Wintergreen is a tiny, low-growing plant which, as its name suggests, stays green all winter.  This is a lovely plant to harvest in the winter, as those shiny green leaves and beautiful little red berries show up really well against a dusting of snow.  I often find them under pine trees, so even if there is heavy snow cover, there tends to be less snow underneath pines, so I can still see that punch of color. 

It’s tough to get enough berries to do anything with because I cannot resist eating them as I pick – they are deliciously minty!  The leaves are strongly minty, too, and make a wonderful tea.  I find it interesting that this plant is NOT in the mint family – it is in the same family as blueberries and cranberries.   I’ve got a tincture made with the berries and leaves that I’m going to try using in some baking this winter.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  

Wintergreen often grows alongside and intermixed with Partridgeberry, and they are similar looking.  In the picture below, you can see how the Partridgeberry leaves are smaller and rounder.  The berry is more orange than red, and if you look close, you can see how the berry has two little depressions that makes it look like it has eyes.  While Partridgeberries are edible, you’ll probably be disappointed like I was when I first ate them – they are tasteless.  Not bitter, not sweet, not anything.  Oh well, they are pretty.  

In the very top left corner of this photo, you can see Wintergreen’s larger leaf photo-bombing this Partridgeberry shot.   Oh, Wintergreen, I’ve got my eye on you!


A Forager in the Winter

2017-11-30 14.58.42Things I like to do in the Winter:

Make soup with Wild Foods I’ve preserved.

Play with plant fibers I’ve harvested to make jewelry cordage and other creative stuff.

Read novels with themes around botany, foraging or herbalism.

Plan next years’ Wild Food and Folk Medicine classes.

Go snowshoeing and enjoy the quiet woods.

Watch birds at my backyard feeder, which will contain some foraged seeds (yellow dock, plantain and amaranth) along with the ones I purchase at the store.

Forage!  Even in a Wisconsin Winter, I can go pick some fresh pine needles for tea, or dig in the snow around those pine trees to find Wintergreen leaves and berries.  I can harvest some Chaga mushrooms from Birch trees.  I may be able to pick up some Black Walnuts that the squirrels left behind.  I love the seasons in Wisconsin, and even though winter seems to take up most of the year, I love knowing that there are tasty treasures to hunt for in this frozen tundra.