I am not, nor will I claim to be any kind of expert gardener. This is our fourth year planting a backyard garden and we are still working our way through the learning curve! I battle with cucumber beetles, attempt to fight off late season blight and lose squash to vine borers (whatever those are). We learn from our mistakes, right? What I can tell you for certain is this: Involving the girls in the process of planting and caring for the garden has made them more adventurous eaters. Riley picked our first snap pea this weekend and told me it tasted like summer. She planted it, watered it, watched it grow and savored every last bite of crunchy sweetness from her first harvest! This, coming from what I like to call my "non-eater" was a very special moment.
Before we began planting our first garden several years back, we took some time to read "Growing Vegetable Soup" by Lois Ehlert. This adorably vibrant (yet exceedingly to the point) picture book describes the process of planting a vegetable garden from seedlings to harvest. We fell into the tradition of reading it every year, followed by making a big pot of vegetable soup in anticipation of what our garden will have to offer in the coming months. This year was especially exciting because my big first grader read it to all of us (sniffle).
Lola planted pole beans, randomly, all over the garden. They keep popping up everywhere! **Note to self...less picture taking and more supervising, Jaime!!!!
I have a great slow cooker vegetable soup recipe that the kids can fully participate in making! We buy many of the vegetables that were just planted in the garden (and some additional veggies that work well in the soup) and the girls have at it. We use kid-safe pumpkin carvers to cut the vegetables. They're great "knives" for them to saw at the veggies, but not cut their little fingers! Butter knives are great for cutting mushrooms and green beans are easily snapped by hand and thrown in the pot! I love a recipe that encourages full participation. I admit, it is necessary for me to put my obsession with even, matchy matchy sized vegetable pieces aside for the day. This batch of soup ended up with an entire unsliced stalk of celery in it. It's all good.
I realize not everyone has the time (or desire) to take on the endeavor of planting a backyard garden. There are many vegetables that grow just as well in a container on your front stoop (tomatoes, peppers, bush pickling cucumbers are a few)! I hope sharing our experiences have inspired someone to "grow vegetable soup" and get a little dirt underneath their toddlers fingernails (and in their hair, up their nose, down their diaper, etc...)
Here is the recipe! Finally! Enjoy!
Vegetable Barley Soup (a slow cooker recipe)
6-8 ounces of "mini bella" mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 zucchini, chopped (or hacked and sawed at in our case)
1 yellow squash, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped (this needs to be an adult's job!)
1 onion, chopped
2 hand fuls of green beans, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
6 cups of vegetable stock
1 (14.5 ounce can) Italian seasoned diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen lima beans or peas
3/4 cup barley
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley and basil for serving!!!
1. Combine all ingredients (except for fresh herbs) in the slow cooker.
2. Cook on low 4-5 hours or high 8-10 hours. Serve with fresh herbs!
Cool the soup completely and store in air tight containers for up to 6 months!!!!