We chose our seeds this year to create a rainbow harvest and now we are picking yellow ‘Hot Lemon’ chillies, bright orange ‘Uchiki Kuri’ squash, delicious ‘Green Zebra’ tomatoes and deep red ‘Boltardy’ beetroot.
The children helped me sow the seeds in the spring and now they are keen to collect the fruits (and vegetables) of their labours and cook with them. We’ve tried tzaziki with their ‘Mini Munch’ cucumbers – a tasty accompaniment to pitta bread and roasted beetroot, and they love popping in and out of the greenhouse to snack on tomatoes when they get home from school.
Baking is also a family favourite and we fancied cooking something adventurous with some of our harvest. We considered courgette cake which has been useful with gluts in the past but wanted to try something new with the remaining beetroot crop.
Cupcakes are a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen and we all love chocolate, so we decided to give beetroot and chocolate cupcakes a go. I adapted our usual recipe – adding cocoa, extra raising agent to counter the heaviness of the beetroot, and experimenting with a cream cheese icing, also coloured with beetroot and cocoa…
125 g butter, softened
125g light brown sugar
2 free range eggs
125g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder
125g raw beetroot, grated
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp milk (if necessary)
100g cream cheese
1 tbsp icing sugar
A few drops of beetroot liquid (made by cooking the leftover pieces of beetroot after grating in a little water for a couple of minutes)
2-3 tsp cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4
Add the eggs, softened butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and cocoa to a mixer and blend until smooth
Add the grated beetroot and mix in thoroughly
Add a little milk if the mixture is stiff
Spoon into cupcake cases
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean
Blend the cream cheese with enough icing sugar to create a fairly thick icing
Add a few drops of beetroot colouring and mix
Mix in enough cocoa to create a light purple colour and a spreadable texture
Spread the icing on the cooled cupcakes
Decorate with sprinkles (my kids felt this step was of the utmost importance)
My daughter has always been a fan of fruit and vegetables, but my son struggled to like many foods when he was younger. I found growing our own crops – especially in unusual colours – like yellow raspberries (‘Allgold’) and pink blueberries (‘Pinkberry’) added a sense of intrigue and excitement to meals which had a tremendous effect on his eating habits.
Once you’ve sown a seed or helped plant a fruit bush, watched it grow and waited with anticipation for fruit to form, you’re invested in the experience. And out of connection and interest comes a more adventurous and positive approach to food.