Imagine the last time you went out for a walk. Smells good, doesn’t it? I’ll tell you a secret… it’s the trees. I’ll tell you another secret… those trees are edible.
WHAT. Mind = Blown (explosion sound).
Conifers, codename: evergreen, have edible needles. Yes! Spruce, Beech, Fir, Pine, Cedar, Cypress, and Hemlock (unrelated to the one that killed Socrates) are all edible. The only exception is Yew (which doesn’t grow as a tree in New England). Just to be extra safe, we’ll focus on White Pine, which doesn’t have any gross look-a-likes.
So why, like eat trees and stuff?
- They taste sort-of-lemony.
- They have a super-high vitamin C content.
- They smell like Tom Bombadil’s house.
Smell affects appetite and perception, which might explain why the freshness of the needles balances out shortbread’s butteriness so well.
White Pine Needle Shortbread Cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 dozen cookies
1 cup (lightly packed) evergreen needles
2 cups flour
2 sticks butter
1 cup granulated sugar or 2/3 cup maple syrup
Zest from 2 oranges
Pinch of salt
1. Harvest a cup of pine needles.
White Pine needles grow in bunches of 5 and Red Pines needles grow in bunches of 2. Both are fine, but I prefer white pine. Wash the needles after harvesting if there’s a chance your college treats trees with pesticides.
A note on sustainable harvest: When pruning trees, it is recommended to cut no more than ¼ of the branches. As long as you’re not taking more than ¼ of its needles, you won’t harm the tree.
2. Grind up your needles in a coffee grinder or food processor.
3. Mix all ingredients except the flour in a large bowl.
4. Add in the flour slowly. Mix until just combined.
5. Roll into 2 cookie logs with plastic wrap and/or parchment paper and put in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.
6. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
7. Cut into thin cookie slices. Optionally, you can roll it onto more ground needles for extra piney-ness
8. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookie are light brown. Be especially careful since the bottom will brown before the top.
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Check out these cookies that are going beyond the usual chocolate chips: