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Did You Know You Can Eat Your Lawn (If Your Parents Don’t Kill it First)?

A group of students visiting the Indianapolis Museum of Art gathered outside to taste lawn "weeds" with SafeLawns founder Paul Tukey on Thursday.

Yesterday was definitely a highlight of the whirlwind spring tour for SafeLawns. The Indianapolis Museum of Art — which features a 150-acre public botanic garden as its backdrop — was a tremendous surprise. A day of consultations was capped with a rousing public lecture in the Tobias Theater.

The best part, though, was introducing a group of fifth-grade students to the idea of edible lawns and a concept I euphemistically call “the poop loop,” in honor of my dairy farming grandparents in Maine.

I always begin by asking the kids how trees grow so tall in the forest and, true to form, one of them answered “Miracle Gro” fertilizer. When I explain that the leaves and pine needles are actually the fertilizer that grow trees, the next question becomes: “How does this happen?”

That’s where the poop loop comes in . . . because just like cows that eat, digest and excrete their food and leave us manure that can be used as fertilizer, the earthworms and microscopic organisms do the same thing 24-7 in healthy soil that hasn’t been treated with chemical fertilizers or weed and insect killers.

The time with the young students ended with a trip outdoors to the IMA lawn, where they sampled some chickweed. That answered my other question to them: “Did you Know You Can Eat Your Lawn (if you parents don’t kill it first)?” Most had no idea.

We also saw a few dandelions, some clover and Johnny jump-ups. I couldn’t find any purslane, one of my favorites, or shotweed, nettle or sorrel.

I left them behind with these pointers:

• Always get permission before picking plants on any property that isn’t yours.
• Never eat a plant unless you have a positive identification for it and know for sure which parts
are edible.
• Never eat plants that have been exposed to herbicides or pesticides.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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