Desert Tales: Piñon Pinetree Tea and The Western Spadefoot Toads sing to the Rain.

This post is about Piñon pine. How to make pine needle tea from this tree. And a whimsical weaving in of my story of place. Living in the High Desert of New Mexico in the foothills of the Ortiz Mountains. It is in long view of the Jemez and Santa fe Mountains. Dotted in the middle by the Cerrillos Hills. And visited by Spadefoot toads during the monsoons!

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now some science…

Pinus edulis
Piñon pine
Family: Pinaceae

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Habitat: foothills and outer reaches of the Rocky Mountains, USA
Also: arid mesas in stands and/or with junipers
Mesas, plateaus, lower mountain slopes

Description:
Small, spreading, bushy tree
Thin with irregularly furrowed bark
Bark is scaly, and gray to reddish brown

Cones are 1.5″ to 2″
Covered in yellow-brown scales
Each scale holds 2 seeds which are about a half inch long

Pine trees bearing cones with pinon seeds, pine nuts, the following year!

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A large crop of pine nuts/seeds occurs every 3-4 years

Gather ripe almost open cones in autumn…. the above cones are all burst open in early fall

Pinus edulis the Piñon pine is an evergreen and classified by its characteristic of having 2 leaves (needles) per bunch

Harvest new growth pine needles in spring and summer to make tea.
Piñon pine is a slow growing tree.
I harvest just 3 or 4 needles per tree until I have a tablespoon per serving.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/300039-the-health-benefits-of-pine-needle-tea/#page=1

The above article states the importance of pine tea as a remedy for scurvy. Native Americans introduced this beverage to non-Natives and helped them survive during pioneer and settler periods.

Pine tea is high in vitamins C and A and is still a popular traditional beverage.

This blog is a post about Pinus edulis or Piñon pine.

Please research the pine in your area for safety and edible use.

And always refer to a professional when foraging and using wild plants or trees for food or tea or medicnal use.

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I have recently been living in a camper in the high desert about 30 miles away from Santa Fé, surrounded by juniper trees and the two leaf (needle) type of pine or piñon tree. Here is a picture where you can see the pairing of needles, two per bunch. Look in the upper left corner of the picture for the 2 needle groups.

image I affectionately call this pine tree by its scientific name:
Pinus edulis.
It rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? 🙂

Here is a good site about pinus edulis including habitat location in the U.S.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinus_edulis

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What is it like to live in the high desert of New Mexico?

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I was intimidated by the impending heat of summer in a camper but we have found it is surprisingly seasonable.

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Terri, the rainbow and the camper 🙂

Coyotes howl at night and we have to keep our older dog with failing eyesight from chasing down the pack.

image Terri and Fella in the Santa Fe Mountains… about an hour’s drive away.

There are hummingbirds and roadrunners. Mice and packrats need constant attention to keep them at bay.

During the heat of summer, comes the rainy season in the high desert. We call it the monsoon season.

Endearingly, in pools of water near the piñon and junipers, amphibians lie in the depths of mud and rainwater…the Western Spadefoot toads!

According to the site below, these amphibians metamorphose from tadpole to toad sometimes as fast as 12-19 days. Also dependent on the mud puddle not drying up.

http://www.reptilesofaz.org/Turtle-Amphibs-Subpages/h-s-multiplicata.html

Whereas eggs hatch in 2-3 days sometimes within 15 hours… our local State Park guide told us.

Check it out if you are ever in New Mexico!

http://www.cerrillosnewmexico.com/cerrillos-state-park

Summer time of year, we are surrounded by the Western Spadefoot toads because of all the monsoon puddles.

Terri and I affectionately refer to this closeby, ever growing, monsoon lake puddle as Lake Spadefoot!

Here is “Lake Spadefoot!” And our visit was made more fun when the dogs went splashing in. The toads are nocturnal and I hope they were safely away!

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Here is an interesting site about the Western Spadefoot Toad!

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Mexico_spadefoot_toad

The Spadefoot toad’s name is:
Spea multiplicata

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Photo credit of this site:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Mexico_spadefoot_toad

According to the above wikipedia site, here are some interesting quoted facts about the Western Spadefoot Toad.

