We’re pleased to share a cross-post from Virginia ‘Ginger’ Winn’s blog Wild Child Herb Shop of Tennessee. Virginia is the Membership Secretary for the Memphis Herb Society, a business owner, and a Certified MasterHerbalist. To read more about Virginia, read her bio at the bottom of this post.
FORAGING FALL FAVORITES: The wild foods of fall are softer, sweeter, and more earthy than edibles available in other seasons. Fall is the season for gathering edible roots, fruits, seeds, herbs, mushrooms, and flowers. Fall is also a time for putting up any foraged surplus to nourish the body through the cold months of winter.
ROOTS: Harvest roots after the first few frosts until the ground is frozen solid. The cold prompts the roots to convert complex starches into sugar, making them sweeter and more enjoyable. Harvesting roots from biennial or perennial plants end the plant’s life cycle. Shrubs and trees, which are perennial, have root stalks branching off of the central trunk, therefore, harvest a little bit from each plant. Dry roots by slicing into thin slices and drying below 95 degrees. Roots to harvest in fall include Barberry, Blood Root rhizome, Blue Flag, Calamus rhizome, Chicory, Comfrey, Dandelion, Garlic, Gentian rhizome, Ginger rhizome, Horseradish, Mullein, Nettle, Oregon Grape, Valerian, and Yellow Dock.
When harvesting roots:
- Harvest from clean land away from roadsides.
- Keep the plant’s whole life cycle in mind before harvesting.
- When harvesting roots from a plant that has seeds, plant them.
- Check the endangered plant list before foraging.
- Do not harvest roots from plants on the endangered list.
- Purchase endangered roots from a sustainable grower.
- Clean roots in the sink using a vegetable brush.
- Dry roots by slicing into thin slices and drying below 95 degrees.
- Store roots in a cool, dry place out of direct light.
FRUITS: Fruit harvested in wild areas is also food the animals need to survive the cold winter, therefore, don’t over harvest. Most fruits should be harvested before the first frost when they are squishy and soft. The cold winter temperatures help freeze fruit on the plant. If there is a good freeze and thaw cycle, some fruits will freeze dry and preserve well into spring. Fruits to harvest in fall include: Apples, Barberry, Bayberry, Blackberry, Elderberry, Hawthorn, Juniper, Prickly Pear, and Rose Hips
SEEDS & NUTS: Seeds and nuts are at their peak in the fall season. They are a high calorie food that has historically been a staple in native people’s diets. Nuts and seeds are also an important food source for animals, so keep that in mind as you are harvesting. Seeds are nutrient-dense and tend to store well. Harvest when the plant goes to seed, and the seed pods are dry. Medicinal and edible seeds to harvest in fall include Acorn, Black Walnut, Burdock, Caraway, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Mesquite, Nettle, Pine Nuts, Pumpkin, Sunflower, and Yellow Dock. Medicinal and edible seeds to harvest in fall include Acorn, Black Walnut, Burdock, Caraway, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Mesquite, Nettle, Pine Nuts, Pumpkin, Sunflower, and Yellow Dock.
HERBS: Some herbs are cold hardy and can be harvested in the fall before a hard freeze. Always make a positive identification of any new medicinal herb using at least 3 references before foraging an herb for the first time. Many medicinal herbs reach their peak potency in the fall months. Herbs to harvest in fall include Chickweed, Comfrey, Gingko Biloba golden leaves, Mullein, Mustard, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, and Yarrow.
MUSHROOMS: The first and most important rule when foraging mushrooms is to get to know a few species well using a field guide. A quality guide should contain the following subheadings: description, edibility, season, habitat, range and look-alikes. Fall mushrooms have different flavors and textures.
Mushrooms to harvest in fall include
- Pear-Shaped and Giant Puffball Mushrooms are one of the most recognizable of fall fungi. They grow from July through November in most North American softwood and hardwood forests and grow in scattered-to-dense clusters on decaying logs and debris.
- Hen of the Woods appears in wet Septembers through mild and moist Novembers. It can be found from Canada to Louisiana, throughout the Midwest, and in coastal woodlands, near trees and stumps. They often appear in the same location year after year. They blend well with fallen leaves, but their size gives them away. A single mushroom of this variety can reach 20 inches in diameter and weigh 100 pounds.
- Chicken Mushrooms: can be found on the stumps, trunks and logs of deciduous and coniferous trees in blazing orange-red or orange-yellow colors. Pay careful attention here, as the chicken mushroom bears a close resemblance to many non-edible types. Be careful not to succumb to the addictive smell. It’s tempting to eat them raw but don’t. Uncooked, this variety causes indigestion.
- Fried-Chicken Mushrooms are very different from the Chicken Mushroom, and have a gray to a yellowish-brown cap, with white gills and a stalk. They are found in dense clusters on the ground near decaying trees or in grassy areas throughout most of North America during the months of June through October. Their edibility is rated “good, with caution”, because the poisonous sulfur tuft mushroom is a close look-alike. The tuft’s smell is flat, bitter, and tangy.
