The Chir Pine: Pinus roxburghii
I’ve been fascinated by the chir pine Pinus roxburghii (Pinus longifolia) for quite some time and realised that I haven’t yet put down a post on it. I’ve marvelled at its beauty both at Sattal and also Mussoorie in Uttarakhand, India. Unfortunately it is sad to see villagers set whole slopes of the forest on fire which is taken up by the layer of dry pine needles covering the mountain slopes. The villagers do it so that grass would grow again on the ground between the trees for them to take home back to their cattle. It is also suspected that the land mafia does this to deliberately deforest areas in connivance with the authorities which they can then encroach upon and sell. This is easy to do as the pine is rich in resin and catches fire easily even when wet.
The pine has a host of uses. I have mentioned some of them below.
- Pine salve
- Use of hardened resin as a component in incense
- Powdered pine resin used with charcoal and sometimes dried animal dung as a glue
- Fresh resin used as an antiseptic and band aid for cuts and wounds
- Powdered pine resin taken internally for wounds and ulcers after being mixed with honey
- Fresh Pine needles used to make a green tea rich in vitamin C which prevents scurvy.
- Pine roots and joints when heated in a closed container give off pine tar which is also used against skin infections along with other uses for tar
- Wood is used as a fire starter and like the Himalayan oak burns even when wet
- A crude turpentine (oleo-resin) can be produced by distilling pine resin
- Pine wood is used as furniture
- Pine cones are used as fire starters in bukharis in areas where pine grows.
- Pine seeds are edible.
- The inner white cambium layer of the pine is said to be edible.
Hardened Pine resin is easy to scrape off the tree and collect and accumulates where the tree is injured. However liquid resin can be collected using the rill method in large quantities although it defaces the tree and probably reduces its life.
How to make Pine tar
To make pine tar. Collect the knots at the tree joints and the roots which are rich in resin (preferably from dead Pine trees). Use two tin boxes which can be stacked one on top of the other without slipping easily. Now discard the lid of the bottom container and make a hole in the bottom of the top container.
Bury the lower container in the ground (we don’t want this too get too hot) and place the top container on it and fill it with chopped pine root and knobs and close it tightly. Next stack firewood on it and set it on fire. As the tar is released from the wood, it will drip down into the lower container. This can be collected and stored for lubrication or can be used as an ointment. During WWII, partisans hiding out in the woods from the Germans used this as an ointment for skin diseases after mixing it with bear fat.
How to make Pine needle tea
The trick to make pine needle tea is not to boil the leaves like in Indian chai as this causes the turpentine in the needles to give the tea a weird taste. In addition, I’m sure it destroys all of the vitamin C in the needles. One option is to make solar tea, i.e to chop up the needles, put them in a glass jar with the appropriate quantity of water and keep it in the sunlight through the day.
If you want to prepare regular green tea, pour boiling water over chopped pine needles and let them steep.
A variation of steeping chopped needles can be used by replacing the water with olive oil to make pine needle infused oil which can then be combined with garlic, salt and lime juice to make a salad dressing or use vodka to make pine scented vodka… the possibilities seem endless! 🙂
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