Can you eat Christmas trees? (3 Recipes)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, Can you eat Christmas trees? We will discuss some recipes to help include the Christmas tree in your cooking and the role that it would play to help the environment.

Can you eat Christmas trees?

You can eat Christmas trees. Christmas trees are edible and are a good way to utilize your Christmas tree. Every year, 25 to 30 million Christmas trees are sold every year in the US alone, and eating them means that you can play your part in reducing carbon and eliminating your footprint. 

Today more than 95% of the trees are harvested from the cultivated plantations. Christmas tree plantations are established on more than 300,000 acres in the United States and according to a 2012 census, all of the 50 states grow Christmas trees with Oregon (53,000 acres) and North Carolina (40,000 acres) leading in acreages, followed by Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New York. Each year, more than 35 million trees worth over $1 billion are used as Christmas trees (1).

You could even get the book written by Julia Gergallis published in the UK that discusses 30 recipes to cook and prepare a Christmas tree. 

Recent scientific researches have shown that pine needles have antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, anti-thrombosis, antiasthmatic, and anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects. In a study, the pine needles peptide showed potent antimicrobial activity against some representative food poisoning pathogens, particularly S. aureus. The study suggests that pine needle peptides might become an effective drug candidate for developing antimicrobial agents in the food and pharmaceutical industries. In addition, it can be used as a natural food additive (3).

Should you eat Christmas tree?

Instead of throwing away your Christmas tree every year, eating them means that you are playing your part in making your Christmas sustainable. The carbon footprint brought on by Christmas trees alone is quite huge. 

If the 40 million trees were allowed to stand tall instead of being cut down and decorated in your homes, they could absorb 880 million tonnes of carbon. 880 million tonnes of carbon is a big deal and could have a huge impact on conserving the environment. 

The genus Pinus is a well-known source of antioxidants, mainly phenolic compounds, including procyanidins and other flavonoids and phenolic acids, already available in the market as food supplements or phytochemical remedies, such as Pycnogenol, a standardized bark extract from Pinus maritima, with a remarkable array of biological activities, used also in the treatment of chronic inflammation and circulatory dysfunction. In the last 25 years, various pine extracts and preparations have exhibited significant health promoting activities, e.g., protective activity against alcohol-induced liver disease or against lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation, hippocampal memory-enhancing activity, and activity for the early management of dyslipidemia, that can be potentially useful in food, functional food, and food supplement industries. Needles, bark and oil as food or food ingredients have already been established and accepted in the EU. Pine needles have been used as herb tea in Estonian folk medicine, while pine needle-based food products, such as pine needle powder, wine and herbal teas, have become quite popular in the Korean food market. It is worth noting that in recent years, the use of pine needles in herbal teas and as an ingredient in various food recipes has gained significant interest (2).

What are some recipes you could try to create this Christmas?

The three recipes that are we are going to elaborate on are tried and tested by Christmas tree expert Julia Gergallis. Christmas cured fish, Christmas tree pickles and Christmas tree and ginger ice cream. 

Christmas cured Fish

To make Christmas cured fish, get any filleted fish of your choice. Start by defrosting your frozen fish, and then prepare the Christmas needles.

Take a large branch off of your tree. Wash the branches and place them upside down over a bowl. Cut upward and let the needles fall into the bowl. Wash the needles and get ready to prepare them.

Mix sugar, salt, grated beetroot, lemon zest, and needles. 

Spread a large piece of plastic or cling film and sprinkle the mix on it. 

Put the fish over the cure to coat it generously. Wrap the cling film tightly.

Refrigerate for 24 to 36 days to let the fish cure, switching the sides over halfway.

When the fish is ready to eat, you can wash the cure off and be sure to get rid of all the needles. 

2. Christmas tree Pickle

The first step would be to cure the needles the same way as mentioned for fish. 

Take a saucepan and heat the vinegar, salt, and sugar until it boils. 

Then take beetroot, carrots, cucumber, needles, and berries and place them in a jar and pour the pickle juice in.

Shut the lid and palace the jar upside down to get rid of the air. 

To store the jar, place it in a cool and dark palace. 

You could also store it in the refrigerator. Be sure to use it within two weeks of opening the jar. 

Christmas tree and Ginger ice cream

For this recipe too, you will need to prepare your needles by washing, collecting, and then seasoning them with sugar, salt, and mixing grated beetroot, lemon zest, and needles. 

Take your saucepan and whisk together heavy cream, milk sugar, and egg yolks and combine well.

Mix the needles in the cream mixture and heat on a low flame while stirring continuously.

After fifteen minutes, turn the flame up until bubbles start forming, that is when you shut the stove completely off. 

Sieve the mixture to get rid of the needles. 

Transfer it to an ice cream maker and churn until it freezes. 

If you want to make the ice cream in a freezer instead of the ice cream maker, put it in the freezer once it cools and, stir every hour. Then add ginger, and mix.

Continue to stir every hour as the ice cream nears freezing. In four hours, your ice cream will have frozen and ready to be eaten. 

What are some other options to include your Christmas tree in your cooking?

  • Make pine tea by straining pine needles into a cup, then add honey, fresh ginger, and lemon.
  • Make fresh pine jelly by setting it with gelatine. 
  • You could even infuse the aroma of the Christmas pine into your roast chicken.
  • Also, add some pine needles, over your bread and bake to get a nice crunch.
  • You can even smoke your fish on a bed of Christmas pines. 
  • Prepare a layer on a wok and a wire rack to place the fish over.
  •  Put your salmon or a different fish and let it smoke at a gentle heat. 

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question, Can you eat Christmas trees? We discussed some recipes to help include the Christmas tree in your cooking and the role that it would play to help the environment.

Citations

  1. Thiagarajan, Arumugam, Mason T. MacDonald, and Rajasekaran Lada. Environmental and hormonal physiology of postharvest needle abscission in Christmas trees. Crit Rev Plant Sci, 2016, 35, 1-17.
  2. Koutsaviti A, Toutoungy S, Saliba R, et al. Antioxidant Potential of Pine Needles: A Systematic Study on the Essential Oils and Extracts of 46 Species of the Genus Pinus. Foods. 2021, 10, 142.
  3. Lee, Junho, et al. A novel antimicrobial peptides from pine needles of Pinus densiflora Sieb. et Zucc. against foodborne bacteria. Front microb, 2021, 12, 662462.