By Kaare Melby
As November settles in, and snow starts to cover the ground, we begin to reflect on all of the foods we have gathered over the year. With the snow, most of the wild plant gathering ends, but you might still be able to go dig some dandelion and wild ginger roots if you know where to look. Instead of gathering wild plants, this is the time to gather wild animals – In other words, it’s hunting season.
Deer hunting is like an annual meditation. You get up early and trek out into the middle of the woods, then you sit silently for hours. As you sit, you see the ballet of the forest wildlife come to accept your presence and return to its normal rhythm. You see the squirrels busily gathering and stashing food. You see the birds go about their business, happily singing along. I always notice the woodpeckers while deer hunting, they seem to be extra busy this time of year. And if you are EXTREMELY lucky, you might see a deer. Deer or not, I always enjoy the time I spend in the forest hunting deer.
Walking in the woods to and from your hunting spot is a good time to spot chaga. Chaga is a medicinal fungus that grows on birch trees. Folk medicine describes all sorts of reasons you might want to drink some chaga tea. Another fun winter tea is cherry bark tea, which is made by simmering chokecherry or pin cherry twigs in water. And, of course, you can make evergreen tea, which is particularly good for treating those respiratory sicknesses that are common in this season.
But the best part of this season is making delicious foods from all of the wild foods you have gathered over the year. Wild mushrooms, wild berries, wild nuts, wild roots, wild herbs and wild meats all come together to create wonderful local foods.