FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT EATING A CHRISTMAS TREE
Given how many of us decorated in November in hopes of bringing cheer to this bleak time, it's no surprise that by now real trees look well past their best. Give yours a proper sendoff — by eating it. Here's how.
A NEW OPTION Though you've spent a month telling the cats not to munch on the tree, recent interest in “wild ingredients” has recast it as a (human's) culinary treasure trove. Baker Julia Georgallis of How to Eat Your Christmas Tree reckons blue spruce and Douglas fir are best for cooking. The former has strong citrus notes, the latter is subtler and more grassy.
GO GLOBAL AT HOME Conifers, with their aromatic needles, sap and oil-rich seeds, have long been used around the world to flavour everything from retsina to pesto. Stick with the species sold as Christmas trees, and wash the needles well.
DRINK YOUR WINTER C Pine-needle tea is full of vitamin C. Add a small handful of washed needles to a pot of just-boiled water and steep 15 to 20 minutes before straining and reheating, sweetening with honey if desired. These botanicals can be used in cocktails: add pine needles to a clean jar, top with a neutral vodka and infuse for 5 to 60 days, depending on desired strength.
MOVING ON TO FOOD Blitz spruce tips in a blender with a little over twice the volume of neutral oil, then infuse for 24 hours before straining. The liquid is very good with fish or with blue cheese and celery. For gravlax, grind a tablespoon of the needles in a pestle and mortar and mix into about four times as much flaked sea salt to sprinkle over salmon or trout before serving.
DARING DESSERTS A few pine needles infused in a pan of warm cream make a zesty custard or pannacotta. Add pine-nut and pine-needle praline to chocolate ice cream. Blue spruce needles added to an ice cream recipe impart a vanilla flavour. Make a pine syrup by adding a good handful of needles to 250 ml of boiling water and infuse off the heat for 2 to 12 hours before straining and reboiling with 250 grams of white sugar. Simmer a minute, then cool before drizzling into a lemon cake or over a plate of sliced citrus as an elegant dessert.