The Best Winter Plants You Can Eat

Research is key when foraging wild plants. Here are some of the common plants you can find across the US and UK this winter - and how you can cook with them.
Author Headshot
Olivia Higgs
Nov 30
3 mins
Nov 30
3 mins

When cooking with wild plants, it’s important to properly research any you forage to make sure they’re not toxic. Listed below are some common edible plants you can find in the US and UK during winter as well as some ideas of how you can get creative with them. Hopefully, this introductory guide will inspire you to do some winter foraging and bring these ingredients into your kitchen!

10 Edible Winter Plants:

  • Rose hips - these bright berries can be used in pies, syrups, teas, or in jams which you'll find on our Irish cooking program.
  • Cranberries - this one is more of a household name. It appears on our tables for Thanksgiving and Christmas in a sweetened sauce to go with the turkey. But they can also be dried for snacking on, blended into juices, sprinkled on french toast or oats for breakfast, used as a glaze for roasted ham, or in cheeses...the options are endless.
  • Elderberries - these tart edible berries are a purple-black color and can be combined with aromatics to make liqueurs and syrups, fermented into wine, or cooked into sauces and pies.
  • Hickory nuts - the taste of these nuts is somewhere between a pecan and a walnut, so they make a great substitute. They can be used in shortbread, cakes, and tarts along with warming flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple syrup. Make sure you don't discard the shells as they're great fuel for your winter fire.
  • Pine cones - pine cones are more versatile in the kitchen than you might think. They can be left, immersed in alcohol, for about two weeks to create an after-dinner digestif. Combine them with sugar and you can make a jam (popular in traditional Siberian cuisine) or you can create a honey-like, syrup mixture for sweetening teas.

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  • Pine needles - you can steep the needles in hot water for about 10 minutes to make a pine needle tea. For winter cakes, take a small cutting from a pine needle branch, dip it in egg white, and then sugar for a snowy cake decoration. Traditionally the outer bark of the pine tree is used to make fine flour for bark bread in Nordic indigenous cuisines.
  • Wild onion grass - it is frost resistant and you might find it in your garden. It has an oniony-garlicky taste, and you can use it as you would chives or onions. It's delicious in salads or for seasoning game dishes.
  • Maple sap - just like the indigenous peoples of Canada, you can tap the maple tree for its sap and boil it down into syrup. The sap can also be used to make maple seltzer, maple mead, sap vinegar or you can also replace the water in your tea or coffee with maple sap.
  • Chicory - known for its warm, earthy flavor, the root can be roasted and ground and used in a similar way to coffee grounds for a caffeine-free alternative. The leaves can also be used like any other salad green.
  • Chanterelles - our winter guide wouldn't be complete without mentioning mushrooms. The best way to cook these mushrooms is to lightly saute them in butter. They have a delicious earthy flavor and are great for enjoying on toast, in pasta dishes, risotto, or in a hearty, creamy mushroom soup.
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