by Margaret Boyles
The world has burst into bloom. The
forsythia and daffodils have faded, but azaleas, lilacs, flowering quince,
cherry and apple trees, the invasive but
sweet-scented autumn olive, dandelion, lawn violets and many more have exploded
with color and fragrance.
For centuries, humans have foraged
or cultivated flowers and flower buds for food, drink, and medicine. Think
broccoli, cauliflower, and artichoke, stuffed or stir-fried squash blossoms
dill-flower spiked pickles, chamomile and jasmine tea.
But did you know that the flowers of
hundreds of common wild and cultivated plants are edible? Dressing up your
soups, salads, drinks, and desserts with buds and flowers will add color,
diversity, and new flavor to your meals. Adventurous folks might also want to
explore some of the traditional medicinal uses of common flowers.
When preparing most flowers
(exceptions: squash, violets, and nasturtiums) for food or beverage, use only
the petals for best flavor. Remove the sepals, as well as the pistils and
stamens. In case you’ve forgotten your flower anatomy, here’s help.
Please read the caveats below before you begin.
A few of my favorites
sits at the top of my list. It’s easy to grow from seed, indoors or out,
and every above-ground part is edible. Its buds and delicate, voluptuous
blossoms spice up a bland salad or cooked vegetable platter. Nasturtium
leaves and flowers are rich in antioxidant and antiinflammatory compounds,
and have a long history of medicinal use in indigenous cultures for
urinary-tract, cardiovascular, and respiratory disorders. Extracts of this
cabbage-family relative are currently under investigation as possible treatments
for many diseases, including antibiotic-resistant infections.
Harvested fresh, the plump buds and meaty flowers of this common garden
plant are delicious sauteed in a little oil or butter, then seasoned with
salt and pepper. Some people stuff the just-opened blossom with a favorite
stuffing mix, then saute the stuffed flowers in a little oil or poach them
in broth. Use only freshly harvested buds/flowers.
I’ve already written about my love of the
irrepressible wild violets that pop up all over my lawns and gardens. Give
it a read, and tend your lawn violets with care!
A lovely and easy-to-grow annual flower, calendula petals will add color
and spice to just about any cooked or fresh dish. Carefully remove the
petals and toss them into salad, stir-fries, or your favorite rice
flowers are renowned for skin care and healing. You’ll find calendula listed as
an ingredient in many high-end skincare products and healing creams.
a nice recipe for homemade calendula oil or cream: Pull the petals from enough dried or fresh calendula
blossoms to give you a cup. Add petals to a cup of olive oil in a large glass jar
with a lid; seal and leave in a sunny window or outside for a week or two.
After straining out the petals, you can use the oil as is, or heat it in a
double boiler with ¼ cup of melted beeswax to make a spreadable cream.
The darker-colored, more aromatic the variety the more flavor it will
have. Strew rose petals across a fresh salad, brew them into tea, or use
the entire blossoms to decorate a cake.
Carefully separate the petals and sprinkle them into salads. For a real
treat, harvest the unopened buds, remove the sepals, and steam the buds
until tender. Meaty and filling, they taste like artichoke. Mmm!
Dried or fresh, chamomile tea is renowned as a safe and gentle calming and
sleep-promoting agent. It’s readily available in stores (buy flowers in
bulk), and easy to grow in the home garden. Plus, take a gander at this review of the traditional
medicinal uses of chamomile and current investigation of the herb as
Here’s a longer list of edible flowers. Have fun!
- Never eat a flower you can’t identify with absolute
certainty and know to be safe.
- Don’t eat commercially grown flowers or flowers that
came from a florist; they could have been sprayed.
- Don’t forage wild flowers on treated lawns or along
well-traveled roadways (possibility of chemical contamination).
- Introduce a new edible flower or floral tea slowly and
gradually, especially if you have a serious ragweed or other pollen
allergy. On your first try, take a few deep sniffs, then only a bite or
- Because flowers may contain powerful phytocompounds (which
confer their healing virtues, as well as their flavors and colors), check
with your healthcare professional before eating edible flowers if you’re
pregnant or taking prescription drugs.
Take note of the
grants program for teachers below. Deadline is coming up.
2014 Conservation and Education Grants Available (Deadline:
your nature center, land trust, local municipality, or other non-profit
have a conservation project that needs funding? Are you a teacher in need
of extra funding to take your students on field trips or do an
Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin's C.D. Besadny
Conservation Grant and Teachers' Outdoor Environmental
Education Grant applications are now available for small-scale
natural resources projects and programs that support the responsible
stewardship of Wisconsin's natural resources at the local level.
ranging from $100-$1,000 are awarded annually to projects or programs in
Wisconsin that benefit the public, involve management and restoration of
Wisconsin's natural resources, and/or contribute to knowledge about
Wisconsin's natural resources through education. Recipients are required to
match the grant award on a 1:1 basis with funds or in-kind services.
funded projects have included citizen-based monitoring in the Bad River
watershed, expanding hiking opportunities in southwest Wisconsin's savannas
and prairies, garden planting by Green Bay Area Public Schools to reduce
flooding and attract native species, and installing signage about wildlife
at the Tamarack Preserve in Waukesha County. In 2013, our Foundation
awarded more than $26,000 to 30 community partners across Wisconsin.
more information and to apply, please visit our website at wisconservation.org.
