Honey fermented pine shoots

Bordering our property stands a pine, tall and majestic. The last golden light each evenings makes it’s needles glisten. In the spring there was even a melody to it, as the sound of wind gently rustling the branches mingled with the popping of it’s cones opening up. I love this tree so much. I think it will become important for me and this chapter in my life.

Later in the spring, a gust of wind moved through the tree and a golden cloud of pollen gently released itself from the pine and soared onward to new adventures. It was impossible to capture, but beautiful to watch this fluffy pollen cloud fly away. Trees are so mysterious, amazing and dare I say magical? We have read a lot about them and their silent, long lives are fascinating.

Two books about trees that I highly recommend are Hidden Life of Trees and The Overstory

A friend and I was walking through the garden one evening, when she saw all the bright orange shoots in the pine. She told me that it is quite tasty to put them in snaps (a strong alcoholic beverage). We don’t enjoy drinking that though, but as I am rather passionate about foraging and wild food, my mind started turning with what else I could do with them.

Reading up on what people do with snaps, they often add something sweet as the shoots, while having a wonderful, piney flavour, are a bit bitter. Eureka! I shall ferment them in honey of course. We’ve done this before with onion and blueberries, and it’s such a simple way to preserve food.

So, on a beautiful golden evening I set out to pick some shoots. It’s important to be mindful of foraging in a respectful, responsible manner. Never take too much, and never too much from one single branch. I only picked enough for a small jar.

honey fermented pine shoots
honey fermented pine shoots

Once I had an amount I was satisfied with, I carefully removed any pine needles that had gotten into the basket, and checked for any bugs I might want to leave in nature as well. Finn was helpful as always, keeping me company and inspecting the yield.

After that, I simply put some honey in a jar put down my shoots and covered them with more honey. Never fill up the jar completely though, leave quite a bit of room at the top – the ferment needs some room to expand and move because honey is a very active ferment. These shoots are very soft, so that’s all I did.

≫ It’s important to use raw, unprocessed and preferably local honey, and to sterilise the jar.

If you are, for example, fermenting harder fruit like apples adding water might be needed as the ferment could require some extra liquid. We did not add water when we fermented blueberries either, which was a good thing because they contain a lot of liquid themselves. These shoots, while soft, don’t contain a lot of liquid though, so depending how they seem after a few weeks or months I might add a little.

Some people use a weight can be to keep the ingredients under the surface, I simply give it a tip back and forth to make sure the fruit is covered, and mostly during the first week. It is also enjoyable to watching the honey get thinner. And every once in a while you might need to open the lid and let it “burp” and off gas.

honey fermented pine shoots

As long as you’d like. After a few weeks the honey has taken on the flavour of the ingredient and you can start using it. But you can also leave it. Honey does not go bad*. Did you know we’ve found jars of honey buried with mummies in Egypt? Honey that is still perfectly fine to eat! Yes, it’s 3000 years old and edible. Honey is amazing.

*once you start using it though, make sure to use clean utensils. And no double dipping!

The only thing left to do now is wait. Occasionally turning the jar and burping it. I have placed it on a plate in case some honey seeps out. I will likely use it in cooking a lot, I think it will be great for oven roasting veggies! But maybe also in cocktails / mocktails. Our blueberry honey ferment was more of a dessert thing, and we often drizzled some on our cereal.

We have a pretty big cold cellar in our new house, so I imagine I will make jam, ferment, dry or pickle a lot now that I have the room to store food in a different way. Which I am incredibly excited for!

honey fermented pine shoots

Honey can also be used on wounds to promote rapid and improved healing as it has amazing anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. We also keep a jar of what we call “honion” around: Onion circles fermented in honey. A spoonful of this honey onion cough syrup is great if you are starting to feel a sore throat! Onions has a calming effect, and the use of honey for sore throats and coughs can be traced back to Ancient Greece and the Vedic Period in India.

And yes, science does support this. A meta-analysis “found that honey was effective in treating children above 12 months of age when used in the first three days of cough symptoms” and in a systematic review and meta-analysis researchers concluded that honey is likely effective in improving symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), especially for reducing cough frequency and severity.

It feels really good to get back into foraging and cooking using wild food, it’s something I used to do a lot more in the past. I hope the process and recipes will be interesting and of good use to you as well. Thanks for reading!

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