RACHEL BELLE

Don’t toss your Christmas tree — you can eat it!

Jan 5, 2021, 4:03 PM | Updated: 4:03 pm
Christmas tree, eat...
Spruce cured salmon from "How To Eat Your Christmas Tree." (Photo by Lizzie Mayson)
(Photo by Lizzie Mayson)

Christmas is over, you’ve taken the ornaments off the tree, but instead of dragging the Christmas tree to the curb, why don’t you … eat it? London’s Julia Georgallis recently released a 30-recipe cookbook called How To Eat Your Christmas Tree.

“This project started five years ago, and we wanted to run a festive supper club around Christmas time,” Georgallis explained. “We thought, what is a magical thing that is the most iconic thing about Christmas that you could eat? And then we landed on it. Of course it was the Christmas tree! So we started to experiment with eating various types of Christmas trees.”

She’s doing a lot more than snipping off branches and nibbling on needles.

“But that’s what we did at the beginning, to be honest. It was an absolute disaster. We made some horrible things in the beginning,” she said. “One of my favorite, terrible things that we made out of Christmas trees was a deep-fried Christmas tree needle, which we thought was going to be delicious and it was horrible.”

Since then, Georgallis and her friend have come up with recipes that they truly enjoy, mostly using the needles from the tree.

“My favorite recipe of all time has to be the spruce ice cream,” she said. “It kind of tastes like vanilla ice cream, which is really strange — this lovely delicate flavor. I did some research and apparently the early fake vanilla extracts were made using pine, so I think they share some kind of flavor note, which is super interesting.”

The cookbook has a recipe for cured salmon, basically a gravlax, with Christmas tree needles mixed into the salt and sugar curing mixture, and a pickle recipe that features needles in the brine.

Georgallis says you most likely have a spruce, fir, or pine tree.

“Spruce is kind of vanilla-y, orangey. Fir is quite zesty, it’s very grassy. Pine, weirdly enough, is the most delicate of the three,” she explained. “You’d kind of assume that pine is the strongest because we associate pine forests as having that really big smell. The flavor of pine is really quite floral.”

One of the trendiest, chef-iest recipes in the book is for making Christmas tree ash.

“Ash cooking has become quite popular over the last few years,” Georgallis said. “You basically char [branches of] your tree. So you put it in the oven and blacken it until it’s burnt, and then you blitz it and you end up with this powder. Weirdly enough, this powder doesn’t taste like charcoal, it tastes like forest. It’s a really lovely ingredient and you can sprinkle it on your vegetables and roast them. You can put it in butter — I love it in butter — actually, you end up with a very smoky, buttery flavor. There’s a Christmas tree ash and honey glaze. You can use that glaze for meat, for vegetables, for fish. So that’s a really nice way of cooking with the whole tree.”

A big part of Georgallis’ original Christmas tree eating mission was sustainability. She says 40 million Christmas trees are chopped down every year, worldwide.

“I don’t think eating your tree is going to single-handedly stop the climate crisis or freeze any ice caps, but the whole point of the project is a really lighthearted way of encouraging people to think about those little things, like keeping a Christmas tree,” she said. “If you’re going to cut down a tree, then use it up. Try eating it, then you’re getting extra use out of it and that in itself is better for the environment, that we use things up in their entirety before we dispose of them.”

Seattle green advocates urge us to skip wrapping paper, rent decorations

In a time when we’re all trying to squeeze every last drop out of happy holiday times, this just might be a good way to end the season.

“It’s such a nice way to end such a nice time of year. I really love Christmas and everything that goes around it. January can be a little bit bleak, but if you’re doing something nice in January, like going to a supper club where you eat your Christmas tree, it’s like an extension of festive joy,” Georgallis said.

Georgallis did warn to make sure your tree wasn’t sprayed with harmful pesticides before you eat it.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal,” featuring celebrities like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Rainn Wilson, and Greta Gerwig. Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!

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Don’t toss your Christmas tree — you can eat it!