Spring Treasure Hunt: Wild Edible Science

For our Spring Treasure Hunt this year, we looked around the schoolyard and in our backyards for budding edible flowers and this is what we found so far – some being edible and some NOT.  Blue-Eyed Grass (See Photo to left), Grape Hyacinth, Crocuses, Daffodils and Narcissus.  Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrhynchium bellum) is a pretty 6-petalled native species (similar to Blue-Eyed Mary’s (which we believe only has 4 petals).  Both the leaves and the flowers can be steeped for drinkable tea.  Our class is still determining the nutritional value of our findings. Golden Blue-Eyed Grass is similar in shape and form, but different branch of the same species (Sisyrinchium californicum;   Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyrinchium.

For your Spring Treasure Hunt, have your class split up into groups and start documenting what they find in their notebooks.  If anyone has a camera, a photo can be taken for identification to show the class later.  Then, have them determine which ones are safely edible and nutritious.  Asking locals, or checking in the encyclopedia or library, they can then determine their nutritional value.  Differentiate between which species are native to the local flora, and which ones are not.  Determine which ones are friendly to the land and neighboring plants, and keep those ones.  You can, for fun, dig out and replace them with ones that are – though if they have a bulb for a root under the ground’s surface, the bulb must also be under-dug.  i.e.   if the bulb is left in when though the flower has been pulled up, the plant will continue to propagate.  We found out that Daffodils, Narcissus, and some Crocuses, though lovely to look at are considered best NOT to eat and did not make our edible list.  Whereas Crocus Sativa has edible saffron in the middle, other crocuses are NOT edible, such as a different purple crocus called the Autumn crocus Colchicum autumnale, containing an alkaloid called colchicine.  Always be sure before trying flowers out for edibles, and do your homework!  We also found out that Daffodils are Narcissus, Narcissus being the Latin name of the genus for both, and are native mainly to the Mediterranean region, in particular to the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Northern Africa and the Middle East .

These Beautiful “Grape Hyacinth”, or Muscari, though not a native species to the local land in our yard, is on the other hand, nutritious.  In the Mediterranean, and in many other parts of the world, the root bulb can be used both in salad, and as well, used in replace of onion, leek or garlic – roasted in the oven, or minced and sauteed.  The skin of the bulbs can be pulled off before cooking http://www.livestrong.com/article/523815-how-to-eat-a-muscari-flower/.  The flowers themselves are a brilliant purple and can be tossed in salad and placed on the dinner plate as a garnish http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscari.

At the end of the class note section, return to the grounds and carefully with a clean (sterilized) pair of scissors, cut a handful of the ones that were determined to be edible. Wash the flowers with the tiniest bit of eco-friendly dish soap and water, and then rinse with water.  Share and enjoy your tasty treats.  Share with the class which ones you like, and what taste thee flowers have – nutty, bitter, sweet, etc.  Grape Hyacinth or better known as Muscari, are reported to tase nutty, though we found them to be a bit bitter.  Maybe they become sweeter as time grows in the later Spring.  We suggest a honey lime and water mixture to pour over them – unless you prefer bitters.  We garnished our plates with the hyacinths and the blue-eyed grass, and also made tea.  The plates looked so Beautiful!

For more information, we also found a wonderful site for identification and classification of local native flower species:

From UBC, http://www.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/eflora/

Blue-Eyed Mary: http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/ShowDBImage/ShowStandard.aspx?index=14398)

Blue-Eyed Grass: http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/ShowDBImage/ShowStandard.aspx?index=29656

For Our Fun Learning Game about other great science activities, you can visit here!

http://www.science-lessons.ca/games/mammals.html

http://www.science-lessons.ca/games/space.html

http://www.science-lessons.ca/games/weather8.htm