Gifts from Nature that Foragers Love to Share

Rose hips. Credit: Copyright 2016 Wendy Petty
Rose hips. Credit: Copyright 2016 Wendy Petty
Rose hips. Credit: Copyright 2016 Wendy Petty
Rose hips. Credit: Copyright 2016 Wendy Petty

By Wendy Petty – (Zester Daily)

THUNDER BAY – For foragers, calls to return to meaningful holiday gifts can be easily answered by turning to their well-stocked pantries. Presents made from wild foods are often easy to put together, budget-friendly, and are infused with the love of something handmade. With a little creativity, you can use the wild wonders you already have at hand to delight your friends and family with anything foraged, from porcini salt to elderflower cordial. Take some inspiration from the following list, wrap it in a beautiful jar or tin and a bow, and you will be certain to give gifts that will be enjoyed this holiday season.

Infused Salts and Sugars — Combining a precious wild ingredient with salt or sugar can be an economical way to introduce your loved ones to wild flavors. Wild mushrooms combine beautifully with salt, as do some aromatic plants such as elderflower and wild mint. Nutrient-dense seeds such as evening primrose and nettle also combine well with salt. Bakers will delight in sugars flavored with everything from spruce tips to sumac.

Spice Blends — Making an unforgettable spice blend can be as simple as tweaking one ingredient in a well-known mix, such as adding beebalm (Mondarda fistulosa) to za’atar in place of oregano. Alternatively, you can make a spice mix using herbs only found in your region, something that really speaks to the place you live.

Pickles and Preserves — Jams and jellies, whether entirely made from a wild ingredient or blended, make especially nice gifts for folks who feel nervous about foraged foods. Pickles made from wild goods can be wonderful for more adventurous friends and family. There are certain people for whom strawberry knotweed jam may be a better gift, while others would love the thrill of trying knotweed pickles.

Baked Goods

Cream scones with wild currants. Credit: Copyright 2016 Wendy Petty
Cream scones with wild currants. Credit: Copyright 2016 Wendy Petty

Baked Goods — Who could turn down homemade scones studded with dried currants, snickerdoodles rolled in juniper sugar, or cattail pollen shortbread? Cookies, cakes and breads become truly special, something that could never be purchased, with the addition of just a single foraged ingredient.

Gift Certificate for Homemade Wild Foods Dinner — If you are a forager, there may be no better way to introduce novices and aspirational wildcrafters to wild flavors than cooking dinner for them. Bold new flavors and unfamiliar foods can seem less intimidating when cooked, served and explained by the person who picked them.

Kitchen Medicine — Many wild foods are deeply medicinal in addition to tasting delicious. Elderberry elixir, which is excellent for aiding the body in fighting viruses, can be made by filling a jar one-quarter full with dried elderberries, then filling it the rest of the way with half honey, half alcohol of choice. Chopped wild onions mixed with honey make an excellent cough syrup. Fire cider is a popular cure-all made by combining ingredients like horseradish, garlic, onions, chiles and wild herbs like beebalm with vinegar.

Wild Seeds — If you love a particular wild plant and want to ensure it keeps growing, tuck seeds into a hand-illustrated envelope, or make them into a seed bomb by wetting a 1:1 ratio of compost and clay, and encasing seeds inside a ball of it. Use caution however, and make certain you aren’t propagating invasive species.

Tea Blends and DIY Kits

Mouse ornament with wild tea blend. Credit: Copyright 2016 Wendy Petty
Mouse ornament with wild tea blend. Credit: Copyright 2016 Wendy Petty

Tea Blends and DIY Kits — You can put together all-wild tisane blends using ingredients such as nettles, rosehips, mints, even include some popped or ground seeds. Or, package each ingredient in a separate container for a choose-your-own-adventure tea set. Don’t be afraid to combine wild ingredients with black, green or other varieties of tea.

Dried Fruit — If you have surplus dried fruits in your pantry, this is a snack that few would turn down, young or old. Depending upon the fruit, it can be given plain, dipped into chocolate, turned into fruit leather or soaked in a flavorful liquid like watered-down cinnamon and honey and dried a second time.

Infused Alcohol or Shrubs — For cocktail lovers, there can be no better gifts than alcohol infused with wild ingredients, wild syrups and shrubs. Stick with classics like elderflower cordial, or get creative and combine any number of wild fruits or flowers into drink bases. Try crabapples and star anise in brandy. Mix wild rose and strawberries with vinegar and sugar syrup to make a sunny shrub. Put mushrooms in vodka for advanced mixologist.

Specialty Ingredient Plus a Recipe — If you have a wild ingredient that your loved ones are eager to try but unlikely to harvest and process on their own, you can give it to them ready to go. For example, give them enough acorn flour to make acorn brownies, along with a handwritten recipe card.

Copyright 2016 Wendy Petty via Zester Daily and Reuters Media Express

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