“The New Mexico Spadefoot Toad (Spea multiplicata) is a species of American spadefoot toad found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. Like other species of spadefoot toad, they get their name from a distinctive spade-like projections on their hind legs which enable them to dig in sandy soils. Some sources also refer to the species as the Mexican Spadefoot Toad, Desert Spadefoot Toad or Southern Spadefoot Toad.

The New Mexico Spadefoot Toad grows from 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length, and has a round body, with relatively short legs. They are green, to grey, to brown, usually reflecting the soil color of their native habitat,often with black and orange colored speckling on their back, and a white underside. They have large eyes,with vertical pupils.

Like all species of spadefoot toad, the New Mexico Spadefoot Toad is nocturnal and secretive. If handled, these frogs might emit a peanutlike odor, which can cause tearing and nasal discharge if in close contact with the face. Spending most of its time buried in the ground, the spadefoot emerges during periods of summer rainfall to feed on insects and to breed. Breeding takes place in temporary pools left by the rain. Eggs laid in large masses, often hatch in as little as 48 hours. The tadpoles are forced to metamorphose quickly, before the water dries up.”

Scientific Site about the Western Spadefoot Toad

http://amphibiaweb.org/cgi/amphib_query?where-genus=spea&where-species=multiplicata

So when I think about my day and any foraged foods I have enjoyed. While I wonder if my pictures of the Pinus edulis are in focus enough… while I sift through my own texts and what information I can glean via the internet… (and there is a lot to sift through, in regard to pine tea!)…

I am comforted and humored at night, by the calls of the neighboring, puddle dwelling toads!

Did you ever use a musical instrument… where one piece of the wood is ridged and you rub a stick against the ridges? Well, that is as close as I can come to explaining what they sound like.

And, I always hear what must be hundreds in a chorus together.

This musical instrument reminds me of what they
sound like!

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You can check out this great musical instrument website that sells these sweet creations and also the
above photo courtesy of:

http://povera.myartsonline.com/music/instruments.html

The Western spadefoot toad, it turns out, is the official amphibian for the State of New Mexico!

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photo credit

More about the
Zia people and the Zia symbol here.

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Life in the High Desert is diverse and this diversity can change with the season. Like when the toads come out in the rains.

The piñon tree is a steady companion of the high desert of New Mexico. I have noticed it often grows at the base of an older or even dying/dead Juniper tree.

The pine pitch resin also makes an all purpose healing balm called trementina salve. check it out!

It is so interesting to notice patterns.

Seasonal ones but also more cyclical ones and patterns over larger periods of time such as with the growth of these beautiful Piñon trees.

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Living back in New Mexico has been fun to see what foraged plants I found while on the road also thrive here.

This is a welcome pattern I am glad to see here. This includes purslane, common mallow, wild lettuce and others. There is so much to learn and it has taken me several months to come back to write about Piñon pine.

What lessons are there for me about pine?
Pine tea is aromatic and lemony. It has an expansive opening feeling for the lungs and has a healing lemony feel to it when drinking it.

Piñon pine are hearty. Slow growing. Evergreen. They provide some of the only shade in the High desert. They grow nuts and their needles can be made into tea.

But, also because they are slow growing I want to respect their bounty. I do not want to harvest more than what the tree can tolerate for needles.

The tree is also home and food to birds and other wildlife.

What have I pined for? What took me so long to write about pine? Did I need to come home again to regain that grounding? I think so.

Pinus edulis has been a teacher to me. I have spent 3/4 of a year thinking and researching…abandoning the post I was trying to write. Only to begin again. I had to forget the stockpile of sites and conflicting information I had found about pine tea. I needed to return to a space. A place where I could admire the tree on my return to New Mexico. Identifying it from a distance by its dark bark when mature. Enjoying seeing its beginning growth underneath a juniper. Becoming visually more aware. Beginning again from less of a burdened perspective of research. And coming more from a place of neighbor. The trees in my vicinity.

Appreciating the 5 or 6 trees I visited today to make 2 cups of tea… It slows me down and helps me fill with intention. Not a neediness or greed… how much can I harvest or get… (or even a horde of information) but, what is needed. What is enough. What is timely. What did today ask me to do?

An appreciation that a shared cup of pine needle tea can fortify. That I have what I need. A teacher.
An ally. A Piñon tree. And a friend to share the tea.

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How to Make Pine Needle Tea from Piñon pine.

