As the temperature drops and snow begins to fall, many foragers put their baskets away until the first whispers of morels in spring. On closer inspection there is much for a forager still to find. Trails are lined with winter edibles which can be made into delicious meals all winter long.
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an invasive weed which, in winter, becomes a welcome green sight on the barren ground. It loses its summer bitterness, and the leaves are left with their unique garlic mustard flavor. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) also becomes less bitter in winter. As long as the ground is not frozen, its roots can be dug, boiled or dried and made into a liver-cleansing tea. Roasted dandelion root makes a great coffee substitute containing no caffeine.
Burdock (Arctium species) roots can also be dug from the unfrozen ground. In Japan, burdock roots are considered a vegetable known as gobo and are delicious grated into coleslaw or fermented with cabbage into sauerkraut.
Otherwise barren trees can hold treasure in winter as well. Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) holds red sumac clusters rich in vitamin C. Sumac has a pleasant sour taste that can be used as a seasoning or steeped in cold water for a tart drink.
Foragers can find oyster mushrooms in winter growing on old or dead trees. A lucky forager can even find crabapples, wild apples or wild grapes on barren branches and vines. Fruit becomes very sweet after frosts and can be made into juice, sauces, fruit butters and jellies.
Even though at first glance the winter woods and fields may seem empty and bare, winter can still be a rewarding season for a forager.
Raw and Wild Recipe: Burdock Coleslaw
- 1 cup ashews, soaked
- 1/4 cup garlic mustard, chopped
- 2 tbsps. vinegar or 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup water
- sea salt
- 1 small cabbage, grated
- 1/2 red onion, chopped finely
- 2-3 carrots, grated
- 2 Tbsp raisins, optional
- 3-inch piece of burdock root, peeled and grated
- sea salt and pepper
- To make cashew sauce, blend or process all ingredients until smooth.
- Mix together all salad ingredients, adding only a bit of salt and pepper.
- Mix cashew sauce into coleslaw, starting with half the amount and mixing as much in as you like.
- Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
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