Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Practical Help for Picky Eaters: Part VI

Not all picky eaters are the same. Just as each child is different, each picky eater has his/her own preferences for foods. Some don't like crunchy textures. Some don't like creamy textures. Most don't like mixed textures (see Practical Help for Picky Eaters: Part V). But whatever their differences, they all need positive experiences with food. I've said it before, and in all likelihood I will say it again, picky eaters need to be around food and have positive experiences with food, without any pressure of eating it.

One of my favorite things to do for my picky eater is to have him help me plant an herb garden each spring. From heading to the local garden shop, to picking out the herbs we will plant, to the actual planting....he does it all. While the process of planting an herb garden is for my picky eater, the actual herbs are for me and the rest of my family as well. Fresh herbs make all the difference in cooking; I might even argue that they are essential for good cooking. There is no substitute for the flavor and aroma they bring to your dinner table.

The process of planting an herb garden and the benefits it has for our picky eater goes beyond the spring planting. All summer long, my picky eater heads out to our herb garden to harvest. With a cooking shears in hand, he cuts various amounts of rosemary, thyme, or basil upon my request. He is touching, smelling, interacting with the herbs, with no pressure to eat. This pressure-free interaction with foods not in his eating repertoire is one form of feeding therapy. It is one of the many things we can do to help our picky eaters get to the next step.

It goes without saying that this process of planting and harvesting fresh herbs is not just for children who are picky eaters--children without feeding issues will benefit from the experience too. Although we allow our picky eater more frequent opportunities to interact with the herbs, my other children want to help. They beg to help. In fact, they actually set up the perfect scenario for my picky eater when they are desperately wanting their turn at harvesting--making our picky eater feel privileged that he gets to help more often!

Now is the time to start thinking about planting an herb garden with your picky eater. Spring is here and planting season is just around the corner. If this is something new to you, then use the next couple of weeks to your advantage to gather some pots, potting soil, a couple of small shovels, gloves, and herb labels. Begin thinking about the different herbs available and which ones you would like to steer your picky eater toward choosing. Even if you don't have a green thumb, planting and caring for herbs is not overly difficult. I will help you along the way, I promise! Most importantly, it will provide enormous opportunity for your picky eater to have positive experiences around aromatic herbs with no eating pressure!

Here are some popular herbs and a few tips to make the most of them: (from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook)

BASIL: Large, aromatic leaves; perfect for pesto sauce, tomato sauces, tomato dishes, pasta dishes, and many Mediterranean-style recipes.

CILANTRO: Similar to flat-leaf parsley, but with rounded leaves, and a crisp piquant flavor and fragrance; perfect in almost any Mexican-style dish and in salads. (However, a more difficult herb to grow in my opinion.)

DILL: Feathery green leaves; best used in cold or uncooked dishes like appetizers, dips, and salads, or as a last-minute sprinkles or garnish on cooked fish. (Great on salmon).

MINT: Resembling basil, only smaller leaves with bright, strong, often sweet flavor; works well in desserts, salads, soups, and hot and cold drinks. (Note: PLANT ONLY IN A POT OR CONTAINER. Mint grows like a weed and its roots can and will spread quickly and take over other parts of your garden.)

OREGANO: Strongly flavored small leaves; popular in Greek and Italian cuisine (i.e., pizza, tomato sauce); great complement to chicken and meats.

ROSEMARY: Very aromatic long, small, sturdy leaves; delicious with roasted or boiled chicken, pork, beef, or lamb; Good compliment to breads and potatoes. (We grow rosemary year round in our garden.)

SAGE: Thin to broad flat leaves, aromatic with strong, semi-sweet flavor; often paired with turkey and stuffing, but also delicious with mushrooms, in soups, stews, pastas, and salads.

THYME: Tiny leaves and edible stems; good for many dishes, especially chicken, fish, and soups. (Another herb we grow year round.)

1 comment:

Lainie said...

Good post Mama Hollioni. I just wanted to chime in that there are lots of other herbs that are perennial and don't need to be purchased each and every year--you already mentioned thyme. Some others are Oregano, chives, mint and lavender to name a few.

These won't stay green and viable all winter but will go dormant.

But in early Spring they will (seemingly overnight) pop right back up. I walked out to my porch and noticed my chives were back just a few weeks ago.

Some herbs have a longer life than others. Thyme has about 3 good years in each plant while lavender wouldn't need to be replaced for 5-7 years.

I had success with cilantro last year... perhaps the key is to ignore it and be clueless about gardening--it worked for me! :D

Our broccoli however was another story entirely--definitely not successful in any way well other than it was green...