Applications must be postmarked by September 6, 2014.
Questions about the program may be directed to Caitlin Williamson at (866)
246-4096, or email@example.com.
Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin
The Natural Resources Foundation is a
statewide non-profit organization that raises private funding for publicly
owned lands and waters in Wisconsin. Our mission is to connect generations
to the wonders of Wisconsin's lands, waters, and wildlife.
Exploring Stream Curriculum
Our teachers Kris Stepenuck, Lisie
Kitchel(pictured), Laura Herman, Laura MacFarland, Sue Reinecke, and Quita
Sheehan were extrodinar!
Stream Camp was a fantastic experience for learning and
meeting people. You might consider this adventure for next summer.
We had many Natural Resource Professionals, both learning
and teaching, that will serve as resources for years to come. From a teachers
view, there were connections for lessons from the first minutes until the last.
The WAV (Water Action Volunteers) program is the most classroom friendly of the
citizen science programs, in my opinion, and the extensions we learned opened
it up even more.
The one that grab me was taking the invertebrates into the
classroom and looking at them under a microscope to key them out to a family
level! The details of these critters that show up only under more magnification
was awe inspiring. The tail that turned out to be two anal hooks, the eyes that
were on the “back” side and bright red, and the stories of life cycle details
were crazy facts that students would lap up.
The reasons I enjoy the WAV monitoring is that you as the
volunteer you get to pick what of the criteria you want to monitor and how
often. This leaves it open to fit into a classroom curriculum throughout the
year instead of fitting there protocol into your curriculum.
Unfortunately they made everything so very interesting, as I
teacher I would be trying to get it all into my class. The Mussels were hard
for me to tell apart, it was often only a subtle curve of the shell or depth of
shell that was the defining point. What was amazing was how many of them were
just lying in the stream bottom and I had never noticed them before. We also
found midden piles, most likely from raccoons or weasels, at the boat landings
and piers throughout the area. I can now make correct identification on about 5
of the 50 some clams present in Wisconsin. My odds are not good but going up
from zero to five.
The last day we worked a stream with a fish shocking crew
and identified brook and brown trout, sculpins, and northern pike. From this
session we learned how they research the streams and the structures they are
building to maintain and restore trout streams in Northern Wisconsin.
So next year pack your waders and be ready to
suck in the information offered by so many field professionals in the stream
Exploring Stream Curriculum
Yesterday while I was teaching in Adam-Friendship, the insects where a major
find. Dragonflies, damselflies, grasshoppers, ants, wasps, bees, beetles, and
many other less identifiable specimens all push to be noticed. Children (and
adults) are drawn to insects some in disgust and some in awe. It is hard not to
look into the eye of an insect and not wonder how it views the world with so
many images coming at it.
Teaching the terminology, to identify, the concepts of life cycles, or the
social behavior of ants or bees can be fascinating to many. Since they are
always around us and often abound in numbers why not use them. No one has ever
developed a protocol beyond basic respect of a living creature to use them for
studies. So go for it. It could be a simple grasshopper collection. How many
what type of habitat are the most likely to be found in? What are their life
stages? How long does a life cycle take? Let the students pick and accessible
population and generate questions to answer? Let them figure out how to catch
or observe the principles they are looking to study? Let your students design
the study with you as a mentor or coach. I think that you will be amazed and
amazed at who steps up to work on this project. Enjoy the beautiful weather and
take care to notice the wonderful ballet of life exploding around you.
Insect Charades.pdfInsect Chardes sheet.pdf
Twist an Insect.pdftwist an insect 2.pdftwist an insect 3.pdf
Insectclopedia below has lesson plans for all ages and teaching types. Give
one a try and let me know if you find one that is particularly useful in your
classes. I used the Honey bees in a 2nd grade class with great
success, some are less hands on and inquiry then others but it certainly
addresses many possibilities. The High School Cockroach study facinates me and teaches lots of experimental design.
Lastly an activity I often do with students to help them understand the eye of an insect and what the world looks like through that eye.
By July, most songbirds are in the final stages of raising their young, but not the American Goldfinches.
These appealing, colorful birds are just getting started.
