Winter Foraging - 10 Plants To Forage This Season

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 Winter is not the time you often associate with wild foraging. But there are still plants around that you can utilise to get you through the cooler months. It might not be as a productive as spring or summer (or even autumn foraging) but if you look there is still amazing plants to forage for. While we talk about foraging for plants when they are most potent (e.g. in summer with thyme) with the suggested plants (especially pine) they are still potent and helpful, especially because they grow in the cooler seasons. 

1 Pine Needles

The needles of evergreen conifers are probably the easiest and most widespread thing to forage in winter, even in the coldest climates. Most conifers are edible, with the exception of the yew tree which is toxic. Pine needles are very high in vitamin C so they can be used for a hot infusion or you could use it to infuse vodka/alcohol. 

pine-needles-winter-foraging
2 Rosehips

Rosehips are one of our favourite plants, not to harvest (due to those pesky thorns, make sure you take some gloves with you!!) but definitely to consume. Rosehips are high in vitamin C and antioxidants and can be used as a tea, syrup or tincture. 

Rosehips are one of the herbs we wild harvest here at Wild Dispensary as we use them in our Daily Boost Tonic and Fire Cider (a delicious way to warm up in winter). Rosehips are great for winter as vitamin C is very helpful to support immunity and also supporting skin health and healing. 

rosehips-winter-foraging

3 Usnea

Usnea is a lichen that hangs in long strands from trees. We use Usnea in our Fire Cider and it has a great affinity to lung and respiratory health. Usnea takes a long time to grow so we only use what has fallen and not take from the tree. Usnea can be infused in a tincture or within vinegar.

4 Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Mushrooms love the cooler weather, and turkey tail can be found quite easily once you know what to look for. Turkey tail grows on trees through the winter and also is great to use in the winter months to support immunity.  Turkey tail mushrooms can be used as a tea, tincture or as a powder. As with any winter foraging, especially mushrooms, take care with your identification.

turkey-tail-mushroom

5 Seaweed

Kelp and seaweeds can be foraged all year round (obviously if you are near the coast). Seaweeds are high in iodine and can also be dehydrated to use as a seasoning or in soups. In fact Peter Langlands recommends foraging for seaweed around Matariki which falls on a Friday in either June or July each winter in New Zealand.

6 Akeake

One of our beautiful native plants, akeake grows all year round and all around the country. We use akeake to help support the respiratory system. Traditionally akeake has been used because of its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be taken as a tea or in liquid herbal formulas to support the body in cases of poor immunity and inflammation.

7 Horopito

Horopito has an abundance of volatile oils such as eugenol, polygodial, and tannins, which are astringent - lots of big words. This just means that they are drying, making them extremely helpful for upset digestion and inflammation. It also means that they can act as a form of pain relief. Horopito also grows all over New Zealand and all year round. You can use it as a tea, dehydrate it to add to food or as a meat rub.

horopito-winter-foraging


8 Kawakawa

If you live north of Banks peninsula then you can add kawakawa to your winter foraging list. Kawakawa is great for your immunity, your energy levels as well as supporting your skin health. You can rip a couple of fresh leaves to have as a hot tea or you could dehydrate some so you have a store of tea over winter. Kawakawa can be taken as a tea, tincture and infused into oil for use on skin. 

9 Kanuka 

We all know mānuka but kānuka is also a great plant to help you in winter. The plant benefits are very similar between the two types. Kānuka is antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and also helpful when you have the ills and chills. You can make a weak tea with the leaves, or you could infuse it some oil for skin health.

 

10 Wild Greens

There are still green things around in winter - just not as many as in spring and summer. Mustard greens, wild fennel and sometimes miners lettuce can be found if you do a little foraging. Greens are great additions for your soups, stews or stir-fries which often can be quite carbohydrate heavy.


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As with all foraging, make sure you have asked permission if you are on someone’s land, only take what you need, never take from road side and always make sure you have identified it correctly before taking it. We would also like to acknowledge our original scientists and plant advocates– the Māori who, on arrival to Aotearoa, discovered and worked with the native plants that resided here. They are the ones we look to and thank for finding, documenting and using the amazing indigenous plants we have today.

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