This October, all of the 3rd grade classes came out to visit both gardens. To go along with their studies of the Native Americans of this area, we looked in both gardens for plants that the Wampanoag use for food and medicine.
We learned that some of the giant weeds (taller than the kids and parent volunteers!) that took over part of the vegetable garden this summer are Pigweed, which is a type of Amaranth. Amaranth is valued for its edible leaves and seeds. The seeds are very high in protein and nutrients and have been eaten for thousands of years by many, including the Wampanoag. We rubbed the flower buds between our fingers to find the tiny black and brown seeds.
We talked about how the “Three Sisters” (corn, beans, and squash) are a great combination of crops to grow. They all store well through the winter, they nutritionally complement each other, and they help each other grow.
The corn provides support for the beans, to help them get more sun and up off the ground, away from hungry animals. The large squash leaves shade the soil to prevent weeds from growing and keep water in the soil. And the beans are able to take nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil, to help fertilize the other plants.
In the Garden Classroom we found several plants used by the Wampanoag, including sage, coneflower, milkweed, bee balm, and yarrow.
Then, we picked some dried corn off of a corn cob to grind with a mortar and pestle.
Food preparation was a lot of work! With the help of everyone in the class, we would have had just enough ground corn for one batch of cornbread.
Thank you to our amazing volunteers for helping to make all of this possible: Karl Scherrer, Florence Wang, Narine van Hal, Kareem Feagin, Seetha Burtner, Harriet Wong, Liane Brecknock, and Jidong Liu.