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How to eat your

Christmas Tree


Though 'How to eat your Christmas tree' started as an experiment in cooking with the most classically used Christmas trees - pine, fir and spruce, as the project progressed other trees that had culturally similar symbolism were introduced to the menu, to not only provide other more sustainable Christmas tree suggestions but also to explore the relationships between how humans have seen trees as symbols of resilience in various parts of the world. You might be surprised by some of them! 


A weird one to start with, but bamboo is actually one of the 'three friends of winter,' along with the plum and pine. This trio represents, culturally, a similar group of trees to conifers in Chinese, Korean and Japanese folklore. Bamboo is a symbol of resilience, much like the Christmas tree. It has been included often in the 'How to eat your Christmas tree' supper club, not just because the shoots are delicious and underused in Western cooking, but because we would be far better off using bamboo as a Christmas tree rather than pine, fir or spruce - it is a much faster growing plant that requires far less energy to grow. 


Another alternative Christmas tree suggestion.  Juniper is not technically a Christmas tree but definitely should be. It looks an awful lot like its cousins, the pine, the fir and the spruce, but a bit more wild and much faster growing. Juniper springs up everywhere from the Arctic to Africa and like the common Christmas tree, it is also a symbol of resilience and pluckiness.  Juniper berries have a really festive flavour and, in folklore, it seems like it has been used in everything from tapeworm cures to love potions. 


Finally, a Christmas tree you might recognise! Fir trees are the more popular Christmas tree choice in the UK and they taste spectacular, with a grassy, zesty flavour. The Celts believed firs were one of the nine sacred trees and were used in important ceremonies. 


Olives are the OG Christmas tree, symbolising steadfastedness and resilience in harsh (in this case hot and dry) environments and, because of this, olives and olive oil have been used often as part of the 'How to eat your Christmas tree' project. Ancient Greeks and Romans would hang olive and pine branches as part of winter rites to celebrate the coming of the spring.  


Another funny choice for a project about Christmas trees, but plucky plums are part of the 'three friends of winter.' They stand for hope and perseverance and humans have had a long love affair with them. 


When we think of the scent of Christmas, we very often think of pine trees. Indeed, along with the olive they are one of the OG Christmas trees, having been associated with everlasting life for centuries. In Ancient Greece and Egypt, they were used in burials, pine cones were also used as fertility amulets by Ancient Greeks and Native Americans and both Druids and Native American tribes used pine in sacred sun ceremonies. The pine tree is one of the 'three friends of winter' in Chinese, Korean and Japanese folklore, along with the plum and bamboo. Pine doesn't taste very strong - it has a woody, warming flavour, but the pine nuts are creamy and delicious and very often disassociated with the pine tree itself. 


Ah, we were saving the best 'til last! Spruce is by far the most delicious of all the Christmas trees. Their needles and buds have a very strong, floral flavour and spruce was once used as one of the ingredients in synthetic vanilla flavouring. Spruce trees are found in colder parts of the world and can live for a very long time - one of the oldest trees in the world happens to be a Swedish spruce. His name is Old Tjikko and he is approximately 9,550 years old. 

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