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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Apple and Wintergreen



Yesterday I gave a program about spring wildflowers, and then went for a hike at Pentwater Pathways. If you follow the outermost loop it's 6 miles, and Maggie and I took that route. Next week is supposed to be wet and colder, but I'm grabbing all the good I can out of this week!

It was too early for any new green things to be poking through, but this gem stays green all winter under the snow. This is wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens. This little cutie, and some related species, are the source for natural oil of wintergreen. Today, most is produced synthetically, but traditionally it was obtained by crushing the leaves, and boiling them, then distilling the steam. It is actually very toxic. Wikipedia says that one fluid ounce is equal to 171 aspirin. It doesn't take much to flavor gum, mouthwash, and candy!

That said, there is so little oil in a single plant that you can eat the berries, or chew the leaves for the wintergreen flavor, or steep them for tea. In fact, it is sometimes called Teaberry.
funny dog

Meanwhile, although this is not as good as "Grilled Cheese on Snow," Maggie said, "What was that?"
apple on leaves

There it is..."Apple on Leaves." I thought it was plastic until I kicked it and discovered that it had a grocery tag! And there you have it... the fruits of yesterday's forest.

Today I hung laundry outside for the first time this spring! Supposed to be nice one, maybe two more days. Horray for blue skies! I wore shorts all day today.

See Grilled Cheese on Snow


Ann said...

grilled cheese on snow huh? That apple doesn't look like it's been there too long so must have been someone else was taking advantage of the nice weather.

Secondary Roads said...

So that's tea berry? I remember Clark's tea berry gum. Don't remember ever chewing it, but the name stuck in my head. Yes, sometimes it is like a junk drawer.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

The fruits of nature. I really enjoyed this post. Great shots and I like learning all these new things.

Sharkbytes said...

Ann- the apple was really strange. It was bright red, but when I kicked it, there was no substance left to it. I wonder if it somehow got freeze dried and had been out all winter.

Chuck- I had forgotten Teaberry gum. Did it have a wintergreen flavor? I don't remember.

Hi Jo- I made myself hungry for a Fruits of the Forest pie. Hope I don't completely miss rhubarb season with my hiking this spring.

Ratty said...

I'm glad I learned that. I always thought wintergreen was a fake name made up by gum and candy makers.

Duxbury Ramblers said...

The wintergreen here (Pyrola minor)is different and quite rare in our area, I love plants that we can eat or chew on our walks.

Sharkbytes said...

Ratty- Not made up at all! Lots of people think it is a kind of mint, and it's not, but it is real.

Duxbury- I just learned that there are a number of plants (all related) that are called wintergreen. Do you have black birch? The twigs taste of wintergreen too.

Duxbury Ramblers said...

Black Birch is not native but we do get it in our parks I will keep my eyes open for it.

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