As the temperatures continue to drop, there are still plenty of things to forage throughout the winter in Oregon. We are in the Willamette valley near Sheridan, Oregon and here is our list of our favorite things to forage in December in that area:
Winter Chanterelles, Yellow Feet or Craterellus tubaeformis are small mushrooms that taste similar to Chanterelles. Their caps can range from brown to yellow in color with yellow stems. The more mature they are, the darker their caps become. They have hollow stems and wavy caps. They are small and fragile. They can be used similarly to Golden Chanterelles. When identifying mushrooms always cross reference across multiple sources and never eat anything that you’re not sure of.
Conifer needles remain throughout the winter months and can be easily identified. Most conifers are edible with only a few toxic varieties. Pine, Spruce, Fir and Redwood are all both medicinal and edible. Douglas fir is the easiest to identify and most widespread in Oregon. The light green tips of the branches are the new growth called spruce tips. These spruce tips are softer and contain the most vitamin C and are the part of the tree that you want to harvest. Conifer needless are great for teas, tinctures and desserts.
The “berries” on juniper trees are actually cones covered with white powdery bloom. That bloom is wild yeast that can be used for home brewing. Juniper has evergreen, prickly, small needles with a white stripe down the middle and are arranged in clusters of three. Juniper berries are the flavoring in gin but can be used for other things too. Dried juniper berries can be used as a spice in brines and meat, pickling and fermenting and even in baked goods.
Burdock root is known for its medicinal properties because it contains powerful antioxidants. It’s best to identify Burdock in summer or fall before the majority of the plant dies back. They have large, heart shaped leaves, pick to purple flowers surrounded by bracts that dry to form burs. The roots are primarily used medicinally by boiling into tea or made into a tincture.
Chicory is a perennial plant in the dandelion family. Chicory blooms between July and October with bluish purple flowers. The roots can be used similarly to dandelion root in coffee, tea or added to hot chocolate.
Dandelions are commonly used for their flowers, but the roots can be roasted and made into coffee, tea or added to hot chocolate. East to identify and extremely widespread you can forage the roots all winter long.
Old man’s beard or Usnea is a Lichen that can be foraged all winter long. Lichen is a combination of a fungus and an algae that grow together and is used medicinally. Usnea can be made into tinctures, extracts and teas. Usnic acid, one of the active compounds in Usnea, may help promote wound healing and fight infection.
Candy Cap Mushrooms
Candy cap mushrooms are some of the only sweet mushrooms. There are three different mushrooms all commonly referred to as Candy Cap Mushrooms. They are; Lactarius camphoratus, Lactarius fragilis and Lactarius rubidus. Lactarius camphoratus tastes more like curry than Lactarius fragilis or Lactarius rubidus and is very mild in comparison. Lactarius fragilis is lighter in color and has strong maple syrup smell even when fresh but becomes stronger when dried. Lactarius rubidus smells like maple syrup too but only when dried, not fresh, this may cause confusion during identification.
Lactarius rubidus when cooking smells strongly of brown sugar and maple syrup. If you’re having trouble identifying in the woods you can burn them with a lighter and they will smell strongly of brown sugar and maple syrup. They are small to medium sized mushrooms with hollow stems and slightly bumpy caps when you run your finger over the top of the cap. When identifying mushrooms always cross reference across multiple sources and never eat anything that you’re not sure of.