Winter foraging is a lovely reason to get out and enjoy yourself while spending a little time with mother nature! Depending on where you live, there may be a variety of options available for you to forage even though it isn’t peak growing season.
Foraging is one of the core principles in my Food as Medicine Membership, and it’s something I love to teach about! I believe that the more we interact with nature and spend time getting to know our local area, the healthier we can be.
Although the amounts released are lower in the winter, trees have been shown to literally be releasing molecules that help to lower our stress hormones and increase our immune systems. Free healthcare!
In our region around Calgary, the following are a few of the options available to forage in the winter (you’ll likely have way more options if you live somewhere more temperate!):
Rose Hips: great source of vitamin C and delicious as a tea. Energetically healing for the heart.
Juniper Berries: absolutely delicious and wonderful in recipes, especially with wild game.
Old Man’s Beard: a fantastic immune support option. Only pick what’s fallen off of trees though.
Chaga: super trendy polypore that mostly grows on birch trees. Full of antioxidants and a great anti-inflammatory. Grows VERY slowly so harvest less than 50% of it at a time.
Don’t Get Lost
It’s really easy to get turned around while foraging and having your eyes directed at the ground. Make sure you let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back, then set yourself a pin on your phone with where you’ve parked (and make sure your cell battery is charged). If you spend a lot of time in nature, especially where cell reception may not be great, consider getting something like an InReach to keep you safe.
Connect with Nature
This is the whole reason we’re spending time outdoors! Enjoy the sights and sounds, but understand that the goal isn’t to pillage and take for granted everything that you can see. Offer gratitude to the plants and to the earth and consider ways that you can personally give back
You have access to grocery stores with unlimited food at your fingertips, however the forest critters don’t. Aim to pick a MAXIMUM of 10-25% of what you see so that you leave some for animals, the plants themselves and for other foragers. Have a look around the area you’re in before you start picking to get an idea of what’s available to ensure you aren’t over-harvesting.
Identify Everything You Pick and Learn Poisonous Look A-likes
This is a really important part of foraging. You MUST be able to identify with 100% certainty what you’re picking if you’re going to consume it. Start with a few really simple plants or herbs and bring some plant ID books with you and practice before you consume anything. It’s also important to know if there are poisonous look a-likes that you may misidentify and make sure you watch for those.