"It offered her the partridge-berries"
Mitchella repens
Public DomainMitchella repens - Credit: Mary Vaux Walcott

Pearl’s woodland snack could be one of two different plants: both Mitchella repens and Gaultheria procumbens go by the name of partridge berry, can be found in woodland areas and produce edible red fruits. The former is an evergreen vine with dark, glossy leaves and white, trumpet-shaped flowers. Its berries ripen between July and October but, if not scavenged beforehand, will persist into spring. Though they seem rather bland to human tastebuds, they have been used by Native American women to make a medicinal labor-easing tea and serve as a juicy wayside nibble for ramblers.


Gaultheria procumbens
Creative Commons AttributionGaultheria procumbens - Credit: Karol Pilch

Gaultheria procumbens, meanwhile, is a low-growing evergreen shrub which produces small bell-shaped flowers. Its bright red fruits ripen in autumn but continue to grow in size over the winter and are at their tastiest after a frost. They have a distinct minty tang and are made into syrup used to flavor chewing gum, ice-cream, tobacco and toothpaste. If you live in North America and have some of these plants growing near to you, why not experiment with their culinary properties? A range of imaginative recipes can be found here.