Forager’s Notebook: A Birch & Pine Valentines
Sometimes chocolates and roses just don’t cut it on Valentines Day, not for those of you who consider handmade gifts superior to their store-bought counterparts. If you are worried you’ve missed your homemade & heartfelt gift window, think again. Your salvation may be as close as your backyard. Look out your window – take a stroll around the neighborhood – and I’ll bet you see a Pine tree or a Birch.
Both Pine and Birch have renowned healing and pain relieving properties – they make a magical massage oil and all-purpose balm. They also both taste delicious. This time of year, if you’re prone to hibernating like me, it’s a nice way to bring the fragrance of the forest inside on days when you can’t bear to go out into the cold. Here are two of my favorite ways to use two of my favorite trees. Make these for your loved ones or with your loved ones as a super easy yet luxurious gift:
This is my mother’s recipe that she uses in her massage therapy practice (Beth Power – Awakening Touch – Dover, N.H. – massage therapy is also a great Valentine’s Day gift!)
White Pine Salve/Massage Oil
The Passamaquoddy tribe of Maine traditionally made this salve with bear fat.
1 medium size bunch fresh Pine (Pinus strobus) twigs with needles, chopped
2-3 cups of good quality oil of your choice (organic and responsibly sourced olive oil or coconut oil are great choices!)
Cover pine with water by an inch or so in a covered pot or crock pot. Heat to a low simmer or low setting with the lid on for a few hours, make sure it stays covered with water and make sure the lid stays on so you don’t lose the natural volatile oils.
Pour in the oil. Give it a stir and replace lid. Keep on low simmer for an hour. Remove lid and simmer off the remaining water. Strain and enjoy.
Black Birch Simple Syrup
Black Birch (Betula lenta) branches – ½” diameter or larger
Honey or Sugar (the amount used will be a direct determinant for the final product size.)
Peel bark off the branches using a vegetable peeler. Place the bark in a small pot and add equal parts honey (or sugar) and water.
Heat to a low simmer and stir until honey is fully dissolved. Taste for flavor – if it’s not strong enough, lower the heat a bit and leave on awhile longer until you’ve reduced to the flavor you like. Strain and enjoy.