Plentiful indeed in Concord are different types of pine trees. Today, we are making pine needle tea, which can be made from any type of pine or hemlock -- that's the hemlock tree, not the poison hemlock plant; only the yew is poisonous. We are using white pine (drawing at right), since it is plentiful here.
Why on earth would anyone want to make pine needle tea? One reason locals did so was to save themselves from dying of scurvy. Pine needles are high in Vitamin C, and the bark is recognized in the US Pharmacopia for its effectiveness as a cough remedy. Some find it helpful for heartburn.
The native people here taught the European settlers to make the tea, some of whom were dying or dead from scurvy even though they were surrounded by the very answer to their illness. It was documented that it only took six days of drinking the pine needle "soup" to effect a cure. Drinking it today connects us to our heritage, and gives us a soothing and health-giving drink. (We found in one place a contraindication against drinking this tea if pregnant.)
Do you know how to tell the red from the white pines? Red pines have clusters of three needles, and "red" has three letters in it. White pines have clusters of five needles, and "white" has -- yes, you guessed it -- five letters in it. Pretty nice way to remember!
One cup of boiling water is poured over "a handful" of chopped pine needles and small twigs and cover; you can make multiple cups at a time. Use a jar or teapot, something with a lid or cover (we made the tea in a cup and covered it with a small plate as seen in image 3 below). Steep 15-30 minutes. Strain and sweeten to taste.
Our taste test here yielded a delightful experience. The scent of the pine on the cutting board was relaxing and focusing. The finished tea after 30 minutes of steeping was mild yet delicious even unsweetened. It had a refreshing but not too strong pine after-taste. It all felt a bit like taking a vacation in the piney woods or mountains.