The idea behind foraging is to use what is native to your surroundings and create a connection between people and nature. There’s beauty in the scent of fir trees, the texture and shape of gnarled, mossy branches and the bright red pop of berries that Mother Nature does so much better than we ever could. It’s a great excuse to get outside, involve the kids or combine it with a dog walk. Let’s keep the festivities close to the earth this year – roll up your sleeves, channel your inner naturalist, and bring the bounty of the outdoors inside.
From fir to spruce trees, the needles of all of them are edible and when blitzed with sugar they become wildly versatile – rim glasses for holiday-inspired cocktails, spice up your sugar cookie batter, combine it in frosting, create a simple syrup cordial or bottle it up in jars and give as gifts. Combine a quarter cup of washed Douglas fir needles with a quarter cup of sugar in a spice grinder. Transfer the bright green, aromatic sugar into a bowl and combine it with another cup of sugar and mix it well. Transfer the sugar to a jar.
I have to credit a Nordic friend who introduced me to this quick and easy way to freshen up your space. Back home in Norway, they would boil a large pot of water on an open fire and add conifer branches, like juniper and fir, chuck in handfuls of cones, and berries and toast the winter solstice, along with a spiked, spicy Glögg.
Spice pots on a stovetop are mini versions of these bonfires. It is all natural, easy to make and creates the most amazing fragrance for your home! All spice pots all have the same base ingredients: a branch of juniper, a sprig of fir tree, orange peel, whole cinnamon, whole cloves, whole nutmeg. Combine with water and gently simmer away, releasing the scent into your home.
Perhaps my favourite piece of the wild to bring inside at this time of the year is rose hips. They are simple, elegant and striking all on their own in a vase. The large hips can be strung on wire and formed into small rings or heart shapes for hanging on the tree or left long and looped around candles.
What better way to give thanks for the year and natures bounty, than to make a wreath out of things gathered? Evergreens remind us of nature during winters long dark days, just as they did for ancient cultures that cut bits of evergreen, holly and mistletoe and brought them indoors to shelter the spirits from winters chill.
Making a foraged wreath need not be a complicated affair. You can use a ready-made wire base or make your own using stems that are long, slender and flexible (birch, dogwood). If the stems have natural decorations like tiny cones, seeds, berries or catkins then so much the better. Use contrasting foliage, unusual textures, evergreens and berries. Prep your greenery by creating small bunches bundled together with a little bit of wire before adding them to the wreath. Twist one end of your wire to your wreath form and wrap a bundle of greenery. Work your way around the entire form, overlapping each bundle and tucking in berries as you go.
A touch of greenery on wrapped gifts
I have yet to get my Christmas gifts wrapped before midnight on Christmas Eve. Initially, it started because things were always crazy busy, now it’s simply slipped into a tradition. When all the guests have left and my son is tucked into bed, I crank up the festive tunes, pour a little more spiced nog and start the wrapping. In an effort to keep things simple and elegant, gifts are wrapped in neutral brown paper, tied up with twine, decorated with a little greenery and a handwritten note.