Here in the dead of Winter, our year-round Herbal Allies in the evergreen family are a perfect way to entice yourself to get out into the cold, fresh air! With so many members & so many edible & medicinal ways to use them, it is hard to know where to start. They have been used in traditional Nordic & Indigenous Peoples cooking for centuries. Loaded with Vitamins C & A, as well as healing & pain-soothing properties, evergreens are main staple plants, especially for winter foraging.
Easy to identify & available in nearly every climate, evergreens are a great place to start if you’re new to foraging as well.
Most conifer needles are edible, with the exception of the toxic yew [Taxus spp.] tree. Spruce, pine, fir, & redwood all have wonderful herbal & edible uses. Conifer needles are particularly useful in teas & steams, but are also used in applications varying from healing-salves to flavoring infusions. In order to protect the Vitamin C, these needles are often cold-infused. Boiling, or heat infusion will result in less Vitamin C, but a deeper, more intense flavor. Both methods of extraction are used depending on the desired result. I love to add spruce tips to my daily tea where flavor, not vitamins, are my main focus.
Try Maine's Delicious White Pine In This Small-Batch Shrub
Set the pot on your stovetop on high heat & bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a slow simmer as long as desired, adding more water if needed, as you diffuse the fresh scent through your home & add moisture to the dry Winter air. Heavenly!
Bring the scent of evergreen's into your home
combine. Allow to infuse for at least an hour before use--but this mixture will keep for a couple of months. If you have them, crushed juniper berries are a lovely addition to this soak, or even a few drops of cypress, orange, &/or cedarwood essential oils [up to 12 drops total per 3 cups of salt.] Incredibly soothing for the mind & the body, this soak is a Wintertime must! Be sure to place a small strainer or piece of cheesecloth over your drain at the end to catch the plant material when draining, or place your salts in a bath infuser or muslin bath-bag to start with.
In the Winter, I tend to favor teas with spruce, adding tiny cuttings to my herbal tea blends almost daily. I have also been playing around with them in a zero-proof ‘gin’ alternative with very positive results, but that is also a post for another time.
I hope you have enjoyed this post & that it has encouraged you to get out & enjoy the outdoors during this slower-paced time of year. There is always something to learn & something to do in the Herbal World. If you are just beginning to explore foraging, evergreens are a wonderful [& delicious] starting point.
Let me know what you are foraging & how you are using it-- I love to hear from you!
Until next time--Stay safe & remember to #StopAndEatTheFlowers