Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wild Edible - Wintergreen

Winter in Michigan, even one as mild as the current season, is a tough time of year to find wild edibles. However, one edible that can easily be found in abundance throughout the frozen months is Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens, also called eastern teaberry).





Identification: 

Always refer to a reputable printed reference guide before consuming wild edibles and be absolutely sure of what you are eating.

I identify wintergreen by it's dark green (occasionally brownish), shiny and waxy, obovate shaped leaves. The leaves are generally about 1" wide by 2" long. The stem and petiole is redish. The berries are red with a star shape on the bottom and will often persist on the plant through the winter. The crushed leaves and berries have an unmistakable wintergreen scent and taste.








Location:
Wintergreen seems to prefer loamy, peaty and wet mixed forests. In my usual areas I often find wintergreen in soggy oak and hemlock forests in areas that receive a medium amount of sunlight.











Preperation and Use
Wintergreen is best when fresh. The leaves seem to dry out quickly in my experience and loose that characteristic wintergreen "freshness". The leaves , although somewhat tough and waxy, can be eaten raw for a trailside treat, or used to compliment a salad. In the winter I prefer to crush the freshly picked leaves and steep them in hot water (with or without tea) for a refreshing hot drink. 





 Additional info on Gaultheria procumbens can be found on this USDA website.

Disclaimer:
The information in this blog is for entertainment purposes only. The author assumes no responsibility whatsoever for any adverse effects encountered by the individual. Again, always refer to a reputable printed reference guide before consuming wild edibles and be absolutely sure of what you are eating. Please harvest wild edibles at your own risk.

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