Foraging for plants is a hobby for some, a necessity for others. Harvest wild plants for their nutritional and medicinal benefits. Begin locating and identifying plants and their location before the snow covers the landscape for your best bet. Continue foraging throughout the winter months, gathering berries, nuts, tree products and more. These can be turned into healthy nourishment, or made into products like jams, teas or herbal treatments
Wild grapes grow in fruit clusters with twisty tendrils on their vines. The leaves grow in heart-shapes with serrated edges. The fruit itself is dark blue or deep red with a thin outer skin. They taste like Concord grape jelly. You can also eat or use the leaves.Stay away from most other vine fruit. Similar looking fruits like Canada moonseed, look nearly identical to wild grapes. The main difference, aside from the fact they are poisonous, are the round, smooth edged leaves.
Proceed with caution when harvesting berries. Make a positive identification using a reliable field guide or friend “in the know” before eating or using to make jams. Steer clear of areas sprayed with herbicides. Look around, see if the plants in a certain area are surrounded by a row of dead plants, or are much smaller than other plants in the same general area. This could indicate spraying.
Remember, you are competing with wild life while foraging. Make noise when gathering berries to announce your prescense. Bears do not like surprises, and neither will you.
Onion grass or field garlic can be used as a flavoring in soups. The hollow leaves look like grass, yet smell like onions. Identify a patch of onion grass in the warmer months and come back throughout the winter. Why? Because it contains high amounts of Vitamin C, trace minerals and B vitamins. Onion grass also has anti-microbial properties.
Garlic mustard is another weed that can be used in soups and salads, boosting the calcium, potassium and B vitamin content of your meals. Identify by the stalks of heart-shaped leaves. Usually no taller than 4-inches, the garlic mustard stalks dry out in the fall and winter and are ready to be harvested. Gather the dry stalks with their tan pods.
Identify the common trees in your area. Several different tree products can be foraged from trees all season long. Pine trees, black birch, slippery elm and spruce trees all have a soft inner bark that can be foraged for the nutrients. Only use what you need, tearing off too much bark will kill the tree.
Dry bark or roots of trees like a burdock and then grind it into a flour that you can use in cooking. Tap trees for their sap. Sugar maple is the well known variety, but you can also tap red maple, sweet birch, hickory, sycamore and walnut for the nutritious source of vitamins and minerals. Pine needles also make a tea high in vitamin C. Finely chop the needles and steep in hot water.
Fight the squirrels for a few nuts that you can share with friends. Boil acorns in water, changing the water several times to pull out the bitterness. Roast them in the oven and then grind. Add the acorn to your regular bread recipe, or sweet bread. Gather and roast chestnuts over an open fire, but be sure the bottoms are split first. Maybe that is why the song suggest the “open” fire. Unsplit chestnuts will explode.
Mother Earth News-http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/1999-10-01/Edible-Wild-Plants.aspx?page=2
Wild Man Steve Brill-http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/