Thursday, November 6, 2008

Foraging: Pine Needle Tea

You DO want to try this, but not till it's strained. Those little guys are sharp!

We were out walking yesterday, and there was a 3 foot pine seedling within easy access in the undeveloped wilder area. I clipped the end of one of its branches, since it was in an area that is never sprayed (and looked like it was in an area that might be mowed down before too long).

I'd read that pine needles make a great tea, and that the needles as well as many other parts of the pine tree were used by native populations as food in different ways. The vitamin C content of the needles is said to be really high. In fact, if settlers had drunk it during times of want, it is said there would have been no scurvy. Linda Runyon mentions pine in her foraging handbook. Anyway, I was curious!

I washed and trimmed some of the needles, and poured boiling over them, as seen above. Then I learned an important lesson...NOT to try sipping the brew while the needles are still in it (yeah, go ahead, I know everyone else has better sense! lol) I was aiming just for a sip, not a gulp, but two of those needle bits got sipped right up with the liquid and I just about had to have an embarrassing trip to the ER, only I'd not swallowed very hard and was able to REACH DOWN MY THROAT WITH MY HAND and pull the piercing little shards out (I can see trying to explain that one, ha!) Anyway, always strain the liquid to get all the needles out first (duh) before drinking. I have enough left, and I'll follow the instructions better next time around and steep them in a PAN of boiling water for 20 minutes.

But here's the exciting was DELICIOUS! I expected a turpentine or stringent taste, but it was actually GREAT tasting...very light, sweet, fragrant...I couldn't believe it! Jack said when he was in the Marines and they had to do survival exercises out in the middle of nowhere (forage, etc), he would boil pine needles and it was really satisfying. He said if we do that, you can add a touch of sugar to taste and it tastes like a very mild lemonade (didnt taste like that to me...tasted very sweet without any sugar...nice flavor!

Here are the two precautions:

1. Make sure you identify the tree properly. It HAS to be a pine. Don't take chances if you're not sure, because there are evergreens (don't remember which) that are poisonous. And also make sure it's not in an area that has been sprayed with any sort of poisons or has poison ivy/sumac/oak growing anywhere nearby.

2. Though I LOVED this (I'd drink it every day if I could), I can't drink it till I'm, ohhhh, older. Seems that there's some strong anecdotal evidence that pregnant and nursing mothers should probably steer clear of it, as well as anyone who might be pregnant at any point...the tea is said to cause miscarriages within a very short time (hmmm...) if drunk while pregnant. Since we'd welcome a baby at ANY time were I able to have one, I'd just as soon play it safe in that department. But you can bet I'll be drinking it when I'm older. A nice and pleasant surprise :)


MeadowLark said...

You tell Jack that anything good enough for my brother in arms is good enough for me! :) And ask him about "SERE" school ;)

I'll give this a shot. We have a baby pine in the front yard.

amanda o said...

that is interesting...good for you for trying it!

Nola @ the Alamo said...

I have never heard of that. I would have thought the taste would have been kinda sappy, sticky-ish, bitter, since that's kinda the way the needles are if you touch or smell them. We don't have pines here, I might have to get someone int east Texas to send me some!

Meg said...

That sounds delicious! We have lots of evergreen trees around, but I don't know which are technically pines. I'll have to get out the ol' tree i.d. book and check them out. And I'll strain it! Yikes!

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

Yes, That does sound good, I would imagine trying to swallow those needles would be like trying to eat a toothpick...

annette said...

Are these white pines or other pines? Both varieties are local, though have non white pines in my back lot.
I'll have to brew some this weekend!

JoyceAnn said...

I tried the pine needle tea last year when I had a horrible sinus infection / flu. I need to try it again while my taste buds are normal. I liked the taste , but thought it might taste different or stronger if I wasn't sick.
I'm making pine needle oil , I've been using it for many things , I'm thrilled with the healing I'm experiencing with it. I have been studying white pine for awhile now and plan to post about it next week on my blog. I will let you know when I get it posted.

I think I'll try some pine needle tea this weekend , so I can experience the true taste of it. Glad you posted about the tea , reminded me I have been wanting to try it again.

~ Green Blessings ~

tina f. said...

I saw a show where the guys drank pine needle tea, I think it was maybe Andrew Zimmern on a trip to Alaska? Anyhow, I wouldn't have thought it would taste good either. I'm pretty sure yew trees are poisonous but I haven't researched that yet.
Thanks for all the great and interesting and important info you always give us!


Carla said...

Wow, Robbyn - this is something I never would have thought of - and with all the pine trees around here...?!?!? Kind of like "not being able to see the (tea in the) forest for all the trees"...(was that a groan I heard?) I'll be out gathering pine needles this weekend, in between raindrops.

Maria said...

Shes! I'm glad you're ok!
I LOVE Linda runyon's book! I haven't tried the pine needle tea though... we actually have no pines on our land. Sounds yummy!

christina said...

Poor thang, you! I am glad the brew was good.... We have some pines. I may have to try it! Have a great day!

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Sounds like branch water - we make it out of fir and cedar, the new growth in the summer is the best. I make it cold though, and let it steep in the fridge. A bright lemony taste!

Wendy said...

Hemlock is poisonous and is an evergreen, but it doesn't look like pine.

White pine is easily identifiable, because it has five needles (which are its leaves) in each tassel. We have a lot of white pine where I live. I think I'll try this tea. It sounds good :).

Robbyn said...

Nola, haven't tried it with a longer steeping...I guess I'd called it "herbal and refreshing" :)

Meg, when you try it, I'd love to know what you think :)

Tim, almost got lodged so yep, you'd want to strain em off first (unlike me, lol)

Annette, not sure, I'll have to ID them :) Let me know what you think...

Joyceann, I'd love to know more about the pine needle oil and its healing uses!

Tina, I like it, very herbal (not like "tea" tea) Don't know about yew but I wouldnt try it unless I did know for sure

Carla...can't wait to see what you think. Taste if very subjective...not sure how many folks like what I like :)

Maria, it's nice :)

Nita, I've never heard of that...would love to try it!

Wendy, thanks for the ID help! I'd love to know what you think if you try it...

Robbyn said...

Meadowlark...ok, i'll tell him! Let me know what you think

Amanda, I've tried worse things, lol!

Killi said...

YEW is most definitely POISONOUS. It has small red berries & not pinecones.

When I was in secondary school, I sang in the choir & always managed to position myself by the Christesmas tree so I could chew on the pine needles throughout assemblies & concerts! I loved them. I haven't tried eating the needles frommy own pines, but I think I might try & try making your tear