Friday, March 30, 2012

In which I eat my friend's Christmas tree

I should have posted about this a couple months ago... Actually, I should have done this a couple months ago. But it happened that a couple months ago I was in Florida and don't forget that I'm a bit of a procrastinator. It's worth the wait, however, as its awesome. Like foraging from your living room!

My own Christmas tree
Next Christmas, if you find yourself feeling rather sad about paying money to cut down a tree to be a temporary decoration in your house and then feel sad about throwing it away a month later, then here is something you might want to consider:

Pine is edible.

And it's actually pretty yummy. It tastes a lot like it smells, on the astringent side, and with a dash of bitter. It may be an acquired taste, but I find myself liking a lot of strange-ish things.

If the taste doesn't suit you, here's something else to consider:

Pine is antiseptic, antibacterial, high in vitamin C and other nutritious minerals. You can use your Christmas tree to make health elixirs, cough and cold remedies or even as an excellent cleaner if nothing else interests you. I've read from Susun Weed that pine vinegar can even clear up a lung infection. This is some good stuff, folks. Seriously!

And if one doesn't suit your fancy, try another variety. The taste can really vary, so don't give up if you try one that isn't so yummy.

This year my friend* had a beautiful Christmas tree of a variety I had never seen before. It's needles were long and wide. They reminded me of rosemary. I asked her if I could taste it. Heh heh. Thankfully, my friend is used to me and my weird ways and told me to have a go if I really wanted.

Well I did, and it was actually quite pleasing to the palette. Up until now, the best tasting pine I've been able to find is White Pine. Her pine tree (and I might have this wrong but I think she said it was called a Scotch Balsam) was lemony, slightly minty, spicy and (of course) piney. It delighted me. I asked her if I could have it when she was done using it as her temporary decoration.

She happily obliged me, saying "I'm glad my super expensive Christmas tree is getting more uses than one!" And then I had a large bag of pine branches hanging about my  house for about a month before I finally got around to turning them into things.

Pine vinegar, pine simple syrup and a jar of pine needles
So far, what I've made is: Pine simple syrup, for flavoring beverages and maybe even making candy.. (I think it might be fun to make pine lemonade, though John thinks it'll taste like cleaner....) Pine vinegar, which I intend to use in cooking as one would use balsamic vinegar. And pine soda.

Yup! Pine flavoured soda. It's kinda wild tasting. I carbonated it using a fermented wild yeast starter that I learned to make here at Learning Herbs. Instead of flavoring my soda with blueberries, as in the linked recipe, I made a sugary pine decoction and turned that into soda. Good stuff!

I also stripped most of the left over branches of their needles and intend to use them as an herb in cooking, the way one uses rosemary. But I could also put it in tea and blend it with other flavors. I'm thinking of chopping up the remaining needle-less branches and slow steeping them in olive oil for some piney oil. Which has many uses in and of itself! Salves, salads, wood polish...

I love that I can eat my cleaners and skin care. No toxins here!

For the simple syrup, I combined 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water in a pot. I added a bunch up pine needles and some of the smaller branches and stirred and let simmer under a lid for about 15 minutes. I probably could have let it go longer. The more pine you use, the more piney it will taste, (obviously). I thought mine was a little too sweet and not as piney as I hoped. I was following the Simple Syrup recipe in Joy of Cooking, but next time I think I'll use less sugar and more pine.

For the vinegar, take a glass jar and pack it with pine needles and branches then fill the jar with apple cider vinegar. Put the lid on (if it's a metal lid, place something like wax paper or several layers of plastic between the jar and lid because vinegar really corrodes metal) label it with the date and wait 4-6 weeks. Then you can strain it (or not) and use as you please, on food, or your toilet! You might want to make two jars, one for each, you know, so nothing cross-contaminates, eh...

So next time you have a Christmas tree, or someone you know does, try it out. Not all of them taste as good as others, but they're all edible and useful in so many ways. I was particularly delighted to find a tree that tasted so dern yummy, but there's loads to do with even the not-so-yummy varieties. You can even just go out to your closest woods and bring home some pine today if you can't wait till Christmas. Go ahead and try it!

I wonder if pine ice cream would be any good...

* I didn't actually get to use my own Christmas tree this year for a couple reasons - it was not nearly as tasty as my friend's and I didn't want a pine overload in my house, and we actually forgot to water it most of the time we had it, so by the time we got to taking it down there wasn't much left to it.  Don't let this happen to you!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting to know. Some questions: Can I eat the variety of pine called Australian Pine, as it's the most popular kind in the forests where I live. I think our other kind may be called Norfolk Pine and can I eat that? And does cleaning with the Christmas tree pine vinegar give your house a Fresh Pine smell that lasts or does it still smell overtly like Salad and /or quickly evaporate as usual?


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