Wintergreen is one of the few wintertime forageables, and my friend Linda and I (with help from Linda’s daughter Lily) harvested a bagful. The berries are edible, and they taste like unsweetened wintergreen-flavored toothpaste.
The compound that gives wintergreen its characteristic taste is methyl salicylate, a cousin to acetlysalicylic acid, which we all know as aspirin. Traditionally, wintergreen tea was used by Native Americans to ease rheumatism sympoms, and oil of wintergreen was used in analgesic balms.
Sounds great, right? Until you read the part about how even small doses can be fatal. Those crazy Native Americans!
But, hey, if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me. To get the oil, you have to ferment the leaves, and my leaves are currently fermenting in glass jars in front of the wood stove. Next to the cat.