Nothing like a pine tree at this time of year! Did you know that it can be considered not just a holiday evergreen but also a medicinal and culinary herb?! Recently, on her Gardening With Soule site, Jacqueline Soule discussed living pinetrees that you can use for decoration this holiday season, and then plant in your yard for a sustainable landscape. Read more – here.
Humans around the world have used pine as herbs for eons. They used whichever species lived near them to treat just about every sort of affliction. Pine has especially used for the ailments that have plagued all humankind down through the ages, like internal and external parasites, as well as the aches and pains of being human and getting older.
In almost every case pine needles or bark are used as a herbal tea (infusion) to either drink or bathe tissues. For intestinal parasites, the tea was drunk, for external ones such as ringworm (a fungal infection) or lice, the tissues were bathed with an infusion. Pine oils and resins have also been extracted, purified, and used medicinally.
Safe for Medicinal Uses
Commission E, a German-based group which scientifically studied herbal medicines, recommends using pine oils externally for rheumatic and neuralgic complaints, as well as for upper and lower respiratory tract inflammation.
You can use fresh pine needles, or harvest and dry needles for later use. Drying allows some of the more acrid and bitter compounds to evaporate. The active ingredients are predominately in the oils and are not lost by drying.
Safe for Cleaning – Mostly
Modern housekeepers around the world use pine based cleaners to keep the house smelling clean and fresh, little realizing that this harkens back to a yesteryear tradition of using pine products, including turpentine, to kill off pests, treat colds, and dress wounds.
Note that some people and especially some cats are highly allergic to pine-based cleaners. Allow your family members and pets to sniff the bottle of cleaner and wait 24 hours for negative reactions before using the cleaner throughout the home. Asthma and the inability to breathe is a life-threatening condition. (Washing the floor 5 times with soapy water, trying to eliminate the pine oils, is a real pain.)
Pine in Cooking
Ok -most popular pine for cooking are pine nuts – but you can also use the fresh young needles of pine. They make a wonderful seasoned vinegar.
1 quart mason jar filled with fresh pine needles, the younger the better.
Enough rice vinegar to cover. Apple cider vinegar can be used, but the lower percent acid of rice vinegar is pleasant.
Cover the shoots with vinegar, cap with a new canning jar lid (old lids may be scratched and will start to rust).
Let the mixture cure for one month. A cool dark place is best.
When ready to use, strain the liquid through a a strainer or cheesecloth. The shoots are great for the compost heap.
How to Use
Pine vinegar is pleasant in a standard vinegar and oil salad dressing – delightful on cucumbers! Also good splashed on steamed greens, or sprinkled on zucchini planks you are about to grill. More about grilling zucchini – here.
If do not like the flavor of this vinegar don’t throw it away! Use it for cleaning (if you can). Alternatively, it can help all the acid loving plants in your garden, like citrus and roses. Dilute the vinegar with water (1 cup vinegar in 4 gallons water) and use it to water your plants. They prefer acidic soils so this helps them.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, visit Savorist Monica King Saturdays at the Arivaca’s Farmers Market, or come to one of Savorist Jacqueline Soule’s free lectures. We try to mention both on our Facebook page. After each event Jacqueline will be signing copies of her books, including “Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico” (Cool Springs Press). This book includes more about pine care. This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there we will get a few pennies.
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