Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: Exploring nature while mowing can promote health

Mowing and other yardwork count as physical activity.

“You’re doing a good job,” my husband commented.

I needed the positive reinforcement.

I was mowing the lawn with a push mower, which typically is on my husband’s task list. I usually weed and tend the flowers and vegetables.

Unfortunately, he has an injured shoulder. He is sidelined from physical labor for several months. Lucky me.

Despite his compliment, I knew my mowing was not living up to my husband’s standards of perfect diagonal cuts. I was mowing like a mouse running around a maze, going round and round the yard. I was trying to avoid leaving fringes of grass, anyway.

As I pushed the battery-operated mower, people walking nearby commented on how quiet it was. I guess I can mow at night and not disturb anyone. I’d need a hat with lights, though.

On the positive side, mowing and other yardwork count as physical activity and can give your heart a workout.

When using a push mower with an engine, a 125-pound person will burn about 270 calories an hour. A 185-pound person will burn about 400 calories an hour.

If those same people used an “old-fashioned” hand mower without an engine, the lighter-weight person will burn about 400 calories an hour, while the heavier person will burn about 500 calories an hour.

I was getting a free workout while beautifying our yard.

I began observing nature a bit. As an undergraduate, I helped the weed science graduate students with their projects.

Weeds sometimes are called “misplaced plants” by those in plant sciences. Many weeds actually are edible. Foraging has become popular, and some people call weeds “wild greens” and use them in salads or as sauteed side items with meals or on sandwiches.

Dandelion greens, lambs quarters and amaranth are among the many edible weeds. However, you want to be sure you know what you are eating before consuming wild greens. Before you eat plants, use a reliable source to identify them.

Also, be sure that the weeds have not been sprayed with herbicides.

I noted purslane near the sidewalk. This weed has thick, succulent stems that are reddish in color, and the weed grows to form large mats. Purslane is native to North Africa and the Middle East but found its way to North America long ago.

Although we think of purslane as a weed, it is edible and its flavor varies based on growing conditions. Mustard greens and wood sorrel are other weeds that might be growing alongside your vegetable crops.

As I pushed the mower around trees, I came upon a patch of mushrooms growing on the woody mulch. I mowed them down.

I am definitely not a mushroom expert, or “mycologist.” Mycologists have expertise in the study of various fungi.

I would be more confident in tasting weeds instead of mushrooms. Mushrooms can be delicious, but they also can be dangerous if poisonous or hallucinogenic mushrooms are consumed.

Although I can identify the spongy black-topped morels from a crowd of mushrooms, I am content buying mushrooms at the grocery store. Work with an expert mycologist if you decide to hunt for mushrooms.

I paused to replace the rechargeable battery in the mower to finish one section of the yard. I felt a sense of accomplishment as I surveyed our natural green shag carpet. I drank a lot of ice water after I parked the mower.

When you have completed an outdoor activity, you might be more inclined to fuel your body with a healthful snack such as these homemade snack bars.

Cranberry Granola Bars

½ cup honey
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil (soybean oil)
1½ cups oatmeal oats, quick (uncooked)
1¼ cups toasted rice cereal
1¼ cups dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine honey, brown sugar and oil in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until well mixed. Mix oats, rice cereal and cranberries. Add honey mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Pat firmly into an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes; press firmly into the bottom of the pan once more. Bake for five more minutes. Cool completely. Refrigerate at least one hour for easier cutting. For easy serving, wrap each piece in plastic wrap.

Makes 16 servings. Each serving has 120 calories, 2 grams (g) fat, 1 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 15 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – July 13, 2023

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu

Editor: Elizabeth Cronin, 701-231-7881, elizabeth.cronin@ndsu.edu


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