For as long as I can remember, I've always eaten turnips on Thanksgiving. My grandmother started the tradition, and surprisingly, my mother has not continued it.
For me, not having turnips on Thanksgiving would be like not having turkey. The same goes for the carrot raisin salad my grandmother used to make, and also her apple pie. Hers was the BEST. That tradition, my mother does continue.
Her mincemeat pie, not so much.
Thank goodness for that.
Anyway, as the local harvesting season draws to a close here in New York, we're still pulling root vegetables out of the ground. I'm loving it!
This is the perfect time of year to introduce new vegetables to your family members. They may take some getting used to, but eventually they will acquire a taste for them. Once you open up a conversation about healthy eating (and show them some of the many choices there are out there and how they grow), you can just taste the nutrients in those most colorful vegetables.
Especially if they're organic and local!!! I can't begin to tell you all how much my relationship with food has changed since we started volunteering at a local organic farm. OMG! The vegetables are SOOOO amazing. I wish you could try them.
By the way, small farmers could really use your support right now, so if you have access to any local, organic produce, please seize the opportunity to do your body, your environment, and your country a whole world of good.
Now for my 2 picture book suggestions. Well, actually there are 3 today. These would be go along nicely with books about carrots and root vegetables, Take 2 Books: Carrot Tops and Bottoms:
- Based upon the same Russian folktale (see below) as Jan Peck's The Giant Carrot (see prior post above), Denia Lewis Hester's Grandma Lena's Big Ol' Turnip (Albert Whitman Prairie Books) will have your child making all kinds of connections, laughing along the way. Not only that, but since Grandma Lena uses the turnip tops AND the bottoms to cook with, it also goes along perfectly with the other book in that particular post, Janet Stevens' Tops and Bottoms! You'll be surprised what your child picks up on, especially if you read (and even just let your child look at) them over and over. Get your child in the kitchen for some experimenting with real turnips, and a whole new world of eating root vegetable tops and bottoms might open up. It's most appropriate for children between the ages of 2 and 6.
- Aleksei Tolstoy and Niamh Sharkey's Gigantic Turnip, The (Tell Me a Story) (Hardcover with CD) (Book & CD) will complement the above selection nicely, especially for children who love animals. Even though both books are based upon the same folktale, they have very different feels to them because the illustrations and settings are so different. There's a lot for young children to compare and contrast here, with or without some gentle, thought-provoking questions from a caregiver.
- And for slightly older siblings (ages 6 to 8), Walter de la Mare and Kevin Hawkes' The Turnip, opens up a discussion of the value of generosity over greed and envy. As it involves two very different brothers, it could also be a great conversation starter about sibling rivalry and individuality. Kevin Hawkes' museum quality illustrations will delight and fascinate all ages of readers, without the trip!
And so, my dear readers, as it's the perfect time of year to talk about gratitude and generosity, I think any of these books will work a little bit of magic in your home this holiday season. Let your child have some fun with them - with or without you. Establishing a regular time for shared reading, and surrounding her with great books, will inspire a joy of reading that can last a lifetime. It's that simple. Really.
So, I hope you can get your hands on at least one of these books, and hopefully a turnip, before Thanksgiving next week. You may have trouble finding a turnip with the tops still on, but carrot tops or beet tops are usually easy to find. So, why not try those? It's root vegetable season - time to celebrate eating what's in season.
As for some simple cooking ideas, here you go:
- Turnip skins can be difficult to cut (definitely not a task for children), but the one above was so fresh, it was easy! So, if yours is not fresh, be careful cutting. Then chop it into small cubes and steam until you can put a fork through. Then, you can either just add some butter and serve, or mash them like you would potatoes.
- My grandmother used to make shredded carrot and raisin salad with a simple vinaigrette in it. It was delicious, and I usually make it for Thanksgiving. This year, though, I've been substituting grated beets (easy in the food processor) for the raisins, which is even healthier and more delicious! Plus, children can do many art activities with beet juice - like stamping on paper and such. It will get messy, though, so have them dress accordingly! It's a great activity for them while you're cooking.
So, besides cooking with root vegetables, which is super healthy, they make great centerpieces (in a basket), and could keep your child busy for a while. Children can tell stories about them, turn them into people, create all kinds of artistic masterpieces with them, and best of all, eat and enjoy them.
The more children are exposed to vegetables, and read about them, the more likely they are to try them!
And by the way, kohlrabi (in the picture above) is a lesser known root vegetable that actually grows just above the ground, I've only had them raw so far, and they taste like a cross between cabbage and a Granny Smith apple to me. We eat lots of apples in my house!
Do you have any root vegetable recipes or ideas to share? More children's books or activities to add to the list? Please do!
Have a wonderful weekend.