Foraging has come to a temporary halt with cold weather coming into the picture… or has it? Those with a keen eye and no fear of the cold winter landscape can still find a surprising variety of edible plants from now until the opening day of baseball season.
It’s just another skill set to learn. For family survivalists, it can be an excellent way to not only find food in your backyard but also to spend time with your family and learn more about the local ecosystems. Learning how to identify and locate edible plants during the winter months can uncover hidden gems, adding a touch of freshness and unique flavor to your winter dishes.
First, however, you must understand how winter foraging is different from foraging during other seasons. It will require a deeper connection with the landscape and a great deal of patience. You must also prioritize safety and warmth, dressing in layers, wearing insulated boots, and carrying emergency supplies, such as extra clothing, first-aid essentials, and navigation tools.
Essential Tools For Winter Foraging
You’ll need more than a pair of gardening shears to do winter foraging. Any winter outdoor or wilderness activity requires that you carry a certain amount of survival equipment in the odd chance that you get lost or otherwise stuck out in the wilderness for longer than you planned to.
First, you’re going to need a reliable field guide specifically about winter foraging or use a smartphone app offering detailed information on plant identification. One of the most dangerous things you can do with any kind of foraging is selecting the wrong plant.
And, of course, you’re going to need a pair of pruners or scissors for harvesting. You should also carry some kind of digging tool so that you can access root vegetables. You may also need a digging tool to remove snow from areas, whether it be so that you can access a plant, clear yourself a path, or build an emergency shelter in the event that you get caught out in the cold.
Common Edible Winter Plants
There are a number of plants that grow in the winter that you can safely eat. Some of these include:
- Cattail: Cattails grow abundantly next to wetlands and have edible parts just about year-round. During the winter months, you’ll want to look for their roots, which you can then harvest, peel, and cook.
- Rose Hips: Rose hips are the fruit produced by wild roses. They’re an excellent source of vitamin C. You can make teas or jams with them, or add them to food for extra flavor.
- Pine: Pine trees offer edible parts year-round. During the winter, gather the new, light-green growth at the ends of branches to add a citrusy flavor to food.
- Dandelion: Dandelions are extremely hardy and can survive in very cold climates. Their young leaves are less bitter when harvested during the winter, making them perfect for salads or sautéing.
- Chickweed: Chickweed thrives in cool winter weather. In fact, you can find it growing underneath snow patches. Its tender leaves and stems are excellent for salads.
Winter foraging may be a lesser-explored endeavor than foraging in the other seasons. However, it can be a rewarding and educational experience for those unafraid of the cold and willing to discover the hidden bounty of edible plants. For homeschool families, it can be an excellent way to do science classes during the winter for kids of all ages.
Remember always to thoroughly identify a plant before you eat it. Eating the wrong thing is far more likely to cause you trouble than the cold weather. And always forage responsibly, respecting nature and leaving something behind for future generations.
If you remember all of that you can feel free to venture into the winter wonderland to unlock hidden treasures of winter foraging.
What are some of your favorite edible wild plants for the winter months? Does anything cool or interesting grow in your neck of the woods? Share your favorites in the comments below.