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foraged spices
from top left, clockwise: pink peppercorns, bee balm, sumac, PA bay leaf

How to Make Your Own Foraged Spice Cabinet

When it’s time for me to cook or bake something really special, I look through my foraged spice cabinet. I don’t do this for just anybody. Foraged herbs and spices take time and effort to gather, and I only use them when I’m cooking for someone I think will appreciate their specialness.

My favorite spices are foraged. Sure, I still love basil and vanilla, and I couldn’t do without salt (which I would forage for if I didn’t live in the desert). But foraged spices are unique. They bring the flavor of a particular place and time to your dish. These are unbuyable flavors.

The lemony sumac I use for my dry rub was harvested on a hot August day along a dry dirt road in rural Pennsylvania. The juniper berries were a bonus I found on my latest mushroom hunt in the Colorado Rockies. And the bee balm I use on my pizza (who needs oregano?) is from my sister’s garden in New Hampshire.

Here’s what you’ll find in my foraged spice cabinet. What’s in yours?

Bee Balm

Juniper Berries

Pennsylvania Bay Leaf

Pink Peppercorns

Spicebush Berries

Spruce Tips



Sweet Fern

Wild Garlic

Wild Ginger


your foraged spice cabinet
a foraged spice cabinet


  1. Britany Buechel says:

    I just foraged some Staghorn Sumac for the first time and currently have the whole berry clusters drying. When I use them for a spice do I just take off the individual berries and use them as is or do I need to do something to them? What type of dish do you suggest to use Sumac in?

    • Ellen says:

      For some ideas on how I use sumac, see here: http://www.backyardforager.com/sumac-a-necessary-spice/
      As for how to use the spice, after you dry them, remove the individual fruits from the stem and give them a few pulses in a spice grinder, not to pulverize, just to break them up. Then rub them through a metal sieve and use the powder as a spice. You’ll be leaving the seeds (which can be bitter) behind.

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