I always enjoy a big pot of pine needle tea in the spring. Pine needles are a plentiful resource and the tea has a unique flavor that’s just lovely!
As soon as spring arrives, I head outside and gather a small bag of pine needles from young white pines. It’s easy to pluck off the clusters of needles, but you could also use scissors or shears to snip them off.
When gathering needles, don’t take them all from one branch—try to balance your harvest across multiple branches and trees so that you’re not leaving one particular spot bare. Harvesting a few handfuls of needles won’t harm the trees as long as they are healthy and established.
The inner bark and needles of conifers have a long history of medicinal use among Native Americans. White-pine needle tea is especially rich in vitamins C and A, contains numerous other plant compounds with medicinal value, and may have saved the lives of early European explorers
Pine-Needle Tea Recipe
Chop and bruise a good handful of young green pine needles. Remove any brown ends and chop into half-inch pieces.
Place needles in a glass, ceramic, or stainless tea pot. Pour two cups of boiling water over the needles, cover the pot, and allow to steep for a few minutes. The tea will turn a pale green with a light, piney smell.
Most of the needles with sink to the bottom and you can pour the tea in to a mug. It’s delicious. Some folks add a squirt of lemon or mix with another tea, too.
As with any wild-collected herb, don’t use unless you are certain you’ve identified the plant correctly. Don’t use this or other herbal products without first consulting your health practitioner if you are pregnant, seriously ill, or taking prescribed medicines.
Signs of Spring
As well as gathering pine needles in the spring, I also find young dandelion greens in the field near my house and hasten back to the house for my vintage dandelion fork to dig some. The tiny ones take a lot of tedious cleaning, but I love their mildly bitter, delicate flavor. I added a few to the evening’s spicy soup. See my tips on foraging for dandelions.
I spent the better part of the afternoon making two onion quiches and a couple of maple-pumpkin (squash) pies. A lot of last season’s onions had sprouted in the root cellar, and I still had half a dozen winter squash to use up. The hens have begun laying well again, and the guys who tap our maple trees had just delivered a gallon of new syrup.
By the time this post gets published, the forsythia in the yard and along the roadside will have bloomed, brightening the world, even on the grayest day.
This article was first published in April 2015 and has been updated.