Notoriously late nesters, goldfinches have been waiting for the
thistles to bloom. When this happens in July, it signals the goldfinches
that they can start building their nests which are made primarily of
the silver fibers and down of thistle blooms. Generally, the nest is
built in the fork of a horizontal tree limb, 4 to 14 feet above the
The female builds a durable, neat cup of thistle and cattail fibers,
so dense that it will hold water. In it she lays 4 to 6 pale blue to
white eggs and then she incubates them for 12 to 14 days, until they
hatch. The attentive male often feeds his mate while she sits on the
By the time the eggs hatch, the thistle has gone to seed, which is
perfect timing for feeding young goldfinches. The parents nourish this
chicks by consuming the thistle seed themselves, and then regurgitating
the partially digested, milklike cereal into the mouths of their
nestlings. This is as close as birds come to mammals that feed their
young milk from mammary glands.
Baby goldfinches are fully feathered and out of the nest 10 to 16
days later. Almost immediately, they join their parents at bird feeders
across America. That’s when many people suddenly notice so many
goldfinches as the summer progesses.
Bird nest mini-lessons 2-6th grade
building bird nest activity upper elementary
A Tale of Lust And Death
These remarkable green and yellow flashing lights have a hypnotic effect
on people. Children in particular are drawn to fireflies. But the same
throbbing glow that attracts youngsters often leads male fireflies to
In warm-weather months, especially where open meadows and forests
coexist, the adult male fireflies of most species set out on mating
flights in the evening hours. The females, meanwhile, await their mates
in the foliage, blinking seductively. The task for each male is to find
an unmated female of its own species.
It’s critical that the female be unmated because in many firefly
species the females change through internal chemistry into male-eaters
once they successfully mate. Thereafter they use their blinks to attract
meals. Some females even imitate the idiosyncratic blinking patterns of
other species in an effort to attract as many unsuspecting males as
It’s a fly-eat-fly world out there!
Have you seen any fireflies yet?
Thank you to enature for this interesting tale.
Here are some things I am attending or would love to attend this summer, Any one else with a favorite if you could post in comments it would be appreciated.
Summer Biofuel Workshop at UW-Madison
Flyer Summer Biofuel Workshop.pdf
June 23-June 27 No Teacher Left Inside - Conserve School
This week of collaboration and in-depth
professional development held at Conserve School, Land O'
Lakes, WI features a two-day immersion workshop on Place-Based Education along
with a three-day institute featuring explorations in the use of technology for
professional learning and students projects, scientific inquiry, writing and
art in the outdoors, and outdoor skill activities. NTLI participants will
develop action plans that meet state standards and establish student learning
objectives while using the environment as a context for learning and teaching.
Register by May 31st
June 23-27. Citizen-based Monitoring in the Classroom.
UW-Waukesha Field Station, Waukesha.
Citizen-Based Monitoring in the Classroom
Join scientists and educators from the Department of Natural Resources for a week of citizen science. Learn about citizen-based monitoring programs from dragonflies to bird-feeders to stream health and how you and your students can get involved. Spend time in the field learning about monitoring programs adn identifying plants and animals. Inside, you'll experience classroom activities and discuss how to integrate them into your program. Teachers, as well as youth group leaders, are welcome.Location: UW-Waukesha Field Station, Waukesha, Wis.Cost: $50. Two free credits plus a variety of equipment will be supplied thanks to a generous grant from the Dutton Foundation.Contact: Carrie Morgan, WI DNR, (608)267-5239, Monday, June 23, 2014 - 8:00am to Friday, June 27, 2014 - 4:00pm
July 16-18. Stream
Ecology Field School. Trees for Tomorrow, Eagle River.
Field Biology Course
Are you interested in learning more about Wisconsin's streams and the life within them? Then consider joining us for Stream Biology Field Course - a three-day hands-on training opportunity for adults to learn more about local stream biology. Wisconsin experts will be joining us to teach you about native and exotic aquatic plants, mussels, fish, marcoinvertebrates, and more in this field-based and fun-filled event in the Northwoods on July 16-18, 2014. The event will be held at Trees For Tomorrow, a natural resource specialty school in Eagle River.
This event is intended for adult attendance, though teens are welcome if they are attending with an adult.
July 15-19 Earth Partnership for Schools at Madison Arboretum
Earth Partnership for Schools is offering an Earth Partnership Water
Stewardship Institute to involve students in native plantings that
improve water quality, benefit wildlife and offer meaningful,
project-based learning opportunities.
The First of May
Now the smallest creatures, who do not know they have
names, In fields of pure sunshine open themselves and sing.
All over the marshes and in the wet meadows, Wherever
there is water, the companies of peepers Who cannot count their members, gather
with sweet shouting.
And the flowers of the woods who cannot see each other
Appear in perfect likeness of one another Among the weak new shadows on the
Now the smallest creatures, who know themselves by heart,
With all their tender might and roundness of delight Spending their colors,
their myriads and their voices Praise the moist ground and every winking leaf,
And the new sun that smells of the new streams.
Poetry is a great literacy connection for the outdoors.
Hemlock is being attacted by an wooly adelgid. Listen to this story of history, climate change, and insect-tree interactions.
WPR Hemlock feature report
This report is easy to listen to and a great example of a case study.