Tag Archives: John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

The Buzz About Healthy Foods

Today we are hearing from Chef Larry Washington, and how he uses his incredible talent as a chef to teach about the importance of healthy foods and the pollinators that make it all possible!

In 2008, when the economy was on the financial downturn I was forced to close my family restaurant. In a state of depression, my family discovered the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. The wildlife refuge became our sanctuary. It represented an escape from my daily tasks. We ran here every chance we could.  We were often greeted by the wild turkeys, the sweet call of the frogs and the nonchalant ease of the turtles. It became a place that we talked about our plans for the future and created family memories.  It was our place right in the middle of the city that was magical, raw and a living laboratory of what was and what should remain.


The view of the Philadelphia skyline from John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

Fast forward to October 1, 2016 also known as the Philly Fall Nature Fest at Tinicum. It was a great honor to be invited back for the second year to do a cooking demonstration as my alter ego the Grill Sergeant Tabasco.  Grill Sergeant Tabasco is who I dreamed about during those long walks at the wildlife refuge. He represents a series of workshops and a healthy cooking demonstration that uses a disciplined approach to attack the problem of childhood obesity.

Philadelphia has the second-highest rate of obesity among the 10 counties containing the nation’s largest cities, according to a 2009 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 68 percent of adults — and 41 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 17 — are overweight or obese. Read more at this Philly Magazine article.

For the Philly Fall Nature Fest, I did a cooking demonstration which discussed the importance of and connection between pollinators and healthy foods.


Grill Sergeant Tabasco and his team prepare wild rice!

Pollinators are small animals or insects that are necessary in the production of many fruits, vegetables, and nuts! Hummingbirds, bees, bats, butterflies, flies, beetles, and moths can all help pollinate different plants. About 75 percent of the healthy foods we cook up every day require pollination!


Monarch butterflies were also displayed at the Philly Fall Nature Fest!

Now for the fun part. If you missed it, I’m sharing the wild rice recipe we cooked below. Items with an asterisk require pollination!  Serves 4-6 people. Enjoy!
1/3 cup sweet peas *
1/3 cup zucchini *
1/3 cup yellow squash *
1/3 cup red onion *
1/3 cup red peppers *
1/3 cup green peppers *
1/3 cup carrots  *
2 cups cooked diced chicken, optional
4 cups pre-cooked wild rice
2 tablespoons canola oil *
1/2 cup Grill Sergeant Pad Sauce

Grill Sergeant Pad Thai sauce
1 cup soy oil
1/2 cup sesame oil *
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh chopped garlic
1/4 cup fresh chopped ginger
1/2 cup honey *
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes *
1/2 cup scallions
Mix all ingredients together
Store in refrigerator
P.S.- Don’t use all of this tasty sauce in one sitting! A small amount will do and the remainder should last about a month.

Place canola oil in pan and heat oil
Add all veggies and quick cook
Add chicken
Add rice
Slowly add Pad Thai sauce and Chicken.

Click here to learn more about how you can protect pollinators like the monarch butterfly!

What foods do you cook that require pollination? Sound off in the comments!

Monarch Citizen Science at John Heinz Refuge!

In addition to preparing for their annual Philly Fall Nature Festival, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia staff took time to participate in a fantastic citizen science research study for the monarch butterfly! Monarch Watch, who organizes this research, uses information collected by citizens to study the monarch butterfly migration and population!

Butterflies migrate to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve every year, where the temperature and humidity is just right for them to survive. Monarchs huddle together by the millions until the following spring. By placing a small, informative sticker under the hind wing prior to the fall migration, you can gain information about that specific monarch when the tag is collected next spring.

Staff members at John Heinz Refuge were able to share this incredible process with students participating in the Philly Nature Kids program. Two classes were lucky enough to witness the monarch emerging from their chrysalis! Students learned about the lifecycle of the monarch and will participate in a symbolic migration by sending paper butterflies to students in Mexico who will watch over them for the winter.


Only hours before the monarch emerges, you can see the black and orange wings.

Only hours before the monarch emerges, you can see the black and orange wings.

A monarch begins to emerge.

A monarch begins to emerge.

Additional monarchs will be released during the Philly Fall Nature Festival on October 1! All are welcome to witness the send-off of these beautiful, long distance fliers. Learn more about how you can support monarch conservation efforts!

Visit the refuge’s Facebook page for information about the festival.

Flying into Philly: 2016 Federal Duck Stamp Contest

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is gearing up for our favorite art contest. The 2016 Federal Duck Stamp Contest is being held in Philadelphia this year on September 9 and 10 at the Academy of Natural Sciences. The Federal Duck Stamp is one of the most successful conservation initiatives in U.S history. Since the program began in 1934, sales of Federal Duck Stamps have generated more than $800 million to acquire and preserve more than 5.7 million acres of bird and wildlife habitat.

Duck Stamp

Photo 1: This year’s Duck Stamp is currently being sold for $25. Put your stamp on conservation and purchase Duck Stamps here!

Throughout the summer, the refuge will be promoting the contest with some special programming, including bird themed summer camp weeks, film showings at various locations around the city, waterfowl related activities and tabling on the refuge every Wednesday in August from 9am-1pm, plus much more! Click here for a full list of what’s happening and the latest information about the contest.

Hooded Merganser Drawing summer camp

Summer camp participant working hard on a Hooded Merganser drawing

We’ve also partnered with Art Sphere, Inc to promote the contest and get young people excited about celebrating conservation through art. Art Sphere will be leading 10 art workshops at different rec centers throughout the city in July and August.  So far, John Heinz staff has visited one of these workshops at the Towey Rec Center in Philadelphia, bringing with them some taxidermy ducks, and teaching the students about duck anatomy, adaptations and the importance of wetland habitats.  After the presentation, students drew ducks using a variety of mediums and techniques, including individual drawings and a group collage. We saw some amazing work come out of their projects. The artwork ranged from very realistic to very colorful and abstract. Everyone did a great job and had a lot of fun!

Art Sphere urban mallard

One student’s project featuring a Mallard Duck in the city

Students also had the amazing opportunity to paint a permanent mural featuring ducks and duck habitat on the walls at the Towey Rec Center. How exciting that they will be leaving a lasting impression on the rec center!

Duck mural

Two students having a great time making their mark on conservation by painting this awesome mural at the Towey Rec Center

We are having a great time in Philadelphia this summer celebrating the Duck Stamp and connecting conservation through art, so follow our updates using the hashtag #DuckStampPHL. Be sure to come check us out on September 9 and 10 at the Academy of Natural Sciences. General admission to the museum will be free on those dates!

The 2016 Federal Duck Stamp Contest and affiliated programming is made possible by our sponsors at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Friends of Heinz RefugeDucks Unlimited, Pennsylvania Game Commission, William Penn Foundation and National Audubon Society.