Botany

The Forecast Calls for Snowberries

snowberry3By Clare Crosby –

Now awaiting a frolic through your senses is one of nature’s most delightful candies, a reward so discreet that you probably pass it by during walks on life’s long, green path. When you are next high on some mountain trail, in dense coniferous woods, or near a spruce bog, find an elegant vine with tiny, waxy leaves. Drop to your knees because here is your low-hanging fruit: a sweet wintergreen explosion known as Creeping Snowberry.

No wild food is more enchanting. Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula), a northern and boreal member of the heath family (Ericaceae), dispenses its little white gifts in August and September. Although I’m reluctant to mention them in the same sentence, Creeping Snowberry fruits resemble Tic Tac® candies. But beyond their size and shape, there is no comparison. Not even close. Willy Wonka couldn’t have designed a more intoxicating experience.

The sugary dance begins as you massage the snowberry between your tongue and palate. The skin eases away from a soft fruit that bursts into sugary satisfaction. It is an innocent sweetness, yet addictive enough that you will soon want another fix. But as the flesh (I think it’s mesocarp) fades away, the wintergreen (residing in the skin) begins its gentle approach, like a sunrise or a spring shower. It is pure wintergreen, exposing the artificial as cruelty on humanity. Seconds later the wintergreen also wanders away, like a lover off on some journey. You will drop again to your knees for another tryst.

So dispense with artifice in little plastic boxes. Go eat the real thing. Go now because these fruits will soon be gone. Wintergreen by any other name would never taste as sweet.

A portion of the haul from around Moose Bog in Ferdinand, Vermont, on September 24, 2013.
A portion of the haul from around Moose Bog in Ferdinand, Vermont, on September 24, 2013.

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