Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow Shovel Foraging

I like to tell people that even in winter, we can gather useful wild plants by digging under the snow. It goes without saying that this requires knowing where to look in the first place.

But have I ever gone out and done any “snow shovel foraging?” Well, truth be told…no.

So that’s my next challenge. I can think of several useful wild plants available now and believe that I know their exact locations. Both are evergreen and should not have changed texture, color or taste since early winter, when they were first covered by snow.

Both these plants have edible green leaves. They are wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens and ground ivy, Glechoma hederacea. The ground ivy grows alongside the north-facing wall of my greenhouse, so procuring a useable amount should pose no problem.

Wintergreen, though, may take a bit of prospecting. But I’m convinced that memory will serve well enough to locate a good patch of the leathery leaves without too much effort.

Back inside, given that my quest comes to fruition, I plan on making a ground ivy tea. This will come in particularly helpful now, in midwinter. A lack of fresh vegetables probably has my vitamin C levels at a low ebb. I don’t take synthetic vitamins, either, preferring the naturally occurring type found in fresh, green leaves. And since I don’t buy commercially raised vegetable from the store, a boost of vitamins and minerals from fresh-picked ground ivy ought to do me a world of good.

I freeze and can my homegrown and foraged foods and these suffice to keep me healthy. But still, the desire for anything fresh becomes difficult to ignore in late January.

Wintergreen will provide me with a wild, taste treat, a splurge of sorts. While wintergreen leaves surely must provide some vitamins or minerals, their main value lies in their natural wintergreen taste. Chewing the raw leaves quickly releases a delightful flavor, one that synthetically contrived products cannot duplicate.

I can think of another wild food product that could be had now, but the effort and discomfort involved makes it too dearly won. Common cattail, Typha latifolia, roots and sprouts are available only to those willing to go to a swamp or shallow pond and cut holes in the ice.

But pulling up the old dead stalks, with their living components clinging like grim death to the mud bottom, doesn’t appeal to me. At least not at this time. Come ice-out, I’ll view the process with a less-jaundiced eye.

It’s snowing now and nearly dark. Not the time to go snow shovel foraging. But in a day or two, I plan on going on my ground ivy/wintergreen leaf hunt. And, of course, I’ll write about the experience in an upcoming blog.

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