By: Debra Chase
“Every child needs nature. Not just the ones with parents who appreciate nature. Not only those of a certain economic class or culture or gender or sexual identity or set of abilities. Every child,” notes Richard Louve in his book, The Nature Principle. Nature isn’t just frolicking in the woods, or inspecting caterpillars on a leaf. Nature, includes farming and food.
There was a time in this country when most children could identify a number of edible plants from weeds and could prepare simple dishes with the food they identify. Generations of farmers and cooks passed down the knowledge through hands on learning. Parents and grandparents that want to teach their children where their food comes from; how it grows, how to prepare it and other farm to table concepts, is not such an easy task in today’s modern world. Technological distractions and giant supermarkets selling packaged food products have distanced the modern child from the bounty of all that is California’s agricultural landscape.
With this in mind, the Woodland Farmers Market, with the help of Cache Creek Casino, developed the Kids Farmer’s Market. No longer a novelty but an anticipative event held every third Saturday, market Manager Sonia Mora, purchases fruits and vegetables from the market vendors and creates a special Kids Market. Kids visiting the market receive five dollars in "market money" that they can spend on anything they want. (not what their parents may want them to buy). They get to experience being the purchaser, meeting the farmer, asking questions and taking the time to feel, smell and takeaway their own special selections.
Children love learning about how food is grown and prepared. After coming home from the Farmers Market with bounty in hand, a child can learn the basics of cooking with this simple fritter recipe. (Remember that cooking is an activity to be shared and requires close supervision).
Many parents lament over trying to get their kids to eat vegetables, yet children have shown that they can appreciate a variety of complex tastes and textures, especially if it is something that their parents also enjoy. Making veggie fritters is a great way to get them to eat more veggies as they are an easy-to-eat finger food. Provide a special sauce made of yogurt or perhaps hummus to allow for dipping. It is a well-known fact that kids learn by imitating, so parents…show your kids how much you love vegetables!
• 2 cups shredded zucchini
• 2 cups shredded carrots
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/3 cup sliced scallions (green and white parts)
• 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
• ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
• Vegetable oil, for frying
• Yogurt, sour cream or hummus, for serving
Place the shredded zucchini in a colander and sprinkle it lightly with salt. Let the zucchini sit for 10 minutes then using your hands, squeeze out as much liquid as possible. This will keep the fritters from getting soggy.
Transfer the zucchini to a large bowl then add the carrots, garlic, flour, salt and pepper, eggs, scallions, salt and pepper. Stir until combined.
Line a plate with an absorbent towel. Place a large deep frying pan over medium-high heat and liberally coat the bottom with vegetable oil. Once the oil is shimmering, scoop 3-tablespoon size mounds of the vegetable mixture into the pan, flattening the mounds slightly and spacing them at least 1 inch apart.
Cook the fritters for 2 to 3 minutes then flip them once and continue cooking them an additional 1 to 2 minutes until they’re golden brown and crispy. Transfer the fritters to the towel-lined plate, season them with salt to taste and repeat the cooking process with the remaining mixture.
Serve with a favorite dipping sauce of sour cream, yogurt or hummus.
Other vegetables to use…fresh corn kernels, lightly steamed and chopped broccoli, chopped fresh spinach. Try out different fruits for a sweet snack; diced peaches, apples, nectarines add a dash of cinnamon and honey in place of the garlic and scallions and finish it with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.