- Oyster Mushrooms are widely dispersed throughout North American dry river and creek bottoms. Willow or other softwood trees are prime places to search for the oyster fungi. It is prolific in the fall, but under favorable conditions can appear year-round. They grow in mild winter weather, freeze before aging, and can be chopped free from deadwood and thawed.
- Honey mushrooms: are also called “button mushrooms”. They have a one to four-inch yellow-brown cap and stalk with a whitish ring directly under the cap. It’s similar in shape and taste to many commercially raised mushrooms. They appear in hardwood forests August through November, and logged-out timbers are the best places to find these delectable fungi.
Mushroom Foraging Safety:
- If on-the-spot identification of a harvested mushroom is not possible, separate it from the rest of the harvest.
- Ask an expert or field guide to verify the edibility of the suspect fungi.
- Do not consume wild mushrooms raw. They are indigestible when uncooked.
- Soak and rinse the mushrooms thoroughly to remove any residue.
- If side effects follow the consumption of mushrooms, contact a doctor!
- If susceptible to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, pay attention to its presence!
- Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a hat to discourage ticks. Don’t walk through heavily wooded terrain after dark.
FLOWERS & LEAVES: Many spring leaves and flowers will make another appearance in the fall, and a few summer flowers will persist into fall. Although most flowers are waning in fall, there are a few that are available in the cooler weather. Flowers to harvest in fall include Calendula, Chickweed, Dandelion, Goldenrod, Hops, Marigold, Plantain, Red Clover, Rose, and Violet.
Spiced Hawthorn Pear Persimmon Brandy
- 1.75 liters brandy the big bottle
- 2 T fresh ginger grated
- 1 T cardamom seeds decorticated (no pods)
- 2 vanilla beans
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 pears
- 1 persimmon
- 3 c hawthorn berries or 1½ cups dried hawthorn
- ½ c honey
- Coarsely chop the pear and persimmon and place them in a food processor. If working with fresh hawthorns throw them into the food processor whole with the other fruit.
- Coarsely blend the fruit in the food processor and add to a gallon glass jar. If working with dried hawthorn place them in the jar.
- Add all of the other herbs and brandy and let sit for 2-4 days.
- When perfect synergy has been achieved, strain through a cloth and wring out all the brandy with your hands.
- Slightly heat the strained brandy to dissolve the honey.
- Mix, label and bottle.
Foraged Chai Masala
- 1 tsp. wild ginger rhizomes dried
- 1/8 tsp. melilot dried
- 1/4 tsp. spicebush berries dried
- 1/2 tsp. cow parsnip seeds dried
- 1/4 tsp spruce or fir needles fresh or frozen
- 2 juniper berries
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbs. black tea leaves or 1 tea bag unflavored black tea
- 1/2 cup milk
- honey to taste.
- Combine the spices and water in a saucepan and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a medium simmer, cover the pan, and let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the tea. If using a tea bag, cut it open and pour the tea leaves directly into the hot water. Stir to combine, cover, and let the mixture steep for two minutes.
- Add the milk and honey, and return the mixture to the heat and bring it back to a boil. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid into a mug.
Chanterelle Stuffing with Pine Nuts
- 1- lb chanterelle mushrooms
- 4 T butter
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 t dried thyme
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- ½ c pine nuts
- 4 c bread croutons
- 2-3 c pheasant chicken or vegetable stock
- ½ c parsley
- Soak the bread croutons in 1 cup of stock.
- Chop the chanterelles into medium-sized pieces, and leave the small ones whole.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Add the chanterelles and dry sauté them, shaking and stirring them constantly, until they give up their water.
- When most of the mushrooms’ water has cooked away, add the butter, celery and onion and toss to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle them liberally with salt.
- Add the garlic, thyme and pine nuts and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Pour the contents of the sauté pan into a large bowl and mix with the bread croutons and the parsley.
- Fill a casserole with the dressing and add enough stock to make the mixture quite moist, about 1 cup.
- Cover the casserole and bake 30 minutes. Take the cover off and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the top browns.
Virginia Ann Winn is our newest contributor to MHS’s Herbal Thymes blog. Virginia, also known as ‘Ginger,’ currently serves as the MHS Membership Secretary. Herb-related, she is a Certified Master Herbalist graduating from the Centre of Excellence in Manchester, England. She is also a Certified Tax Specialist, Special Needs Educator, and a business owner. Virginia’s husband, Rick, is also a part of MHS setting up the audiovisual equipment for our programs.
Growing up, Virginia’s interest in herbalism was sparked by watching her grandparents grow and use medicinal herbs. Her grandad was a naturopath and he loved to cross-pollinate rose species to create new colors. Virginia’s granny was an herbalist who grew a lot of medicinal plants for the family. Together, they instilled in her a love of plants, herbal medicine, natural healing, and conservation. Many years later, Virginia passed down their knowledge to her kids and grandkids.
Virginia is the owner of ‘Wild Child Herb Shop of Tennessee’ where she offers a variety of herbal delights including cordials, elixirs, extracts, drops, gummies, honeys, jams, lozenges, oils, pestos, relishes, seasoning blends, syrups, teas, and vinegars. All products are grown on-site in the Wild Child Herb Garden. For more info, visit www.wildchildherbshoptn.com.