White Pine Needle Tea: My First Wild Edible

The magnificent white pine. 
Find a bluff along one of the mighty rivers of Pennsylvania, make certain it is a wild place, look up and you will see a wind and weather shaped white pine. In its native habitat, this is my favorite tree, if I am allowed.

We walked down a snowy trail along a white pine hedgerow. We nibbled on a couple rosehips from a dog rose, much more tart than the sweet-from-frost crabapples we'd sampled further back. "Want to make tea?" I asked Beren. "Mmhmm!" he replied.

I picked a couple twigs from a pine branch, and quietly said "thank you for letting me make tea." I put the aromatic branches to Beren's nose. He sniffed.

Back at home I discovered the twigs. I had already put cider with cinnamon, cloves, and allspice on the stove to warm, but I heated the water anyway. All four burners were going - reheating a pot of faro and beef stew each, steaming broccoli and Swiss chard. I glanced at the clock and knew everything would be room temperature by the time Jared arrived.

I dished out of food, and as I saw the truck headlights coming down the lane, I felt a bowl of stew. Cold. I poured myself a cup of white pine tea - hot and pleasant tasting. Sweet, aromatic, warming.

The tea of white pine needles contains vitamin C. After being low grade sick for a couple weeks, I appreciated the boost that I was receiving.

I had used white pine topically, in a salve with red cedar that helped me resolve some pesky summertime skin issues - a possibly fungal, a possibly "who knows?" kind of affliction. Steady applications and a bit of faith worked. "I uninvite you from my skin," I said firmly while rubbing the salve into my irritated flesh.

Sipping, I remembered the white pine salve and skin affliction fondly, perhaps because I no longer had red, nettley bumps on my knee.

Sipping, I remembered sitting around a campfire sipping scalding hot white pine needle tea from a styrofoam cup. It was 1986 or 1987, or so, and I was at the Linwood-MacDonald Camp. The camp counselors (one of them, the pretty one, was named Honey, much to the delight of 6th and 7th grade boys) were serving me my very first wild edible food.