It might sound a little basic, or boring, but my absolute favorite way to enjoy pine needles is in a syrup. I know, I know. Syrup has sugar and sugar is pretty much evil. I hear you. I do. Most of the time when I ingest pine needles as a wild food, I do so either in infused vinegar form or in tea form (the step right before the sugar part in the syrup recipe below). Sometimes I make the honey sweetened version, but usually I just use the syrup sparingly in the occasional cocktail or medicinally in cough syrup.
Pine Needle Syrup
- To make pine needle syrup, cut your pine needles up into finely chopped pieces.
- Use about two cups of needles to 1 quart of water
- Bring water to a boil in a large heavy pot
- Add the pine needles.
- I like to let them boil slowly for a few minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Cover and let steep for an hour or two.
- At this point, you strain it and you can do one of two things.
- You can make a simple syrup by returning the strained pine needle tea to the pot and adding an equal amount of white sugar.
- Over medium heat, stir until the sugar is fully melted.
- Let cool and store in the fridge.
- Use within a few weeks.
- You can also add an equal amount of honey to the tea.
- This one also needs to be stored in the fridge and should probably be used a little quicker. Having said that, it would probably turn into pine mead instead of going bad!
Shout out to Highland Cream for using our pine needle syrup in a special pine flavored ice cream for an event at Red River Brewing a few months back. See, pine syrup is a thing, y’all.
One of the easiest and most classic uses for pine syrup is in a cocktail. It really works. This recipe is delicious, and I am going to call it The Caddo because I never considered that it might need a name, and that’s the best I’ve got right now.
- 1 part yaupon tea
- 1/2 part apple cider
- 1/2 part pine syrup
- 1 part sparkling water
- 1 part bourbon
Shake together in cocktail shaker and serve over ice.
It works wonderfully as a non-alcoholic but still punchy beverage, thanks to the caffeine in the yaupon tea.
Easy Peasy Pine Soda
- 2 cups sparkling water
- 1 oz pine syrup
Mix the two ingredients together, and serve! Delicious.
Pine and Reishi Winter Wellness Decoction
If you are wondering what in the heck reishi is, you are in luck. I’ll be publishing an article specifically about it in the next week, so check back. In the meantime, know that it is a powerful medicinal fungi that can be cultivated or found all across the globe (including in our bioregion). It is amazing for the immune system, so it is included in this two ingredient herbal decoction.
For this decoction, you start off similarly as to the pine needle syrup, but instead of chopping pine needles only, we are going to use the entire small twig. The bark contains a different set and ratio of constituents, and I feel it to be more medicinal in action. To the chopped pine branches, I add chopped and dried reishi mushroom. I generally use 2/3 pine and 1/3 reishi. For two cups of chopped pine and reishi, use two quarts of water. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Let it slowly simmer for at least 45 minutes, although the longer the better. A long slow simmer for a number of hours is great, and does a good job at slowly extracting the goodness from the reishi mushroom. If you are worried about it being too similar tasting to pine cleaner, then you can decoct the reishi for longer first, and then add the pine the last half hour to hour of simmering.
If you like the idea of the pine soda I mentioned above, but you really like fermented things, behold:
One extremely imaginative and fun recipe to make is a naturally fermented soda with pine needles. I first learned about this technique for making soda from Pascal Baudar, who wrote The New Wildcrafted Cuisine, which I highly recommend, and is also quite generous with his time and skill on social media. His style of making a soda is posted online, here:
“Pine Needles Soda – Super delicious and loaded with vitamin C. I’ve made it with Eastern white pine needles in Vermont and all kinds of other pines from Oregon to California. All pines are “edible” so you can chew on a few needles to get an idea of the flavors. My favorite is using pinyon pine from Gloria’s place in the local mountains. Some fir trees such as white or balsam fir had great tangerine flavors too. You can even use spruce tips too. The technique I use is super simple. Raw honey already contains wild yeast so I place maybe 10 to 20% raw honey in purified water (you can go by taste), cut my pine/fir/spruce needles a bit and place them in the container. Cover the container with a cheesecloth to protect it from critters like flies, bees, etc… Stir 3 times daily with a clean spoon. After 3-4 days you get a nice fermentation (if your honey was truly raw). You can let if ferment for a couple more days, just go by flavors then bottle it in a swing-top glass bottle or recycled plastic soda bottle. I usually let the fermentation go for 8 to 12hrs in the closed bottles then place in the fridge and drink within a week. There are no rules, you can let the solution ferment for much longer and get a sort of boozy soda too. You can use regular sugar and purchased (wine or champagne) yeast if you don’t have raw honey.”-Pascal Baudar
I love our local Loblolly pines, because they develop a distinctive vanilla flavoring during the fermenting process. This makes perfect sense, because pine has actually been used in the vanilla flavoring industry. Most of the world’s vanilla flavoring comes from pine chips, and has been since the late 19th century. I have not yet had the opportunity to see for myself, but the bark of the Ponderosa pine is meant to have a marked and distinct vanilla aroma.
I will be sharing about some of the bath and body uses for Pine that work well in my household in the coming days, so stay tuned for that, too.