The days are long and bright, and getting dinner on the table should be the last thing on your mind. However, the school year has come to an end, and the children are free, so think about it many of us must.
With all the outside activity going on this summer, everyone is ditching the dinner table to take their meals al fresco. But it doesn’t have to stop there – what about getting outside for the growing, the foraging, the harvesting, and the cooking as well?
Take a trip with your children outside this weekend and open their eyes to what is growing around them. Look closely and you will see that those beautiful sweet flowers spilling over a hedge are actually connected to green beans slowly coming into their own; the bush that spikes out from the railway land is actually a bramble with blackberries almost ready to harvest; the yellow flowering plant in the neighbour’s yard is producing more courgettes than they know what to do with. Your children will be amazed to see just how much of the world around them is edible.
Foraging for your own tea is a great way to capture children’s interest, and luckily even some wild flowers are edible and gorgeous in salads if you know which to pick. Here’s a guide I’ve used to work out what’s delicious, what’s easy to find, and what’s safe to eat. For more, here’s a fantastic in-depth masterclass by Jamie’s gardener, Pete.
Cooking doesn’t have to be limited to an indoor activity either; at the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation we see all the time that kids love to get stuck in whenever a task feels a bit naughty or against the rules. Cooking outside feels playful, out of the ordinary, and like they’re abandoning the rulebook, which is great when it comes to getting them involved and excited.
Taking the kitchen outdoors doesn’t need to be complicated. Grab a chopping board and a knife, bring a mixing bowl, a teaspoon and a microplane with you, and you have all you need to create one of our favourite recipes, Greek vegetable kebabs.
Let your children give it a go, using the bridge technique to chop the summer veg into cubes. Carefully grate over some lemon zest and mix everything together. Watch as your children carefully skewer the ingredients for the barbecue. While an adult is busy tending to the flames, let the children collect wild flowers for the centre of the table (or even for a salad), or muddle up some foraged blackberries (always remember to wash them first!) to add to iced water for a nice refreshing drink. Engaging children with the great outdoors will help them feel invested in the food on their plates.
So, get growing, foraging, harvesting and cooking with your children outside this summer, and be sure to share your pictures with us by tagging @jamieskgp on Twitter and Instagram.