Monday, January 18, 2010

Wild Food #1: Hemlock Tea

Fresh twigs chopped into small pieces.


The finished tea steeped for about 20 minutes, covered, then strained.
It is common for the field guides to point out that this tree, Tsuga canadensis, shares the same common name as that uber-poisonous plant that killed Socrates. It would be impossible to mistake the two. Although it is most certainly edible, I throw this plant in with pine needle tea, Pinus strobus in our area, as a plant that we'll tolerate in the interest of our quest, but wouldn't go out of my way to gather. Euell Gibbons describes these plants with amusing diplomacy. He says, "My current taste in food gathering poses no threat of extinction to the white pine," and, "With a squeeze of lemon and a little sugar [the tea] is almost enjoyable and it gives a feeling of great virtue to know that as you drink it, you are fortifying your body with two essential vitamins [Vitamin A and C] in which most modern diets are deficient." A feeling of great virtue indeed. I'm feeling more virtuous already. We entertained similar comments from friends. "Well, that's very . . . piney."

Hmmm... Two sips was enough for me. Certainly drinkable, no need to spit it out, but it would never be described as yummy. If I were to describe the taste, I'd say it tastes like Christmas smells. In other words it tasted piney! However, if I were in danger of scurvy, I could get it down no problem.

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