Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Wild Weeds Walk

A little basic knowledge of the wild plants in your area could yield a delicious salad. (iStock)
A little basic knowledge of the wild plants in your area could yield a delicious salad. (iStock)
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Think back. It was only a few short months ago that we were shivering in sub-zero temperatures and desperate with longing to get out of the house.

Those first warm days we burst out of our homes full of ideas about days in the park and playing frisbee in the back yard. Sadly, though, it doesn’t take long and we start hearing those dreaded words….

“I’m bored!”

After 100 trips to the same old playground and a rainbow’s worth of sidewalk chalk, maybe it’s time for something different. A weed walk is when you find a wild field, a stretch of road with unmowed borders or a large empty lot (be sure it’s safe – no old construction materials or anything of that sort) and walk through it very slowly, being certain to truly look at each of the different plants you come across.

Late summer and early fall are the perfect time to explore. The flowers will be blooming and beginning to produce all sorts of interesting seeds. Caterpillars are turning to butterflies and baby birds and bunnies are getting bigger and more curious, which only increases their adorableness exponentially!

Here are 5 great reasons to take your kids on a weed walk!

1) You might find your dinner!

Granted, you want to be very certain that you know what you’re picking and sure that it hasn’t been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. That said, a little basic knowledge of the wild plants in your area could yield a delicious salad. If your kids are like mine, they’re not terribly excited about a bowl of lettuce on the table but it’s crazy and adventurous and fun to eat weeds they pick themselves!

There are some plants that grow very nearly everywhere in the US: 

Dandelions – Dandelion greens are a nutritional powerhouse! One cup of chopped greens is a mere 25 calories but will give you 112% of your daily requirement of vitamin A as well as a good amount of vitamin C, calcium and iron!

Purslane – Purslane is also packed with vitamins A and C, calcium and iron as well as vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and more and, at an astonishingly low 7 calories per cup you can hardly go wrong!

Wild carrots – These are also known as Queen Anne’s Lace. Don’t mix them up with Hemlock, which can be toxic! It’s easy to tell the difference. When you pull a wild carrot it is similar in shape and smell to the carrots you are used to from the grocery store (though not in color). Hemlock, on the other hand, has roots that look nothing like carrots and smells terrible.

Lamb’s quarters – With 281% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A, 111% of vitamin C, 46% of calcium, 7% of iron and only 5 calories per cup (boiled and drained) this may be the ruler of the weed world. It’s flavor is much more mild that that of dandelions or purslane and it can be cooked or added to a salad.

2) It’s an amazing chance to talk to your kids about the ecosystem.

In our world of concrete and perfectly manicured lawns, patches of “wilderness” have never been more important. Pollinators such as bees and butterflies require such areas to eat and breed. Without pollinators we’d lose 1/3 of our common foods! Other animals as well, from snakes to birds to bunnies make their homes amongst the “weeds.”

Each plays a vital role in keeping our planet healthy and taking the time to explore these “wild” areas presents a great opportunity to remind children that we are all connected to the earth and one another and we need to be mindful of the choices we make.

3) It will stimulate sluggish “summer brains.”

Our kids spend 9 months of the year being forced to sit still and listen to an endless stream of information. It’s no wonder, then, that they often want to “zone out” and be entertained by the TV or computer when they’re not in school. Get their natural curiosity moving again by pointing out the weird and wonderful. Ask questions! “Why do you think that plant’s seeds have little fluffies attached?” “What’s the difference between this flower and that one?” “What kinds of animals do you think would like to live in a space like this?”

4) It’s free.

I don’t know what your family did this summer but after a mini-vacation to a nearby amusement park, 3 fairs, one trip to the zoo, a week of camp for the 9-year-old and summer volleyball clinics our financial well is running a tad dry. A weed walk isn’t just cheap. It’s FREE. In fact, it may yield you some savings (refer to #1). Give the old pocketbook a rest and get out there in the sunshine!

5) You never know what you might find!

Maybe you’ll come across an antique bottle, a fossil, a beautiful stone, a snake skin, or a $20 bill. We’ve found all of those things and more while looking for interesting “weeds.” The possibilities are literally endless. Who knows what treasures are out there, just waiting for you to find them!

Want more articles?

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Elizabeth Comiskey has a true passion to care for the planet, promote world peace and raise her children to be productive citizens. She’s also a normal working mom – exhausted and constantly pressed for time – so she seeks out the most efficient possible ways to do these things.  Her blog, Lazy Hippie Mama, was born of her certainty that she couldn’t possibly be the only one who cares a great deal about improving the world around her and connecting with others in meaningful, inspiring ways but lacking in time and energy. Visit her blog, Lazy Hippie Mama or join her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Elizabeth is also a Sverve Influencer – connect with her here.

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