Saturday, 5 November 2011

Finding food in nature

This week the weather has taken a turn for the worse.  It has been cold, wet and generally miserable most of the time.  When we did manage to catch a dry few hours, we were out in the woods.

As the weather gets colder, we start to see squirrels very busy gathering their winter supplies.  This is the best time to learn about nuts and cones because they are everywhere -- if the squirrels don't get to them first!

Along the way, Tiger spotted many opened, prickly husks on the ground full of fallen leaves.  Curious to see what the seed or nut inside those may be, we stopped and examined the husks.  There were still a few on the trees.

They looked suspiciously like sweet chestnuts, so we looked more closely at those that have fallen on the ground.  There were a few nuts still attached to some of the husks we picked up, and they indeed were sweet chestnuts!  Wow.  There is something very satisfying about being able to find and identify edible food in nature, so all of us started to push away the leaves in order to find more sweet chestnuts that might be hidden under them.  We are no experts in the area of foraging at all, which is why this discovery was all the more appealing to us.

Remember, the ground was very damp that day, and was covered with leaves.  When Tiger suddenly yelled, "Why is this pile of leaves moving by themselves?" we gathered round to look.  Indeed, the leaves seemed to be vibrating and moving slightly.  Tiger then turned some leaves over and we saw this: a nest of larvae!!!  Yucks!!!

The larvae are the black 'lines'.
I am not a fan of larvae or maggots, and to see them (there must have been hundreds) all wriggling and vibrating just made me.... slightly uncomfortable, to say the least.  Nonetheless, it was a very interesting find (since we don't find such things every time, thank goodness) so I managed to take the photograph, admired the discovery for a few moments, then asked Tiger to put the leaves back so as not to disturb the nest.

We ended our day with a plate full of roasted sweet chestnuts:

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.


  1. Love outside exploration, that larvea is so gross! Great educational find though

  2. So glad you were able to go outside! Sorry the weather has not cooperated......Isn't it sad that we always wish for what we don't have? I wish our weather WAS icky and rainy and cold! We are in the middle of the biggest drought, still having warm days, and are attacked by bugs when we leave the house. I wish for rainy and icky!

  3. I could see where the larvae would be interesting - but I'd have to wash my hair five or six times after I got home :)

  4. Oh the larva would probably unnerve me completely for a minute

  5. The maggots would have destroyed the sweet chestnuts for me! Love that you got to finally go outside!

  6. Great post! Now that I know maggots are fair game for homeschooling, I'm going to insist Casey help us get the bags of trash out to the road from now on! :)

  7. My kids love learning about edible plants! Last spring we collected fiddlehead ferns and ate them with butter and garlic. (I didn't care for them, but the kids liked them.) They want to harvest the elderberries next year!

    Thanks for the HSBA congratulations!


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