When my son Henry was in kindergarten he said, “When I grow up I want to be a mycologist.”
Wow! That is not one of the kinder career day choices I remember. So we did some research: we learned that a mycologist studies fungi. Then we looked at lots of different types of fungi and got interested in mushrooms and how they grow. It was enough to get our family starting to think about mushrooms. The kids started noticing them in the grocery store, and we began experimenting with them in the kitchen.
Our kids weren’t always excited about trying mushrooms. For the longest time they even had me pick them out of their meals. I didn’t force them to try mushrooms, but just kept offering them in a variety of ways. After serving them again and again (research says at least 10-15 times), and showing the kids we adults like mushrooms (research also shows modeling is a best practice) something clicked.
Now mushroom risotto is one of the most requested weekday meals. Recently my ten-year-old son Landen had his friend over for a mushroom tasting. I sautéed up 5 different varieties of mushrooms in butter (yum) and they ate them while commenting on their flavor, aroma, and texture. It was really fun! It takes time and patience to introduce new foods to your kids and it is well worth it.
My friends at Portland Public Schools are celebrating local mushrooms for their Harvest of the Month. Here is a fun AM Northwest TV segment with Whitney Ellersick MS, RDN the Assistant Director of Nutrition Services. She is a fountain of nutrition knowledge and inspiration for parents trying to expand their family’s culinary curiosity.
Here are three more tips for introducing your kids to mushrooms:
- If kids pick it, they will eat it. Challenge your kids to pick at least one mushroom variety from the grocery store or farmers market, and come up with ideas on how to eat it. Look for firm mushrooms. Not ones that are slimy or shriveled up. When you get home, do not wash the mushrooms. Store them in a paper bag in the refrigerator. You can even have each kid write their name on their own bag of mushrooms. At least with my two boys, there is nothing like possessive ownership of food to encourage consumption.
- If kids cook it, they will eat it. Preparing mushrooms is a super simple task, that even your littlest kids can help with. To clean mushrooms, just brush or gently wipe them, and pop off the stem. Personally I enjoy eating most mushroom varieties in chunks instead of thin slices, so we don’t cut them with a knife. We just break them into bite sized pieces with our hands. Looking for kid friendly mushroom dishes? Check out the Mushroom Council’s recipes. The burger blends are super popular and exceptionally delicious.
- If kids grow it, they will eat it! You can always try growing your own mushrooms on the counter in the kitchen, or in your kid’s room. There are several different mushroom growing kits available. Its worth trying different varieties over time. Whether or not you grow your own, take 5 minutes and learn how they get from the farm to the store. This can significantly improve your kid’s relationship with mushrooms and their willingness to try them. Mushrooms are actually farmed indoors. Generally speaking, farmers plant spores (not seeds) and the fungus grows and creates a network, called mycelium, that is like a root system of a plant. The mushroom we eat is actually the fruiting body of the fungi.