Green in the Winter

One of my favorite parts of foraging is that I’m always learning. Every trip into the woods or exploration of nature I discover something new.

Even in late winter, when the ground is still frozen, the world around us unveils secrets for the observant eye.

Today, it was spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), a small unassuming plant that was almost hidden by the dead leaves surrounding it.

Spotted wintergreen in late winter
Spotted wintergreen in late winter

I have been looking for wintergreen for years, although the edible wintergreen I’ve read about in foraging books is apparently Gaultheria procumbens, aka Eastern Teaberry.

There’s also American wintergreen (Pyrola americana), sidebells wintergreen (Orthilia secunda) and common wintergreen (Chimaphila umbellata).

Will the real wintergreen please stand up?

While spotted wintergreen is not *the* wintergreen flavoring plant, its leaves apparently do still have a similar flavor. Since I only found two small plants, I chose not to harvest any leaves to sample so I can’t report on how it tastes! According to many websites spotted wintergreen also has medicinal properties – here is one article with several different uses mentioned.

I will definitely be on the lookout for more specimens of this little guy – in addition to the “real” wintergreen / Eastern teaberry I meant to find in the first place!

What are you learning about lately, in foraging or other areas?


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