1.Harvest enough needles from the bright green new growth equal to one tablespoon per cup. Do not over-harvest from one tree

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2. Chop or cut with scissors… the needles into smaller bits.

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3. Crush the needles between 2 spoons to help release aromatic oils

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4. Add to water for tea

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5. Bring to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Then strain into cups.

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6. Enjoy

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This is a picture from last November. The color is a reddish brown. It is from the Pinus edulis tree also.

Today’s brew was less red. Just slightly tinged with color. But it was good and aromatic and vitalizing. I boiled it less long today so recommend 2-3 minutes as stated above. But remember, it can be nice to have a more gentle tea like I made today!

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Here are some fun and interesting sites I have found and wanted to share! Check it out!

Wild Blessings site by Holly Drake! Pine Needle Popsicles!

pine pollen as food

how to harvest pine nuts

The following site is delightful. It shows a Chippewa/Ojibway tradition of making dolls out of tufts of pine needle bunches. Each pine needle bunch forms a doll and the skill and fun is to make the dolls dance, jiggle, jump and perform against a small flat board.

Native American Pine Needle Dancing Dolls


Native peoples introduced tea to New Englanders and Canadians

pine needle syrup

pine soup

Yep, Pine needle cake!

Edible inner bark and Pine needle flour…from the Wild Blessings site by Holly Drake!

Euell Gibbons…eat a pine tree!

shortbread pine needle recipe

the acoustic world inside a piñon tree

debunks some internet myths about using pine

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And for those of you looking for more specific medicinal and edible use of pine, here is some quoted material from this site just below.

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Pinus+edulis

The above site has a good synopsis of useful information directly quoted below:

Edibile Uses of Piñon Pine:

“Edible Uses Edible Parts: Inner bark; Seed; Seedpod. Edible Uses: Condiment; Gum; Tea.

Seed – raw or cooked[82, 177]. Seeds…delicious raw or cooked[2, K]. The seed can be ground into a meal and used in stews, making bread, cakes etc and in making nut butter[183]. The seed is up to 25mm long[160]. Rich in oil, protein[183] and thiamine[160]. The seed contains about 15% protein[213]. An important item of food for the local Indians, it is also sold in local markets of Colorado and New Mexico[61, 82]. About 450,000 kilos of the seeds are sold in American markets each year[229]. The leaves can be brewed into a tea[183, 257]. Immature female cones – roasted. The soft centre forms a sweet syrupy food[183]. Inner bark – cooked. A sweet flavour, it is cut into strips and cooked like spaghetti[183]. Inner bark can also be dried, ground into a powder and used as a thickening in soups or can be mixed with cereal flours when making bread etc[257]. The pitch from the trunk can be hardened and used as a chewing gum[257]. A vanillin flavouring is obtained as a by-product of other resins that are released from the pulpwood[200].”

I have underlined and highlighted some of this text for emphasis.

Also according to the PFAF site:

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Pinus+edulis

Medicinal Uses are numerous and include:

“Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future
(and wildlettucegal.wordpress.com) can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiseptic; Depurative; Diuretic; Emetic; Expectorant; Pectoral; Plaster; Rubefacient; VD; Vermifuge.

The turpentine obtained from the resin of all pine trees is antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient and vermifuge[4]. It is a valuable remedy in the treatment of kidney, bladder and rheumatic affections, and also in diseases of the mucous membranes and the treatment of respiratory complaints[4]. Externally it is used in the form of liniment plasters and poultices on cuts, boils, burns and various skin problems[4, 257]. The heated pitch has been applied to the face to remove facial hair[257]. The gum is used as a plaster on cuts and sores[216]. An infusion of the leaves has been used as an emetic to cleanse the stomach[257]. The leaves have been chewed in the treatment of venereal diseases[257]. The leaves have been burnt and the smoke inhaled as a treatment for colds[257]. The inner bark is expectorant[257].”

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Additional Source for this blog post, in addition to posted URL sites includes the text:

Edible Wild Plants. A North American Field Guide to over 200 Natural Foods.
By, Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman, Sterling Publishing.com, 1982.

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Thankyou for joining me on this foraging adventure!

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Amidst the Pines…Nearby cactus with fruit!

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About wildlettucegal

certified plant lover 😀

Posted on August 4, 2014, in commentary, expect the unexpected, Forage and Wildcraft, recipes and foodways, wild edibles and the art life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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