In my humble opinion douglas fir needle tea gives the most strikingly fruity and aromatic of the conifer teas. It beats the more austere, grassy, herbal spruce tea hands down as it packs a resinous, dried citrus peel punch straight out of santa’s grotto. Fairly easy to spot in the UK as it is a common forestry timber, with its soft needles, ‘adders’ tongue cones and, when young, its blistering, sappy bark. However the amazing aroma is a dead giveaway when you rub the needles.
Douglas Fir (pseudotsuga menziesii) is the second biggest conifer on the planet, capable for heights of well over 300 ft and ages tipping 1,000 years – you rarely see anything of this size in the UK. In fact the tallest tree in the UK is one, hitting a lofty 210 feet.
As a professional forager there are hundreds of plants with thousands of uses. But the Douglas Fir, because it seems one is never too far away, has a special place in my heart.
Not only does the tree yield a fabulous tea, rich in vitamin C, the blisters on the trunk yield an antiseptic glue that I use in natural first aid to glue my frequent cuts together and to seal my grazes. It is also pretty good for burns. The sappy resin from these blisters (easy to squeeze like spots!) was also used for sore throats. The buds are used to make an eau de vie and make a sweet nibble early in the year. I also use the fresh new growth as a flavouring in some woodland stir-frys. I also reckon it would make a good Hudson Bay Beer too. The inner bark can be scraped, pounded, dried and powdered into a meal for adding to other grain flours – although I have found that a little wanting.
As a wood it is strong and surprisingly dense. It burns well and gives out a good heat. The roots can be used for cordage and basketry.
Last and by no means least its soft needles and pliable boughs provide the most luxurious, scented mattress for the deepest slumber.
As a campfire tea its quick to source, fresh for a brew. However, I often pick its boughs and bring then home to dry naturally. De-stemming, sifting and then sticking them through a grinder produces masses of tea-leaf sized granules that I use for when I am kicking around the house or fighting off a cold. They last for months and fill the house, when brewed, with a delightful scent.
To make the tea I would use a grinder to break the needles up, this will help the infusion. A heaped teaspoon per cup will give you a lovely green, rich brew which benefits from a drop of honey to bring out the flavour even more. I have several lbs of this just waiting to be given to the owner of a well known natural remedy store.
Disclaimer – This article is NOT telling you to go out and eat wild plants without proper instruction! DO NOT use this article as a guide as to what is safe for you or others to eat. Learn from other sources and know absolutely (110%) what you are picking and consuming and what affect it might have on you and others – before you go off and test your knowledge! The author accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions in this article. Eating wild plants is entirely at your own risk. Just because I have eaten them and/or they are mentioned in this article does not mean that they are safe for anyone to eat. Do not feed wild plants to other people without taking the necessary precautions.