Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pine Two Ways

Pine tea was one of my first forays into wild edibles, a very old practice now gaining popularity as "foraging" by foodies and bloggers.

Of all places, it happened in Lake Tahoe. Desperate to experience real nature through the "woodsy" veneer of the resort complex I was staying at, I turned to Tom Brown Jr.'s Field Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants, a fantastic place to start with this sort of thing. It was the following line that made me think differently about something I had only thought of as, well, a tree:

"I know that no matter where there is a pine, my survival is insured."

T.B.J. continues, describing the many uses of pine for food and medicine, including making flour from the inner bark and pollen of male cones, roasting the seeds, and in an emergency situation, boiling the rootlets in two changes of water to eat as a potherb. But it was his description of pine tea that most caught my attention:

"What I drank was an absolutely delicious cup of tea. It was like none I had ever tasted before. It's wild but mild taste seemed to bind us to the forest and to the tree itself. There, part of the natural world became part of our lives."

I looked out the window and saw a young pine directly in front of our (fake) cabin. I snipped a few needles, turned on the hotel coffee pot, got out my toiletry scissors, and got to work. Within minutes I was enjoying my first cup of pine tea. When my dad walked in I proudly offered him some of my wild beverage. Though he asked if it was going to kill him, he did try it.

The cup featured above was a gift from the remnants of Hurricane Hannah that blew through Massachusetts last Saturday night. While I drank it I also cracked and ate some roasted piƱones I got at the the headquarters of the good folks at pinenut.com - more on them later.

This tea was one of Tom Brown Jr.'s first wild edibles, and thanks to him, it was mine too. I highly recommend it as a gateway foraging experience.


Recipe: Pine Tea

Cut a handful of green needles from any species of pine, or wait for a storm to blow a branch down for you. Heat water almost to boiling. Snip the needles using scissors into a tea cup or heat resistant glass jar. Pour the hot water over the needles and let steep about ten minutes or until you can see that the color from the needles has gone into the water. Strain through a FINE strainer (I used a bandanna). Compost the needles or return them to where they were gathered, thereby "closing the loop."

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Alana said...

I've made pine tea plenty of times before on camping trips, but I never really thought of it as my first foray into wild edible foraging--it just seemed convenient at the time. I've been meaning to get into more foraging in the bounty that is the Seattle area, but I don't really know where to begin. Thanks for helping me realize I've already done some successful foraging on my own!

Aaron Kagan said...


Consuming wild edibles is in fact so possible that you're already doing it without knowing it.

There are a number of excellent books on foraging, most notably the Tom Brown one I referenced in the post. You can also get in touch with Deb Gardner at Seattle Local Food (see blog list at right).

Good luck!