16 Farmers' Market Picks for Picky Eaters
They have next to no fuzz, so kids are more likely to eat the skin, where the fiber and heart-healthy nutrients are. Try them as a cereal topping, blended into milk, or mixed with yogurt. Available: July and July nationwide.
Black Mission Figs
They contain the most polyphenols, and flavonoids -- plant compounds that may fight disease -- of any popular variety. "Slice figs and wrap a piece of ham or cheese around them," suggests Tony Meyers, a dad of two and chef at Serrato Restaurant, in Portland, Oregon. For babies, mix mashed figs into yogurt. Available in June, then again in late August and September nationwide.
Great for making applesauce or just eating plain, they're extra crisp and juicy. Your kid will get quercetin, a plant compound that helps prevent spikes in blood-sugar levels. Available in August on the West Coast, and fall in other apple-growing areas.
Their less-seedy flesh and misshapen appearance kick in kid appeal. Plus, vintage varieties have more lycopene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant, than typical red ones. Slice heartier types like Green Zebra and Golden Sunray and use them as a yummy pizza topping or chop them up for fresh salsa. Available July to September, depending on the variety.
A cross between a blackberry and a raspberry, loganberries supply plenty of vitamin C. Even though these berries are a tad tart, kids may like them plain because they're not as seedy as other berries. Available in late June and July nationwide.
In a study at Michigan State University, researchers found that Rainier cherries were the variety best at inhibiting the inflammatory enzymes that cause the body to feel pain. "Skip the jelly on your kid's PB&J and tuck in sliced cherries instead," suggests Richard Ruben, author of The Farmers' Market Cookbook. Available in early June in Texas and California, and late June in the Pacific Northwest, East, and Midwest.
These Japanese white melons are super sweet and loaded with vitamin C. "I cut the melon in half and give the kids a big spoon to scoop it out," says chef and new dad Mark Molinaro, culinary arts instructor at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. Available July to August nationwide.
They're about half the size of a typical blueberry, so they have a greater skin-to-flesh ratio, and the skin is where all the heart-healthy antioxidants are. These berries work better in baking than regular-size ones because they hold their shape well. Available in July in Maine, Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, Washington, and Oregon.
Their swirly interior is irresistible. If a kid is going to eat any kind of B vitamin-packed beet, it'll be this one. They make awesome baked chips: Cook in a 275?F oven for 45 minutes; let crisp up for 15. Then dig in! Available June to October nationwide.
Their bright colors are a hit with kids, and they contain extra vitamin C and antioxidants. "I boil them in salted water for 15 to 20 minutes and slice them into coin-shaped pieces for the kids," says Molinaro. Available year-around nationwide, but especially plentiful in September and October.
Lemon Balm Sprigs
There hasn't been much research on this herb that tastes great with veggies, but preliminary work suggests that it may have a calming effect, reducing stress and anxiety. Not sure what to do with it? Sub lemon balm in for one quarter of the basil in a pesto recipe, or slip sprigs into a fruit salad. "My kids love smelling it," says Kim Boyce, coauthor of Good to the Grain. Available May to September, especially in cooler areas.
Thin-skinned and almost seedless, they're easier for kids to digest than typical cuke. They don't have a hint of lemon flavor! "They taste like a regular cucumber, only sweeter," says Sanna Delmonico, R.D., who teaches kids' cooking classes in Napa, California. Available in July and August in many parts of the country, especially California.
Shaped like a flying saucer, they're cooler-looking than other squash. Plus they're no slouch when it comes to vitamin C and other nutrients. Grill them for two to three minutes per side, top with tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese. Available June to October nationwide.
Rainbow Chard Leaves
This brightly colored variety is less bitter than regular chard, so kids are more likely to dig in. Chard leaves contain at least 13 different kinds of antioxidants. Saut? onions and garlic in olive oil until tender; add chard and cook for two minutes. Mix in vegetable stock (use ? cup for 2 bunches of chard) and a little lemon juice; cover and simmer on low 5 minutes until chard is tender. Available June to August nationwide.
Colored carrots supply the beta-carotene that the orange classics are famous for, plus more nutrients. Red carrots, for instance, pack plenty of cancer-fighting lycopene. "My daughter's favorite way to eat them is sliced into sticks and roasted at 425?F for 15 to 20 minutes," says Delmonico. Available June to October nationwide.
Red Russian Kale
Kale is usually a tough sell for kids, but this variety is sweeter and more tender. It's chock-full of vitamins A, C, and K. Kids will prefer cooked kale to raw. Saut? leaves with a little olive oil and garlic, or toss them in soups. Available spring and fall nationwide.
Originally published in the July 2011 issue of Parents magazine.