Foraging for food is not difficult during the spring and summer, but it can be accomplished in the winter too. Even when snow is on the ground, safe and healthy food is still growing in the woods and could help stave off hunger when lost or during a SHTF disaster situation.
There is no need to wait until a doomsday scenario occurs to go foraging in the woods. A vast bounty of edibles can be added to your daily meals and jams for added flavor and dietary benefit. Wild edibles can also be dehydrated and stored until needed to spice up some broth or long-term food storage during a lengthy emergency.
As with most things in life, knowledge is power. Learning how to identify safe wild edible plants from toxic ones is the first and most important step in the foraging process. Never pick from along the roadside where chemical spraying may have occurred.
Top Winter Edibles
Rose Hips are filled with a sweet pulp that can be boiled down into syrup form and used in teas and jams or eaten raw. During World War II, hungry British residents often gave rose hips to their children to take advantage of the high amount of vitamin C inside the wild winter edibles.
To make rose hip tea, boil about a handful (12–15 hips) for about 5 minutes. Smash the softened hips open with a spoon or mallet and allow them to steep for 20 minutes. Strain the mixture and then serve while it is still very warm.
Cattails lower stalks, or rhizomes, of cattails are filled with potassium, vitamin C and phosphorous. Cattail rhizomes are both sweet and starchy and possess a mild flavor and pleasant scent. You can use the pollen collected from a cattail plant in place of flour in baked goods and breakfast recipes.
Place a sack over the top of the cattail plant and shake it firmly to gather the pollen from the wild edible. Even during the wintertime pollen can be collected. Mix together a quarter cup of cattail pollen, one teaspoon of salt, three cups of baking powder, three-quarters cup of milk, and four tablespoons of shortening. Knead the dough and then form into a biscuit shape. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
Wild watercress possesses a sweet taste and can be found growing near waterways throughout the year. The wild edible can be eaten raw and tossed onto sandwiches and into salads for added flavor.
Edible trees exist nearly everywhere in the United States. Deciduous trees that are favorites of foragers include beech, tamarack, birch, pine, maple, juniper, spruce, fir, willow, hemlock, and aspen. Eat willow bark only in moderation as it contains salicin, which can cause negative health consequences or death when consumed in high doses. Some varieties of maple trees keep their seeds even during the winter months. Although the seeds lose moisture during the cold season, the seeds are still edible.
Conifer trees possess high levels of vitamin C and grow year-round in many regions. Some of the conifers known to provide quality levels of vitamin C during the winter include hemlock, pine, juniper, fir and spruce.
Most spruce and pine trees also contain a significant source of beta carotene. The juniper tree is known to possess vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Bark cut off of the trees can be ground into a powder and used as a flour. Mix the bark powder with a small amount of water to make a survival pancake batter.
Pine needs to be either pulled from the tree and dried or collected from the ground. It can also be powdered and used as a seasoning or to make tea. Hemlock needles are among the softest and are safe to consume raw. Needles form the Norfolk Island Pine and Ponderosa Pine are poisonous. For a quick nutrition boost, collect some sap from a spruce or pine tree and chew on it as you would a piece of gum.
Birch trees provide a wild winter edibles buffet. The chaga that grows on the trees is edible; although it is a bit ugly, it is filled with an amazing amount of nutrients. Birch polypores are tough in texture, but edible and will provide sustenance as well. The bark and twigs of the birch tree can be powdered and turned into a tea that can help quell hunger pangs.
Acorns are a foraging staple and highly valued by most survivalists. Acorns are filled with the nutrients and fat necessary to fuel the body. Acorns, just like pecans, black walnuts, beechnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, and butternut walnuts, can frequently be gathered from the ground. Soak the nuts in warm water to rid them from their tannic acid coating, which has a distinctively bitter taste. Grind the acorns into flour to make bread or be used as a meat-frying coating or flour substitute in recipes.
Chickweed sticks also grow throughout the United States and can be harvested year-round — even in the coldest of climates. They are often found in open areas, garnering the most sun throughout the day. Chickweed leaves can be eaten raw or added to a foraged salad. The wild edible can also be used as a sandwich condiment and as an ingredient in soups and stews. When using chickweed in cooked meals, both the stems and flowers can be used as well. Chickweed is a good source of ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, zinc, copper, and gamma linolenic acid.
Both wild garlic and wild onions continue to poke out of the snowy ground throughout the winter. The wild edibles are most frequently found during the winter in temperate regions of the country. There are multiple varieties of wild onions and wild garlic. If the items you find do not have the pungent smell commonly associated with the edible, or if they look like daffodils, they are likely poisonous.
Wild rhubarb, or burdock, tastes a bit like a mixture of carrots and parsnips. During the winter the roots get hard and will need to be boiled to make them tender enough to eat.
Do you have a winter foraging plan?