This post comes to us courtesy of Melissa Graham, founding Executive Director of Purple Asparagus.
Spring has arrived alarmingly early in Chicago. With five straight record setting 80-degree days in March, the tulips are shooting up and the trees are nearly in full bloom. Leaving aside my qualms about this weird weather pattern, I thought it was an unusually perfect time to share my top 5 tips for welcoming the change in season with kids.
To celebrate the beginning of the growing season, take a family trip to the farmers’ market or to a farm. I find there are few better ways to connect your children with the earth and its life cycle than this. We’re all so used to the blessings of modern transportation, and our grocery stores do not lack asparagus and raspberries, even in the deep dark winter days of January. The first few markets of the spring demonstrate vividly to children with their scarcity of product that there is indeed a growing season.
While you’re there, buy some greens. If you’re like my family of seasonal eaters, you probably eat a lot of beige food in the winter. Root vegetables and stews, both meaty and vegetarian, grace our table keeping us warm and well fed during the cold months. When the first of the local lettuces shoot out of the cold ground of early spring, I’m more than ready.
While you’re at it, plant some greens. Herbs and lettuces are fast to grow and easy to maintain, making them a perfect project for impatient kids. And if your child is hesitant about green stuff (a phase my own son thankfully grew out of), you can always “nickname” your plants. Basil and oregano can be “pizza plants” and cilantro a “guacamole plant”, just to name a few.
Give some love and care to Mother Nature – with this crazy weather, she sure could use it. Many towns organize neighborhood cleanups. What better way to spend some time together as a family outside while giving back to the community?
Finally, you might want to cook an egg or two. Since pagan times, the egg has signified the rebirth of the earth during spring. Christians adopted them as a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, believed to transpire in early spring.
Instead of the usual scrambling or frying, try adding this classic Broccoli Mimosa recipe to your repertoire. Elegant and simple, a “mimosa” is a traditional French dish featuring hard-boiled eggs, which are finely sieved and served on top of simply cooked vegetables (asparagus is also a particularly good base).
Florets from one bunch of broccoli, stems reserved for another purpose
1 hard-cooked egg
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. walnut oil
1 Tbs. orange juice
3 drops red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. finely chopped shallot
Steam the florets. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Press the egg yolk through a fine mesh strainer. Finely chop the egg white. Gently mix the two.
Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Toss the broccoli with the dressing. Top with the egg. Serves 4.
About the author: Melissa Graham, a former attorney, is the founding Executive Director of Purple Asparagus, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to educating families about all things associated with good eating, eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Though its Delicious Nutritious Adventures program, Purple Asparagus has taught thousands of parents and children about healthful, sustainable eating in schools, community centers, and farmers’ markets throughout Chicago and the suburbs. Melissa speaks and writes regularly on child nutrition and sustainability both in the Chicago community and online, blogging at Little Locavores, as The Sustainable Cook on The Local Beet, and as a regular contributor to Kiwi Magazine’s KiwiLog. In recognition of her contributions to the Chicago community, the Chicago Tribune recently awarded her a 2011 Good Eating Award, an honor previously bestowed to Rick Bayless, Alinea chef Grant Achatz, and First Lady Michelle Obama. Melissa resides in Chicago with her husband and 7-year old son in a rowhouse built in 1896.