A Little Winter Foraging

When we think of foraging these days it’s usually for plants that haven’t been grown with human intervention. But in a broader sense it means to rummage around and find what food there is, e.g,. “I’m going to forage in the kitchen cupboard for a little snack”

brussels sprouts in bowl-1

Brussels sprouts taken off the stalk, waiting to get ready to be cooked.

Recently I was taking a winter’s walk, noting how much snow had disappeared between yesterday’s walk and today’s. I got drawn to an area near the field behind my house where the woods dwindle and there are various dumping spots for vegetation by the maintenance man and the residents who garden. The main pile of garden detritus caught my attention with a couple of stalks of Brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts! Big, long stalks with many little green globes attached. Were they really Brussels sprouts, and were they still in good enough shape to eat?

The answer to both questions was yes. Despite heavy snowfalls and the coldest winter we’ve had in a few years, they were in excellent shape. All I had to was pull them off the stalks. I stuffed my jacket pocket with probably a quart of sprouts. I felt so lucky and so blessed!

 I have been trying hard to avoid, as much as possible, eating food grown with chemicals. These sprouts had their start in a commercial nursery, as a tag attested, and my neighbors use Miracle Grow (shudder) but the soil in our little community garden is living and full of earthworms, weeds (can’t be too many chemicals used!), and nutrients.

Nearby, since most of the snow cover is gone, I found the dark, vibrant green leaves of garlic mustard, and plucked a few to add to my soup.

As I was walking away I saw a rosette of sagey-green leaves, looking a little like evening primrose, but both too long-leaved and too long-stalked to be that. Additionally some of the younger leaves were distinctly toothed, which is definitely not a characteristic of evening primrose.

I had to see what it was. I didn’t think it could be anything poisonous (I’ve had enough experience and have enough knowledge of my local plants to make intelligent guesses), so I tasted a leaf. I thought maybe it was in the mustard family, a slight resemblance to chard leaves in the mid-rib, I think. And indeed, it was slightly sweet and yielded that typical mustard family pepperiness. It’s probably a garden escape, perhaps chard, since my neighbors grow that. I’m leaving it and visiting it again, to see how it grows.

In the meantime, I am going to sip my spruce tea, from spruce needles I foraged yesterday, and think about what delights I will encounter on tomorrow’s walk.

2 thoughts on “A Little Winter Foraging

  1. Iris,

    I never read this article until April, but I wanted you to know I am always so awed by your experiences with plants. Maybe some summer day you can visit my backyard and tell me what I have been missing all these years!


    • Thank you, Beth. Yes, it would be fun to come to your yard and introduce you to the plant friends there. Let’s do that this summer!

Comments are closed.