Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pine Needle Tea; by Susun Weed

The warming air of this verdant May morning touches my senses with pine. In the sweet-scented shade of a towering white pine much like the one I now sit under, the Peaceful Nations buried their weapons. I breathe deeply, asking their ancient wisdom to flow into me with the refreshing pine smell.

The nations of the Adirondacks (a word which means "tree eaters") ate the inner bark of White Pines as one of their primary winter foods.

I slice a strip from the underside of a small limb, thanking the tree for its gifts of nourishment. The antiseptic sensation in my throat as I chew brings to mind "Pine Brothers' Cough Drops." I feel my lungs open, my throat open, my sinuses open, warmed and stimulated by White Pine, lofty yet generous tree.

Europeans didn't eat White Pine (at least, not at first). They cut the straight, tall trees (150 feet was not an uncommon height and there are records of 200 and 250 foot trees) and sent them to the shipyards, where they masted huge sailing ships.

But eat Pine they did. Old records reveal numerous English settlements where virtually all of the colonists died of scurvy (lack of vitamin C) during their first winters in the "New World." Compassionate Native Americans suggested a daily tea of Pine needles, one of Nature's richest sources of vitamin C, and saved the colonists' lives. Pine needle tea has become one of my winter favorites, as well, staving off not only scurvy, But colds, congestion, and the flu.

The sticky sap I pry loose from the pine cone near me was chewed, no doubt, by Indian youth. It contains an (FDA approved) substance nearly 2000 times sweeter than sugar. I savor its surprising intensity, remembering winter sore throats soothed and sore gums strengthened. (Myrrh is a distant relative.) Mixed with grease, the sap is a superb sealant for canoes and water vessels.

As I close my eyes and savor the sweet, pungent taste and smell of Pine, I remember a story I heard from a woman who guides canoe trips. One of the participants ran his aluminum canoe into a rock, splitting the canoe and gashing his thigh deeply from knee to hip. Emergency care was 4-5 days away. They bound his thigh with limber strips of fresh White Pine bark and continued on. "I still marvel," she told me, "at the speed and ease with which That very nasty cut healed."

"Pine Tar Salve" reads the label. Looks black, like my hands when I handle fresh cut pine, or my clothes when I sit on the wrong stump. "Works like heck," says my neighbor. "Put It on dog sores, cat fight wounds, boils, ulcers, blisters. Draws out splinters, stys, and pimples. Soothes burns, hemorrhoids, and itchy bites. Even cures you of poison ivy. Give It a try."

I'll be in good company if I do. The Native people of North American valued no single healing/nourishing plant more highly than Pine. They used not only the sap, But also the boiled mashed inner bark, to heal the inevitable injuries of an outdoor life.

Icelanders of the fifteenth century took the sap mixed with honey to ease lung troubles.
Oriental herbalists use knots from their pines as medicine, especially praising the decoction (with Tang Gui) as a remedy for arthritis.

Is there a Pine growing by you? It's very likely. Take a moment; to the Pine, great tree of peace, tree of healing. Joyously feel the blessing of the trees. Breathe in the calming yet exhilarating scent of Pine. Truly, the trees shall heal us.



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Banana This; Recycle Old Peels~ fertilizer or silver polish

There are things you can do with that old peel.

1. Do you have a green thumb? House hold plants and outside gardens require fertilization. A great way to give your plants nutrients is with a banana peel. The banana peel is very rich in potassium and phosphorus, which give that added boost to your plants soil, especially so with roses. Here is how to use a banana peel to fertilizer your soil for your plants. Remove the peel from the banana. Place the banana peel on a cookie sheet to let it air dry. Grab a paper bag or envelope. Crumble the dried banana peel and place it in the bag. Let the banana sit at room temperature for about two days. When your caring for your plant, give it a potassium treat of crumbled banana peel. Mix well in the soil to ensure the roots are fed evenly.
2. Have you been thinking about pulling out that old silver? Well there is no time like the present. Bananas peel can also be used to polish silver. Yes, polish silver. Take the old peels and place them in a blender. You want the peels to become smooth and creamy. Once they have, grab a cloth and small amounts of the creamed banana peel and begin polishing your silver. The shine will be breath taking.


Wild yeasts exist in the air around you and to some extent on the wheat berries. There are wild yeasts on grapes (unsulphured) and apples and other fruits. It is those wild yeasts which are 'captured' to make a sourdough starter. The process takes from 3 to 5 days. I wish I had specific amounts for you, but you could start with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour and mix in enough warm (not hot) water to make a thin paste. DO NOT make it too soupy. That, in fact, is the trick to a good starter, according to the French bread makers, and I think they should know. And after you've fooled around with the flour and water thing, you might wish to branch out into adding those unsulphured grapes, apples, sour milk, etc as a catalyst in order to capture other strains of yeast. Each of these strains has a slightly different taste. In fact if you move to another area, you might end up with a starter that produces an entirely different flavor. For instance, San Francisco sourdough bread is well known and has a distinct taste due to the wild strains in the air there. On day one you mix the flour and water (and add any catalysts to encourage fermentation) and place in a warm spot. After 3 days, the dough should be moist, inflated, and slightly sour. More flour and water is added (mixed in) and left to sit in a warm spot. After 2 days the process is repeated. Then the next day it is done again. Note the order: 3 days, 2 days, 1 day. At this point you should be able to make a loaf of bread using part of the starter and adding back what you took out in the form of more flour and water. Rule of thumb: Use about 10% starter to size of loaf. In the case of a 2 lb loaf this is a bit over 3 oz of starter (3.2 to be exact). For a 1 lb loaf 1.5 oz would be used. A book that describes this process in great detail is The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz, copyright 1993, published by Ten Speed Press, Berkley CA. If it's not still in print, try the used books stores, that's where I got mine. Or try your local library. If they don't have it, they might be able to get it for you. ©2008 by Ernestina Parziale

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