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By Crystal Baldwin, December 15. 2021
Pine needles are very abundant here in Colorado and in many places around the world. Did you know that they are edible and you can make so many different things with pine needles to soothe your body and expand your options in the kitchen?
Lot’s of Vitamin CPine needles purportedly have three to five times more vitamin C than an orange. If you pick a pine needle and bite the end of it off you will notice that it has a burst of tangy, sour lemon flavor followed by a pine-like finish. Whenever you notice this flavor in nature it indicates that the plant is high in vitamin C (always know what you are eating before trying this trick).
Pine needles were used by the natives who introduced the European settlers to pine needle teas to help combat scurvy. They used many pine needle recipes and tinctures to help many ailments throughout the seasons. This simple plant saved the French explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew in 1536 from scurvy and James Cook used spruce beer in his second Pacific voyages in Western Canada.
The amount of vitamin C present in the needles is highest in the winter months starting in November with the peak being in March.
Although the older needles are a bit higher in vitamin C they can taste a bit more “piney” than the more sought after, slightly sweeter spring needle tips. Spring is almost here in Colorado so these fresh tips are right around the corner. Remember pine needles are good any time of year and one of the few things we can harvest in the winter months. The following pine needle recipes will keep you feeling fresh and healthy all year long!
*Note if you don’t have a dedicated food processor for herbs, be aware that the salt will scratch the sides of your food processor. It won’t hurt the function of your machine in any way but it will leave the bowl looking cloudy.
Pine Needle bath salts made with Epsom salts can provide a soothing, relaxing bath, helping to calm emotions and relax muscles. It is a great way to bring the scent of the forest inside. Close your eyes and lay back, imagine the birds singing, the sun shining through the branches of this magnificent giant and breath in the calming scent of pine!
To use:Place 1⁄2-1 Cup of the salt mixture in a muslin or tulle bag to avoid clogging your drain with the pine needles (you can also wrap it up in a thin wash cloth with ribbon or a rubber band). Re-use your muslin or cloth bags.
Drop the bag in the bath while the water is running and swirl around. Lay back, relax and enjoy and feel those muscles relax!
Epsom Salt has been used in baths to relax sore muscles, calm and soothe frazzled nerves and help soften rough skin. The two main ingredients of Epsom salt are magnesium and sulfate. It is believed that this combination stimulates detoxification in the body.
Besides seasoning salt and bath salt you can use pine needles to make teas (often used for coughs and cold), vinegars, syrups (spruce lemonade), liqueur, infused body oil and lotion or lip balms. Some of the more common needles used come from the Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Blue Spruce (Picea pungens). Be sure these trees are not sprayed with pesticides.
CautionMake sure you have a proper identification of the tree that you are harvesting from. Always check more than one source to be absolutely sure you know what it is before ingesting.
Avoid the potentially deadly Yew (Taxus spp) which is often used as an ornamental planting. It has flat needles and red berries. Also avoid a common houseplant called “Norfolk Pine” (Araucaria heterophylla) as it can cause vomiting and gastric upset. Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) has been known to cause aborted fetuses in cattle when ingested in large quantities. Although that has not been proven in humans, it is recommended that you avoid ingestion during pregnancy or when breast feeding. It is also suggested that you avoid balsam fir (Abies balsamea), lodgepole (Pinus contorta) and Monterey pines (Pinus radiata).
For people with sensitive skin there have been some cases of pine causing dermatitis or irritation. If you are not sure if you are allergic, try performing a patch test by applying a small amount on your skin, cover with a bandage and leave it on for 5-10 minutes (the inside of your elbow is a good spot to test). If you don’t have any reactions a bath will probably be fine. Start with small amounts in the bathwater as the heat can increase sensitivities.
For more information or to register for our next herbal class, view our upcoming classes page or contact our shop!
DOWNLOAD FIR NEEDLE BATH RECIPE
DOUGLAS FIR RECIPE
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