As I ease myself into the foraging world of Minnesota, I get to start off with some of my more familiar staples.
My yard is full of 3 mulberry trees so I have ready access to mulberry tea. I’ve found dandelions of course so dandelion tea is an option though more preferred for syrups and jelly, and I’ve also been able to happily locate a really good harvesting location.
Pine needle tea is usually more my drink of choice when camping as the taste reminds me of woods and lemon.
Pine Needle Tea Time
Most people look at me funny when I offer them some pine needle tea. They think of tea as coming from the store or look at the plants around them as just plants and not alternative sources of culinary delight and exploration. The exception being the mushroom hunters though that is a whole other topic.
Usually, I’d get a few pine needles and had a special spice additive mixed up and had a nice little cold weather drink. I have plenty of tea to choose from, I just like the taste and enjoy the smell usually paired with being outside with a fire.
Pine needles when consumed often enough give a good steady supply of vitamin C. Younger needles give you less, older needles give you a lot.
When I was in college and honestly couldn’t afford much besides my classes and books, I found a lot of the fruit offerings were very expensive. Banana was always an affordable fruit as well as a few apples.
Though the reality was I was consuming a lot less vitamin C over the course of the month as my diet was very stripped down into the cheapest and healthiest things I could manage.
Where I lived was next to a pine forest though (of correct type), as well as some other high-value forage, so I spent some time gathering either needles. I had used up my usual store tea supplies. Later I sourced some mulberry leaves.
While I wasn’t at risk of something more extreme like scurvy, I did notice I was getting sick a lot more often and a lot of that seemed to go away when I fixed a couple of diet gaps.
Every part of a pine tree can be consumed or used in some way. It is low on calories though thick with nutrients. Pine bark has antioxidants and tannins and is recently being sold on such places as Amazon for a health supplement. Some people use the bark as flour after processing it. The cones I used for decor and as fire tinder.
Making Pine Needle Tea
My method of preparing for pine needle tea was collecting fresh pine needles and either mixing up a spice mix or freezing them plain. I had some silicone square freezing mats and I could make up a ton and throw them in my freezer for later use. Problem is if you let the needles dry out the flavor and aroma suffers so freezing preserves the pleasing qualities.
An important note is as with all foraged things you want to be sure to positively identify what you are harvesting. Some forage foods have doppelgangers and some of those may be toxic so always double or triple check to be sure you have the right thing.