This time of year is perfect for taking walks through the beautiful forests in Madison County, NC. Especially with the milder winter we are having, it’s good to get out and get some great lung clearing fresh air and do a little foraging.
One of my favorite winter tree allies is White Pine (Pinus strobas). Just about every property has a stand or two of this grounding, majestic tree. Typically after a storm, we go walking and collect any fallen branches that have needles. We love to use them in honeys, vinegars and teas.
You know you have a White Pine by the amount of needles grouped together in the fascicle sheath, a small tissue at the base of the needle grouping. White Pine is a five needle pine. The needle length is approximately 3 ½ inches and the bark gets smoother as you move up the tree. The bark on the branches are smooth as well. It is important that you are 200% sure of plant identification when you are foraging. Make sure you do your research before any foraging adventure.
We use this amazing tree for brewing up medicinal foods in the kitchen. So when I get a chance to work with White Pine it becomes this magical partnership over my cooking pot, aka my cauldron! You can make a delicious “wild balsamic” vinegar from her needles. Fill your jar almost full with White Pine needles. Pour a good apple cider vinegar over the top, covering the needles by an inch or so. Place a piece of wax paper on the top of the jar and screw the lid on. Let steep for about 4 weeks. During that time, dance, sing, and speak to your brew. You have the power to place healing intentions into the medicine you are creating. At the end of 4 weeks, strain the needles out and compost them. Pour your wild vinegar into a glass bottle with a plastic lid. Enjoy your “wild food and medicine” daily over salads, beans, in stews or soups. I love to make a vinaigrette from White Pine vinegar and White Pine honey.
Infused honeys are so easy to make. I make White Pine honey by gently warming the honey and a few handfuls of needles together in a double boiler for several hours, making sure to stir this amber goodness in clockwise motions to pull good energy towards me. White Pine is high in many vitamins, especially vitamin C and great for the respiratory system when treating coughs and colds. We love drinking White Pine needle tea which is also easy to make. Take a handful of white pine needles and place in a pot of already barely simmering water for around 10 minutes or so covered. Sometimes I like to take the lid off and inhale the steam because White Pine needles make a great steam to open the lungs. This tree is the most magical and healing of all in my recipe book!