“The tinkle of your tiny bells
Resounding softly in the dells,
Lift your heads, please don't be shy.
Heed not the wind, it's very sly.”
-Poem by Josie Theresa Whitehead, UK
A week of homeschooling due to social distancing has really brought out the teacher in me. It has also reminded me just how much students are at a loss for the world when trapped within the limiting walls of a classroom. Taking learning beyond the classroom has ignited the fire in my son’s desire to learn. The natural world is full of wonder!
I promised the next edible plant I would showcase would be Purple Dead Nettle but, I lied-for a good educational reason, of course! The Bluebells my son found on our hike, served as a great learning opportunity for both of us. Why? Because I had no idea that, until our research this morning, they were edible! Did you? Apparently some people eat them. I have not found enough info about this, but have read that not all bluebell species are edible-the non native species are not. I have also read they taste like oysters when cooked, so, yuck. I won’t be eating these.
During an art lesson on Monday we made a Nature Study Journal. This is our notebook for documenting the natural world. Each hike he has to find something that piques his interest. Tuesday it was the Organ Pipe Dauber’s nest, today it was the newly emerging bluebells!
He thought they were the most beautiful flowers. “I think the Nature Sprites must be the guardians over these secret forest flowers mom!”
That brought a smile to my face. I love imagination and I encourage my son to use it as much as possible. He was right, they truly feel like hushed whispers, hidden away as they are. The forest floor becomes a sacred space as each tiny blossom unfolds to a bluebell.
Surely they must ring to an ancient tune meant for only the ears of the wild inhabitants of the forest glen. Ringing in the spring and ringing the sleeping critters from their winter slumber. Letting the world know, it’s time to wake up! Rise! rise! Rise and Shine!
I have heard it said that bumblebees rise shortly after the bells ring! So, now we’ll be on the lookout for bumbles bumbling about! The world is waking! Are you excited as us?
My son wrote four questions he wanted to know about bluebells!
What animals or insects like them?
Are they native to America?
Who first discovered bluebells?
Are they poisonous or edible?
He snapped some pictures, and drew a sketch. His mission for tomorrow morning will be a google search for the answers he needs to write for his research! I loved watching the excitement build in him and his desire to discover the answers he longed to know.
This was a great way to incorporate art, reading, tech, science, history and writing! 🙌🏻
Thursday morning, during his online research he discovered that Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are a member of the Boraginaceae family. Some sources claim the leaves and flowers of the native species are edible, and are supposedly a delicious addition to a salad or stir-fry! He is now interested in harvesting some and finding a dish he wants to cook! Not sure, again, the fact it is described as tasting like oysters is a complete turnoff to me. Who is he kidding? He doesn’t even eat vegetable without a fight! Wow, maybe we’ll even make this into a complete unit of learning that includes some kitchen science-probably not with this plant though!
If anyone can point is in the direction of recipes and or more info regarding their edible side, please message me. There is a debate out there about whether to eat or not eat. We do know that most other non native bluebell species are not edible but that the Virginia Bluebell has been utilized as food sources in the past by Native American cultures and currently by the wildcrafting community. I'm just not convinced yet.
He learned also, Virginia Bluebells are beneficial to pollinators and is an early spring favorite of many butterflies. Bumblebees do enjoy it to, but it’s very hard for them to reach the nectar source due to the deep droopy heads of the bell-shaped flowers. The bees need to perform some serious aerial acrobatics to reach the nectar and as such, don’t often visit bluebells.
My son was really interested in learning who discovered the bluebell, his research findings point to a man named Carl Linnaeus being among the first in 1753. He also learned that Virginia Bluebells are, indeed, native to Eastern North America!
Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using or ingesting ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes or otherwise, please consult a physician, medical herbalist or other suitable professional for advice.
Next wildcraft blog post will feature a favorite of mine: Purple Dead Nettle- PROMISE! 👌🏻
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