Pine tree needles are easily sourced and have long been appreciated for their therapeutic benefits. Here we outline how to collect pine tree needles and the ways you can put them to good use in and around your home.
How To Identify Pine Tree Needles
You don’t need to be an expert to identify pine tree needles, but it helps to know what to look for. Pine trees almost always have long needles that are bunched together in different numbers depending on the species. Pine trees differ from many spruce and fir trees in that their needles grow in clusters, rather than individually from a branch. They are also flexible and smooth to the touch.
Note: Keep in mind that certain pine tree needles are not just inedible, they are highly toxic for humans and livestock when ingested. You will need to give these three pine types a wide berth:
- Ponderosa Pine – aka Western Yellow Pine
- Norfolk Island Pine
If you’re using your pine needles in the kitchen, always do the extra research to find out what species of pine tree you’re dealing with to make absolutely sure that it’s safe for consumption.
Collecting Pine Needles
When collecting pine tree needles for teas or for cooking, it is much better to harvest the needles fresh from the tree. Using a sharp knife or garden shears, be sure to harvest an older, larger tree as this should not harm it in the long term and will allow the tree to recover more quickly.
If you simply need pine needles to act as mulch for the garden or for use as kindling, all you need to do is rake up the discarded pine needles that can be found under any pine tree and bundle or bag them up for later use.
How to Use Pine Tree Needles: 1. Tea
Just one cup of pine needle tea supposedly contains up to four times more vitamin C than a glass of orange juice. It also packs a lot of vitamin A, which is great for your skin, hair, and eyes. Pine tea also contains plenty of beneficial antioxidants and works to reduce heart disease, tiredness, blood pressure, and obesity. Tea made from Redwood pine needles is particularly good when easing the symptoms of a cold or flu.
Note: Despite the needles’ toxicity, the tea is generally considered safe to drink. But if you are pregnant or nursing, you should probably not consume any products derived from pine tree needles.
Read on: Best Tea for Colds: These Blends Help Against Cough and Sore Throat
2. Disinfectant/ Cleaner
When combined with white vinegar and left to soak for a few weeks, pine tree needles can create a robust homemade all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant, which is both natural and harmless to humans and animals. Its can be applied topically for minor bumps and scratches to prevent infections, or as a cleaning solution for bench-tops and other surfaces in the home.
3. Flavoring Vinegar With Pine Tree Needles
Add a handful of pine tree needles to a jar of apple cider vinegar and let it soak for around four weeks. When it’s ready, put the liquid through a strain to remove any debris. This zesty infusion is an ideal base to create your own sauces, marinades, and salad dressing.
Note: Again, if you are pregnant or nursing, this pine needle tree product may not be for you.
4. Grilling & Smoking Meats
Spreading a generous amount of pine needles over hot coals will add a unique earthy flavor to your favorite grilled or smoked meats.
5. Use Pine Needles as Mulch
Pine tree needles can be placed around the base of plants and trees as a protective cover. They will not only prevent weeds and moisture loss, they also will also provide vital nutrients as the needles slowly decompose.
Dried tree pine needles are the perfect firestarter, as the natural oils inside them will aid in combustion. Since they burn very quickly, you will need to combine them with other flammable items like old newspaper, dried tree bark, and wood kindling.
7. Air Freshener
You can create an aromatic blend by boiling pine tree needles along with cinnamon sticks, herbs, and orange peels in hot water. Your mix can then be used in a regular aromatic oil burner or oil diffuser to make your living areas smell fresh and inviting.
8. Soothing Footbath
Adding pine tree needles to your footbath is particularly good for alleviating arthritic pain, as well as rejuvenating skin and soothing swollen feet and sore muscles.
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