Many Minnesota gardeners and farmers are itching to sow their seeds, but our weather has not been very cooperative! Lettuce can be the answer for relieving a little bit of this restlessness. Not only is it fun and easy to grow, but it likes cool weather. Lettuce prefers temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit so May and early June planting is preferred. Most lettuce varieties mature quickly enough that you can make your own salad within a month of planting. Add some of your favorite Minnesota grown fruits and veggies to the mix to make a healthy meal or snack that can also be used for the fun “food investigation” below.
This simple activity allows children to discover the parts of a plant and also distinguish salad components as fruits or vegetables.
- Lettuce – hopefully home grown, but store or farmers market purchased is fine
- Additional salad ingredients – Ideas include carrots, celery, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, corn, raisins, oranges, apples, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, soy nuts, and anything else you can think of!
- Salad Bowl or container
- Chart found on page 35 of Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom’s Minnesota School Garden Guide
- Create a salad by mixing your lettuce and the additional ingredients you selected.
- List each ingredient you mixed in your salad in the chart found on page 35 in the Minnesota School Garden Guide.
- Decide what each ingredient would be classified – a fruit or a vegetable. Record this information in your chart. Definitions and information can be found on pages 33 and 34 in the Minnesota School Garden Guide. A quick summary:
- Vegetable = any edible part of a plant that is not a fruit
- Fruit = part of a plant that holds or contains the seeds
- Decide what part of a plant each salad ingredient represents – root, stem, leaf, flower, seed or fruit. Record this information in your chart. Definitions and information can be found on pages 33 and 34 in the Minnesota School Garden Guide. A quick summary:
- Roots – absorb water, anchor
- Stem – transport water and food
- Leaves – soak up sun, make food
- Flower – produce seeds
- Fruit – hold seeds
- Think of additional foods that you eat that are roots, stems, leave, flowers, fruits and seeds and record these in the final column of the chart from the Minnesota School Garden Guide.
- Add your favorite dressing to your salad and enjoy a very healthy snack!
- Research different varieties of lettuce. Select seeds and grow varieties selected for taste, growth, adaptation to cold climates like Minnesota or any other reasons determined by your family.
- Analyze the nutritional value of the salad ingredients and how they all fit into the MyPlate model.
- Create your own salad dressing! Many easy recipes can be found on a variety of websites.
For a complete “Salad Investigation” lesson plan and background information go to the Minnesota School Garden Guide, page 31.
For further information about the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom program visit www.mda.state.mn.us/maitc or contact Al Withers, Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sue Knott, Education Specialist at email@example.com.