Pine Needle Cake

Pine Needle Cake

WhitePineI received a wonderful book this past Christmas on edible, wild plants.  I immediately started reading and of course developed an enthusiasm for foraging in the dead of winter.  Foraging I MUST, so forage I did.  My first hunt (back in January) was for eastern white pine needles.

I was familiar with pine needle tea, but was genuinely surprised to learn that practically the whole pine tree is edible and that all pines are in some way or another fit for eating.  The eastern white pine is considered to be the tastiest of pine varieties and can be easily identified because it is the only pine tree that has needles that grow in bundles of five – Little chance of a novice like me mistaking eastern white pine for any poisonous look-alike.  Eastern white pine needles contain 5 times the vitamin C (by weight) of lemons, a respectable amount of vitamin A and taste rather pleasant.

The young shoots, or candles, at the end of the branches can be harvested early in the spring and used to season meats like sauerbraten or fish.  The flavor is rosemary-like.  The yellow, white, soft inner layer, or cambium, located between the outer bark and the wood is also edible…but it was the needles I was hunting that cold January afternoon.

So by the time April finally gave us some sunny, mild days, I at last got around to using my dried pine needles in a recipe.  I tried a Black & White Cake featuring black tea and white pine.  I’m including the recipe I used, but I don’t actually recommend it.  My result was poor – burned on the outside, uncooked on the inside.  The pine needle bits suspended throughout had the consistency of razor stubble.  It might have worked a little better if I were able to grind the pine needles finer and adjusted the bake time and temperature.

Oh well, I’m certainly not going to let this early failure deter me from future foraging.  The good news is that spring brings with it many wild edibles.

Black & White Cake

4 tbsp butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/3 cups flour

1/4 cup really super finely chopped pine needles

1 1/2 cups strong black tea

1 1/2 cups golden raisins

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

In a saucepan, heat up the black tea. Add the dried fruit, and half of the chopped conifers. Simmer on the stove until most of the tea is absorbed, and the raisins are nice and plump (about 1 hour). Remove from the heat, strain the raisins, and set aside the tea.

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a bowl, beat the butter, then add the sugar, then the egg, plus about 1/4 cup of the remaining cooking liquid. Stir in the raisins, then add the rest of the chopped conifers, the baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Then add the flour. It should be quite a thick batter.

Pour into a greased loaf pan, and bake for 1 1/4 hours, until a knife inserted comes out clean.

Until next time, happy foraging (and better luck than me)!

Barb


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