Sunday, June 5, 2011

Wintergreen Berries (Gaultheria procumbens) and Muffin Extravaganza

Wintergreen was one of my first wild edibles. Unlike Thag I did not grow up in a family of hikers. My family's idea of a great day outdoors involves swimming pools, lemonade and steaks on the grill, or, when they feel really crazy, amusement parks. So, when we began dating as teenagers, Thag was my introduction to things like hiking, camping, and mountain top vistas. As we hiked through the woods, I could identify some trees due to a seventh grade botany project, but that was about it. On one of these hikes (which sometimes I loved and othertimes I dreaded, being unaccustomed to bugs, sore thigh muscles, and sweating), he introduced me to wintergreen. Easy to identify with the occasional surprise of a berry hidden beneath its thick green leaves, this became one of my favorites.

Yub Yub knows many plants, and today she was introduced to wintergreen. She and Thag hiked up a local mountain and she delighted in finding these sweet little berries. She loves finding things she can eat outside. Often, if she can pick something herself, she will eat it even though she won't eat the same food when it comes from our fridge. This was true with wintergreen berries. She spit them out when they sat in a bowl on our table, but she ate each and every one she found today. She even commented on this. "Papa, I like some wintergreen berries but not some wintergreen berries."

Up until now, this berry has been relegated to trailside nibbles or salad additions, but this year, Thag collected a lot. In fact, we froze them because we weren't sure what to do with them all. So the other day, when I found them sitting inside the freezer I decided to add them to our favorite corn muffin recipe.

This turned out wonderfully. Sadly I didn't measure the number of berries I added. But if you follow this recipe, I suggest not putting too many berries in. Their flavor really extended to the whole muffin. I fear that if one put too many berries in, they would begin to taste like toothpaste. These, however, were delicious, lightly wintergreeny and wonderful with tea.

Above, you will see a picture of wintergreen corn muffins at right, plain corn muffins behind, and locust flower corn muffins front left. The black locust muffins were good, but unlike the wintergreen muffins, I added too few locust flowers--I should have stuffed them full.

Wintergreen (or Black Locust Flower) Corn Muffins:

2 cups white flour

2 cups corn meal

2 tsp salt

8 tsp baking powder

1 cup maple syrup, brown sugar, or white sugar

2 cups milk

2 eggs

1/2 cup melted butter or canola oil

wintergreen berries and/or black locust blossoms--read post for more info

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease or paper muffin tins.

Sift dry ingredients together. Add milk and eggs (and maple syrup if using instead of sugar. Beat until blended. Add butter. Mix until just blended. Add berries and/or black locust blossoms. Fill tins. Makes 18 to 24 muffins depending on how full you fill them. They freeze well.


  1. Great post, can't wait to try the recipe!

  2. Great post! We love foraging for wintergreen, or as I grew up calling the, boxberries. They make amazing ice cream and cookies!

    1. I've heard other common names too . . . like checkerberries. I'll have to try the ice cream. That sounds like an amazing idea.

  3. yub yub. Is that nickname a reference to the little sand people in Star Wars that said Ootini!! Cute nickname if so.