Defeating weeding by eating: Kids and science in the garden – Part 3: Lambs-quarters and nutrition

Struggling to get the kids to weed the garden? Eat them! (The weeds, not the kids.)

This is the third in a series of articles on edible weeds in the garden and using them to teach science lessons. This can be done in a family, in a day care or school activities, or with any group working with children and gardens.

Getting kids, and adults, to weed can be a chore. By turning weeding into harvesting, we can get good nutritious food and help our plants grow.

Ask the young people you are working with why weeding is important. You could do an experiment in your garden where you weed one patch around a plant, and leave another patch with the same plant un-weeded and see which thrives better or gives you more tasty vegetables.

The weed we are going to look at today goes by many names: “lambs-quarters,” “pigweed” and “goosefoot” (Chenopodium album). Some pictures and a description can be found at the University of California’s key to turf weeds.

My family and I built six 4 feet by 8 feet raised bed gardens this spring. We planted the gardens in late May and soon we were overrun with lambs-quarters. We decided to try eating the lambs-quarters and to cook it in different ways. It tastes like spinach, both in its raw and cooked forms. Any recipe that uses spinach, lambs-quarters can be easily substituted. Our family had them sautéed with a little Worcestershire sauce, put into quiche and omelets, in casseroles, cooked with onions and peanut butter and many other ways.

Most people know that eating a wide variety of foods is important, but why? Foods are high in different vitamins and minerals. Different plants use those vitamins and minerals to help them grow in their environment. A one-ounce serving of raw lambs-quarters has 65 percent of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin A and 37 percent for vitamin C. Vitamin A helps support our immune system and vision.

One word of caution, whenever trying a new food, only try a little bit at a time and wait a few days, particularly if you are allergy-prone. See how you react after a leaf or two see if there is any reaction before trying any more.

Happy weeding!

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