Many of the plants that we grow with children on the school grounds have healing properties that are exciting for young people and their families to explore. We encourage participants to understand the plants around them as a source of food, nutrition, health and well-being. We hope that the garden is a place where children and families will learn that plants are not only vital for food but are also the source for many conventional medicines.
Wild and cultivated healing plants: Knowledge about health and nutrition benefits of some plants, –such as healthy tea made from roasted dandelion root, is often forgotten. We try to incorporate awareness of wild plants with healing properties as well as those that we cultivate. Conversations about the uses and properties of plants are often a good way to bridge the gap between different cultures, as people share their experiences with herbal remedies. Green Thumbs staff learn as much from participants as we teach about healing plants!
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula is a favourite with Green Thumbs Growing Kids. Also known as “pot marigold”, it has bright yellowy-orange flowers that are useful for healing the skin. In our programs, children harvest and dry the calendula petals, soak them in oil, and help make a skin salve from the calendula-infused oil. In other activities with calendula, such as planting or saving seed, we make sure that children have a chance to sample the skin salve, so they can experience why we grow that particular plant. There are many other plants with healing properties in our school gardens, from mint and chamomile to raspberry leaf, purple coneflower and garlic.
A cautionary note: While we hope that teaching about healing plants will help people to become more self-sufficient, we are careful about being informed about how, when and if we should consume healing plants. We highlight the need to respect plants as a powerful part of the natural world around us. To know if plants are safe or not safe, we insist that children must consult with an experienced or qualified practitioner before picking or eating.