How to Introduce Romanesco to Toddlers
Parents are oftentimes looking to add more green veggies into their child’s diet, but they don’t know how to make it fun, safe and (most of all) simple. They are fearful they will take the time to buy and learn to prepare something new, and then their kids will refuse it. I get it! That’s why I love recommending romanesco. The boys I work with think it looks like ‘alien food’ and girls think they are eating fairytale trees! It is a fun (and weird looking) veggie that kids are drawn to try. Here are my expert tips on introducing romanesco to toddlers.
Texture: Romanesco has a very unusual but beautiful spiral pattern that makes this green vegetable stand out at the grocery store. The texture is compact and pointy, and some kids mistakenly think will be too sharp to eat. Pump up the weirdness factor to make them even more curious about this veggie!
- Sci-Fi Game: You and your kids guess what planet (other than Earth) you think romanesco came from. Most of my kiddos guess Jupiter for some reason!
- Texture Test Game: You and your kids vote on the texture of romanesco. Is it more like broccoli or cauliflower?
Taste: The taste of romanesco is similar to broccoli, but it has a yummy nutty flavor that kids find much more pleasing. Some of my feeding therapy clients say the taste and texture in their mouth is more like cauliflower. Here are some ideas for exploration.
- Tongue Game: I like to encourage everyone in the family to lick + taste the romanesco. You will be surprised how nervous your kids will be. Be patient and don’t force them if they don’t want to. But it’s a kind reminder how anxious kids are about the way food looks and why fun food art works with kids!
- Taste Test Game: You and your kids try a bite of romanesco and everyone votes on whether it tastes more like broccoli or cauliflower.
Blanche: Break apart the romanesco head by separating the florets and then blanching them.
- How to blanch: Bring a pot of water to boil; sprinkle in salt; add florets and cook for 1-2 minutes; immediately drain and place in a bowl of ice water.
- Cheesy Pasta: Try adding the blanched romanesco to a cheesy pasta dish, in a quesadilla or on a grilled cheese sandwich. Most of my feeding therapy clients tell me that cheese helps mask the taste of green veggies. The key – they NEED to know you are putting the green ingredient in there in order for them to trust mealtime and the chef.
Sauté: If your child feels more comfortable having a familiar veggie in the mix, try sautéing the romanesco florets with either broccoli or cauliflower.
- How to sauté: I cook the florets in a pan with leftover bacon grease over relatively high heat.
- Pinwheels: I often use romanesco in pinwheels so kids can see the bright green color, which might make them a bit hesitant at first. But the pinwheel shape is so fun and enticing they tend to gobble them up!
- How to puree: I puree the florets with some melted butter, garlic and parmesan until tender and smooth.
- Drink: You can also offer your kids a thin puree (or soup) from an open cup. Open cup drinking is a 6-month-old developmental milestone (drinking from a cup held by an adult) and a 12-month-old milestone (drinking from an open cup independently). Use the ezpz Tiny Cup to make open cup drinking less messy and more fun.
Luckily, romanesco is available year-round, so you can find it easily and try these different ways to prepare it for your family. Let us know which way was your child’s favorite! #ezpzfun
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 28 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating tendencies. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning feeding products.