Monday, January 10, 2011


We went for a wonderful walk in the snowy woods this past weekend.  I was looking for wintergreen because I have found it in these woods before.

 The first time I saw wintergreen I recognized it because of a description I had read in "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  "Under the snow on the south slopes the bright red berries were ripe among their thick green leaves.  Almanzo took off his mittens and pawed away the snow with his bare hands.  He found the red clusters and filled his mouth full.  The cold berries crunched between his teeth, gushing out their aromatic juice."

Now, I have never eaten a nice wintergreen berry.  They have always been mealy and dry.  Some people like to chew the leaves for the good taste.  The Native People, and later the colonists, used wintergreen medicinally.  Some people chop the leaves up to make a hot, refreshing tea. 

Almanzo Wilder  and his sister Alice brought home lots of leaves for their mother.  Alice crammed a bottle full of the leaves, and their mother filled it with whisky and set it away.  That was how she made wintergreen flavoring for baking.  But I just like to pick a leaf, crush it in my fingers, and breath deeply.  It is one of the beautiful smells of the winter woods: fresh, bright, cold, and minty.  Mmmmm.


Sharon Lovejoy said...

This is lovely, lovely dear Beth. I can taste it. Yes, the berries aren't good for us, but the animals love them.

They are such a joy to find out in the woods, their red berries shouting a hurrah to the world.

sending love across the miles,

Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

Beth said...

Sharon, what do you think Almanzo was eating? I always assumed I had found the wintergreen berries at the wrong time of year. love, Beth

Kris said...

So interesting! I just finished reading Farmer Boy yesterday! It was the first time I had heard about wintergreen berries as I have never seen or tasted wintergreen berries before. I don't think they grow in British Columbia in the North. Hopefully I'll get to try some someday.


Nicole Vangen said...

I just love this post Beth! I just started to read Farmer Boy to my five year old daughter. This is great information to know. I hope we will also find some wintergreen berries.

Many blessings to you,

Beth said...

I just love Farmer Boy!!! It is probably my favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder book. I love the amazing food descriptions. I think Laura enjoyed imagining a childhood like Almanzo's where there was plenty of delicious food on the table. Beth

Pure Ella said...

Very pretty. Love the winter shots.

Nadja said...

Oh, I do miss the woods! That first shot in your post is so magical.

We love Farmer Boy, too...those wonderful food descriptions are the result of Laura's having lived through the Long Winter.

Beth said...

Yes, Nadja, you sense that the loving food desciptions are written by someone who has been hungry. Also, the Ingalls family ate simply in the best of times, while the Wilders lived on a prosperous upstate New York farm. love, Beth