Turning Christmas Tree Needles Into Edible Treats If you haven't taken down your Christmas tree yet, no worries. We don't judge. Baker and cook Julia Georgallis has suggestions for how to eat your holiday tree.
NPR logo

Conifer Cuisine: Don't Toss Your Christmas Tree Yet! Here's How You Can Cook With It

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/952969816/952969817" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Conifer Cuisine: Don't Toss Your Christmas Tree Yet! Here's How You Can Cook With It

Conifer Cuisine: Don't Toss Your Christmas Tree Yet! Here's How You Can Cook With It

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/952969816/952969817" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

If you haven't taken down your Christmas tree yet, no worries. We don't judge. But here's an idea. Have you ever thought about eating it?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Like, mmm (ph), that would be good with my salmon. Well, maybe not. Still, Julia Georgallis has a recipe for that. The last five years, she's been orchestrating Christmas dinners in London with a friend.

JULIA GEORGALLIS: How can we make something sustainable around Christmastime? What can we eat? What's the thing that no one eats that kind of represents Christmas? And then we just settled on Christmas trees.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Conifer cuisine. Georgallis turned it into a book, "How To Eat Your Christmas Tree." And her idea is that it's not that weird. Some people enjoy Christmas tree cocktails. Some people like to forage, and most people can get behind saving the planet.

GEORGALLIS: What I aimed for this book to do, really, was to get people thinking about the odd ways that they can be more sustainable in their daily lives. Eating Christmas trees isn't going to save any turtles or freeze any ice caps. But if we start to think about everything that we do as a whole, then that builds up, you know, and that helps.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Most of the recipes in her book use the needles from the tree.

GEORGALLIS: And you'd use the needles like a herb. And different Christmas trees kind of have different flavors. They're quite subtle, but they do have different flavors. So spruce is quite almost like vanilla in a way. Fir, which is a really popular choice for Christmas trees, is quite zesty. And then you have pine, which is a little bit more floral, a little bit more delicate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But Julia Georgallis also thought of other ways to use that Christmas tree.

GEORGALLIS: So there's pine nuts that a lot of people don't associate Christmas trees with, but they're from your Christmas tree. You can also basically char the entire tree, and you can use it to do ash cooking, which is much easier than it sounds.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Now, a warning - some Christmas trees are poisonous if eaten, like cypress, cedars and yews. And also be sure your tree wasn't sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals.

GEORGALLIS: So if you have any doubt that your Christmas tree might not have been grown to eat, then maybe don't eat it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We should not have to give this warning, but we shall. Do not eat your artificial tree either. So with all those caveats and with the appropriate tree, what could we cook? Well, Georgallis's book has all sorts of recipes - for fish, for lamb, for squash, for ice cream, too - also pickles made with Christmas tree vinegar. The recipe works best with old, dried trees, by the way. Take a 2-liter jar and good quality vinegar - she suggests cider vinegar or white vinegar - and 200 grams or 7 ounces of Christmas tree needles.

GEORGALLIS: Sterilize your jar you're going to use. Chop up the needles, and then pour the vinegar into a large saucepan and heat it until it's warm but not quite boiling. And then add the needles to the sterilized jar and pour the vinegar over that. And then you would just close up your jar and leave that to infuse probably for up to three months. And you'll know that your vinegar's done because all your needles kind of start to sink to the bottom of the jar. Your Christmas tree vinegar keeps, and you can give that to people the following year as a nice gift. So I quite like that one.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So thanks to Julia Georgallis, not only can you eat your tree; you can regift it, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF CARIBBEAN JAZZ PROJECT'S "SLEIGH RIDE")

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.