winter foraging


Maple Syrup Snow Cones: A Sweet Winter Treat

I grew up eating snow.

Fresh, new fallen snow can easily be collected in a plastic cup. Simply put an ice cube in the bottom of the cup, so the cup stays upright. Place the cup where snow will fall, but where the cup will not be kicked or blown down. At 1" to 2" per hour, you should be able to eat as many snow cones as you want!

My favorite topping is maple syrup, because I get it fresh from a local source. But it's winter and the weather can be daunting and it's a great time to enjoy any flavor you like. I might try this with mushroom-infused vodka.

This year, I'm going to make snowballs and freeze them until July.

During the Storm, 20 Minutes Before:
Put one ice cube into each plastic 8 oz cup and set out while snow is falling
When cups are full, bring indoors
After the Storm  1-2 Minutes Before:
Scoop fresh snow into cups
Bring indoors 

Pour 1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup on snow
Add syrup as needed                                      

Shopping List:
Maple syrup or any syrup flavor, such as blueberry or strawberry
Plastic cold cups
Ice cube tray
Plastic cups
Teaspoons make eating snow cones less messy

Yes, You Can Find Yummy Wild Edibles in Winter

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but once the snow, sleet and freezing rain passes and the winds die down, it's time to head out for pine needles, birch bark and rose hips. Some foraged foods are meant to be
harvested in winter.

One advantage of learning how the plants look in all seasons is that you know just where to go when it's time to harvest.

                            Pine needles are rich in Vitamin C.

                            Pine needles are rich in Vitamin C.

Pine needles, the mature leaves of the pine tree, are very high in Vitamin C. They so familiar and accessible that we tend to walk right by them without really paying attention to them. All you need is a handful of pine needles, gathered nearest the trunk, where they are highest in Vitamin C. Making pine needle tea is as easy as boiling water.

                              Beautiful, icy rose hips in winter.

                              Beautiful, icy rose hips in winter.

Rose hips are the seeds of the wild roses have lost their blossoms, the bright red berries, are actually quite palatable after a night below freezing temperatures. I like rose hip tea best, but rose hips can be found in other recipes.

I do not know why the liquid created from the inner bark of the birch tree is called "beer." But common names are typically confusing. Winter is the only time to harvest the flavorful cambium, the layer between the inner bark and the wood, for a delicious beverage.

The technique for harvesting the cambium and preparing this beverage are easy, but you need to follow the procedure to ensure you do not harm the birch tree. This tree is easy to identify even without its leaves, because it has the distinct smell of wintergreen. Birch tree branches that have been broken during a storm are the easiest to harvest. You want a branch that is roughly as thick around as two fingers.  Use a paring knife or your pocket knife to shave the bark. Hold the knife at an angle when you do this and you will be able to see three layers. The outer layer is thin, like paper, the inner layer is the hard wood, and the middle layer is soft and easy to scrape. The soft middle layer, called cambium, is what you will use to make this beverage.

                                                                                                        Birch beer shavings.

                                                                                                        Birch beer shavings.

Winter is the the most challenging time of year to forage for plants. Our ancestors needed a large supply of stored food and remarkable hunting skills to survive winter. Maybe that is why my foraging soul finds pine needles, rose hips and birch bark so precious.

On A Quick Warm Winter Forage To Visit My Neighbor

I'm crossing an undeveloped lot where storms have caused maples and pines to break or fall. It's one of those winters with intermittent snow and warming spells. The frost heaves disturb the soil even more. Normally, the earth would be nestled under a blanket of snow.

Instead I can easily pull up a clump of field garlic. I shake of the earth and tie the long greens into a knot. It will be a delicious addition to the pot roast I am planning to cook. Garlic mustard and chickweed also respond as if it is early spring.

I know it's an unusual weather pattern, but it feels good not to have stiff fingers and to have a bit of fresh greens in the dead of winter.

                                                                          Stored, dehydrated, foraged foods to last through the winter.

                                                                          Stored, dehydrated, foraged foods to last through the winter.

This is the time of year when I open my pantry closet. I use canning jars to store dehydrated foods. I keep them in the dark closet and use them for soups and stews. The brightly colored carrots, beets, tomatoes and corn are all from local markets. But the sunchokes, wild leeks and mushrooms were all foraged. Parboiled wild greens including nettles, dandelions and burdocks fill in my freezer where the odd-shaped packages of venison take up most of the space.

Today I'll make chili with the dried beans, tomatoes, hot peppers, onions and corn in my pantry. I'll add field garlic, cilantro, cumin and ground venison. The cumin is the only ingredient that comes from a store.