
- • 2 tablespoons of milk
- • 4 tablespoons of dried breadcrumbs
- • salt, pepper, and mixed dried or chopped fresh herbs
Season the flour with a pinch of salt, pepper and herbs. Dip each zucchini baton into the egg, then into the flour mix, then into the milk, and lastly into the breadcrumbs, covering both sides. Set aside on a plate. Pour some olive or vegetable oil into a frying pan and heat until hot. Gently fry the zucchini batons in batches to a golden brown colour on all sides and drain on paper towels. They can be cooled down to pack into lunch boxes. Add a small tub of mayonnaise or tomato sauce to use as a dip.
Give them the ‘spice’ of knowledge too
Sometimes one has to give kids good reasons why they should eat vegetables. So add a note with the following truths, legends and myths about pumpkins:
- • Pumpkin flowers are edible and delicious to eat.
- • Pumpkins are fruit
- • Soups, pies, bread and pudding can all be made using pumpkins
- • Pumpkins were recommended for removing freckles
- • Pumpkin makes your hair curl
- • People have festivals about pumpkins and competitions to grow the biggest fruit – some can weigh well over 200kg
- • The spitting of pumpkin seed to see how far it will go is a well-known game at festivals
- • Growing different pumpkins and gourds is so easy that even a kid can do it!
Care for the harvest
Zucchinis are ready to cut early in the pumpkin season. The more you harvest, the more fruit will be produced. If you stop, the plants will think their job is done. Lift other pumpkins needing more time to mature onto a bed of straw to keep them safe from ground insects, and water and feed regularly.