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Wintergreen Berry
Gaultheria procumbens

Acquired: 2012
How started:

The berries are edible and contain wintergreen oil, a pale yellow or pinkish fluid liquid that is strongly aromatic with a sweet woody odor (components: methyl salicylate (approx. 98%), a-pinene, myrcene, delta-3-carene, limonene, 3,7-guaiadiene, delta-cadinene). Along with vanilla, wintergreen is the dominant flavor in modern root beer recipes.

During the American Revolution, wintergreen leaves were used as a substitute for tea. From notes by Paghat: "The leaves can be harvested at any time of year, but have to be fermented if they are to have any taste beyond just a pleasant odor. To prepare the leaves, pack a jar with them, fill with sterile water, & set the sealed jar in a warm spot for several days, until the water becomes bubbly with fermentation. The first soaking of water makes a strong tea when heated & diluted to taste; or the flavored water can be used in cooking or to add a distinctive flavor to lemonaid or pecoe tea. The fermented leaves themselves are strained & placed in a dehydrator or permitted to dry out naturally if it is a low-humidity season. The dried leaves can later be prepared in boiling water like any other tea, making a milder brew than the water from the original fermenting."

Gaultheria, for Jean Franois Gaultier (1708-1756), Canadian physician and botanist who made botanical studies of the Quebec region with Swedish botanist Peter Kalm (1716-1779). Kalm, an associate of Linnaeus, named the genus Gaultheria in honor of Gaultier in 1753. The word procumbens, from the Latin, "prostrate". Other common names include Box Berry, Checkerberry, Deerberry, Eastern Teaberry, Ground Holly, Mountain Tea, Creeping Wintergreen, Ground Tea, Partridge-Berry, Petit the du bois (Quebec, "little tea of the woods"), Redberry Wintergreen, Spice Berry, Teaberry, Winisibugons (Ojibwe, "dirty leaf").

Related to the PNW native Salal (Gaultheria shallon).

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