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

Christmas tree put out for garbage after the holiday season

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?

Like, mmm, that would be good with my salmon. Well, maybe not. Still, Julia Georgallis has some recipes.

Over the last five years, she's been orchestrating Christmas dinners in London with a friend.

"How can we make something sustainable around Christmas time? 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," Georgallis says.

She 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.

<em>How to Eat Your Christmas Tree</em>, by Julia Georgallis
/ Hardie Grant
<em>How to Eat Your Christmas Tree</em>, by Julia 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," Georgallis says.

"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," she says.

Most of the recipes in her book use the needles from the tree. "You'd use the needles like a herb," she says.

"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 of Christmas trees, is quite zesty. And then you have pine, which is a little bit more floral, a little bit more delicate."

But Georgallis also thought of other ways to use that Christmas tree.

"So there's pine nuts so that a lot of people don't associate Christmas trees with, but 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."

A warning: Some Christmas trees are poisonous if eaten — like cypress, cedars and yews. And be sure your tree wasn't sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals. "So if you have any doubt that you're that your Christmas tree might not have been grown to eat, then maybe don't eat it," Georgallis says.

And, of course, don't even think about eating your artificial tree!

So, with all those caveats and with the appropriate tree, what could we cook? Well, Georgallis' book has all sorts of recipes for fish, lamb, squash and ice cream.

Recipe: Christmas tree pickles

And pickles made with Christmas tree vinegar. The recipe works best with old dried trees. Take a 2-liter jar and good-quality vinegar — Georgallis suggests cider vinegar or white vinegar and 200 grams, or 7 ounces, of Christmas tree needles.

She explains: "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 sterilized jar and pour the vinegar over that. And then you just close up your jar and leave that to infuse, probably for up to three months.

"You'll know that you're 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 years as a nice gift."

So, thanks to Georgallis, not only can you eat your tree, you can regift it too.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.