Tonight, a recipe perfect for wintery nights! It uses an ingredient native to my home in Upstate NY – pinus strobus – The Eastern White Pine. If you live around the North Eastern part of America, you’re probably very familiar with these trees. They should be especially recognizable to anyone who has ever spent time in the Adirondack Mountains. They’re very common there! In fact, the word “Adirondack” is Iroquois for “bark eater” – a reference by the Mohawks of the Algonquins. They would eat the nutritious inner bark during difficult winters. The White Pine is also culturally important to the Iroquois as the Tree of Peace.
Cultural significance aside, this tree is packed with vitamin C. Sources claim it has as much as five times the vitamin C in a lemon. It is a great drink to boost your immune system and fight off a variety of ailments. Thus not only is it fun to drink an evergreen tea during the Winter Solstice, it’s exactly the sort of thing to drink as “flu season” gets underway!
Just a couple notes of caution: You want to make certain you are harvesting white pine. This site has some good photos and information about poisonous conifers to keep in mind. Get a tree field guide and research. Really, if you’re on a Druidic path this should be something you’re doing a lot of anyway! Second, many sources insist that pregnant or potentially pregnant women should not consume white pine as it has abortive qualities. Other sources say the tea is fine, but let’s just play it safe, ok?
I harvested some well-known white pines from my parents’ back yard. I’ve grown up with these trees. My father transplanted them as wee saplings from a family camp. Before cutting a small branch, I told the tree of my intent and asked for permission. Anyone who works with trees should definitely get in the habit of doing this. Also keep in mind that a gift calls for a gift and make an offering. When actually taking cuttings from trees, I’ve made a practice of offering bits of myself – usually hair but sometimes blood. (You can give other offerings in addition or in substitution of these).
Wash your pine needles thoroughly before using in your tea. Pine trees are a favorite haunt of many creatures including blue jays and squirrels, after all! Begin to boil some water. You have a couple different options here. Many boil water in a pot or pan then add a handful of needles to steep for 10-20 minutes. You can also put several needles in a tea ball or muslin sachet and pour boiling water over it in a cup like I did. You definitely do not want to swallow those pricky needles!
The tea will be very mild. It has a slight but pleasant pine and citrusy flavor. You may sweeten it with honey or mix with other herbs. There are many magical possibilities for this tea. Sing or chant healing words before serving to an ill loved one. Meditate on its healing properties as you drink it. Envision yourself staying healthy throughout the winter as the white pine stays green.
Although there is no Druidic lore (that I’m aware of) connected to pine, it is a native tree in the land I call home. In my opinion, it is very important to learn the lore and science of traditionally Druidic trees as well as those in the land you live in. Be mindful of the cultural significance of the tree to Native peoples, and try to connect to its spirit respectfully.