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Montessori Fun With Fruit

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Fruit Face

Parents of children attending our Montessori centre know that children are supposed to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables “and parents might also need to eat a bit more fruit and veggies as well!

However, sometimes we all have those moments when we can’t think what to do when faced with the fruit aisle at the local supermarket (or, depending on where you live, the farmers market or the trees in your back garden) apart from raw fruit. Not that there’s anything wrong with fresh raw fruit, but at times, you need a change or something just a little bit special.

Or, if you’ve got a productive tree or vine in the back garden, you might need to find something to do with a glut of fruit apart from giving it away.

Crumbles and cobblers: These desserts are delicious and simple to prepare. Start by choosing your fruit “apples, peaches, plums, pears or a mixture of what you’ve got (melons, passion fruit and citrus are the only fruit that are unsuitable for cobblers and crumbles). Remove cores, stones and inedible skins (e.g. banana skins) then slice the fruit.

You can stew the fruit with a little water and sugar (or maybe some honey and some spices as well) and thicken the mix with cornflower, or leave as is . Place the fruit in a baking dish, which you need to grease for cobblers.

For a crumble, combine about a cup of rolled oats, a cup of flour, half a cup of sugar (more for tart fruits), a pinch of salt, about a cup of cooking oil (or melted butter), and rub the lot together before placing on top of the fruit mix.

For a cobbler, make a basic cake or sweet scone batter (preferably runny) and pour this over the fruit mix. Bake at about 180°C for about half an hour or until the topping is cooked through.

Smoothies: If you want to make smoothies, you need a blender. All you have to do is put in the fruit (it helps to chop it up a bit first), add some liquid and maybe some sweetener, give it a whizz and there you go!

However, you have to be careful when adding milk, as it curdles with acid fruits. You’re safe enough with milk and bananas, but for most other fruit, you’re best to use yoghurt if you want a bit of added calcium plus some water.

Don’t stick to just one fruit in a smoothie “ try a berry blend, a mixture of fruit and bland-tasting vegetables (carrots and Swedes are winners) and experimenting with herbs and spices (kiwifruit, ginger and mint make a great combination).

Granitas and sorbets: The difference between a granita and a sorbet isn’t great: a sorbet can be chunkier and cloudier, while a granita is clear.

To make them, mush or boil up some fruit of your choice with a dash of lemon juice and just a little sugar or honey (not much, though “fruit is sweet enough and if you can learn to enjoy fruits without sugar, you’re doing yourself a favor). Strain the granita. Pour your fruit pulp into a tray and freeze it.

When it’s solid, run a fork through it to break it up. A low-fat equivalent of ice-cream that makes a great party treat. Berries make excellent sorbets and granitas.

Muffins: Children who are fussy about eating raw fruit will usually eat it cooked in muffins. If you can make ordinary sultana or chocolate chip muffins, you can make fruit muffins.

Use more fruit than you would choc-chips or sultanas, as fruit can shrink. Berries are old favourites for adding to muffins, but you can try nearly any type of fruit, except perhaps melons (oranges and other citrus fruits can have juice and zest added, but this is best done in combination with other fruits). A touch of citric or tartaric acid in the batter brings out the flavors of the fruit.

Chocolate-coated: Dark chocolate contains a huge amount of trace elements, so it’s practically a multivitamin pill, as long as you only eat it in moderation.

This dietary supplement  can enhance fruit and turn it into something really special.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave on low, then dip your fruits in. Set aside on baking paper to harden before eating. Good fruit for dipping in chocolate include strawberries, bananas, peaches, cherries, pears and large bits of kiwifruit.

Jams and jellies: This is the best way to use up excess fruit if you have a tree that produces bountifully. Use equal weights of fruit and sugar to make jams and jellies “the end result isn’t the healthiest, but it is an improvement over something stuffed with artificial this and that.

First, chop up and boil your fruit, using only a little water. When the fruit is pulpy, add the sugar and stir well. When the jam gets thick and sticky (test it on a plate), pour it into warm sterilized screw-top jars with metal lids and seal.

The fruit to use should have plenty of pectin and acid: apples, grapes, apricots, plums, blackcurrants, quinces and citrus are all safe bets, or mix one of these pectin-rich fruits with other fruit such as berries, peaches and pears.

Montessori children need fruit and these are just some of the fun ways you can get them to eat it.

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