December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

During a walk in the provincial park the other day I finally saw my first ever wintergreen berry!

I remember seeing tons of wintergreen in the summer, making tea from it when camping, but I don't remember ever seeing the berries before.
They had practically taken on mythical proportions in my mind!
You can eat them, although I didn't.

Here are a few interesting facts about wintergreen, known in french as thé des bois (tea of the woods):

-It has a minty taste which is now synthesized or made from birch twigs for gum, candy etc.
-Young leaves are tasty in salads, older leaves for breathe freshener and tea.
-Too much pure wintergreen oil can cause kidney damage and poisoning.
-The fruit is spicy and strong-tasting, and best after a winter on the plant.
-The berries were traditionally used for a wild game sauce, or to flavour beer!
-Methyl salicylate, a compound related to aspirin, is found in the leaves, which may be why it's traditional uses include: remedy for headaches, sore throats, rashes, sore muscles, hookworm*, and venereal disease (now this blog will come up with a search for venereal disease!).

Taken from: M.A. Leduc. The Explorer's Guide to the Boreal Forest.

*hookworm: a disease caused by infestation by parasitic nematodes, causes severe anemia

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