The Bhutan Pine is a little large for most gardens!
We’re still in house renovation hell at the moment, but took some time out yesterday and got as far as the local hardware store to buy some light fittings for the new kitchen. They were selling small Christmas trees in pots, roughly two feet tall, which was rather tempting although I haven’t bought one yet. It reminded me that last Christmas I was thinking about growing an edible Christmas tree.
James Wong was talking about using pine needles in the Christmas edition of Grow Your Own Drugs – he recommended the Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) or Norway Spruce (Picea abies). The Fraser fir was not one of the choices in the hardware store; it grows to about 15m tall and PFAF gives it an edibility rating of 1. The Norway Spruce gets 2, but it also grows to twice the height and would not be a good choice for this garden.
A second option on sale was the Blue Spruce (Picea pungens), which grows to 20m and gets a PFAF edibility rating of 2.
Over at Weeding the Web, Helen Gazeley is talking about how to choose a Christmas tree for it’s traditional decorative purpose. As well as the species above she mentions the Noble Fir, the Nordman Fir and the Lodgepole pine
According to PFAF the Noble Fir (Abies procera) gets an edibility rating of 0 and grows to 60m. The Nordman Fir (Abies nordmanniana) also gets 0 and reaches a height of 50m. It lists the Beach pine (Pinus contorta) with a rating of 3 and a height of 15m, but although the Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta latifolia) grows to the same height it gets a big fat 0 on the yummy scale.
Eat Weeds turns pine needles into vinegar, which I have mentioned before but not yet managed to try. According to them, all of the pine species are edible in this regard, although some are much nicer than others, so it pays to nibble before you make a big batch of vinegar.
If it’s pine nuts you’re after then the main species grown commercially is Pinus pinea, which PFAF gives a 4 to, and which grows to 10m tall. It doesn’t look like a proper Christmas tree though. You could also try P. sabriana and P. coulteri, which give larger pine nuts but are slower growing (according to pinenut.com). If you’re thinking long-term then you may be better planting a Monkey Puzzle or two here in the UK.
When I looked into this last year I eventually bought some Korean Fir seeds from Chiltern Seeds, although I haven’t yet sown them. It’s a small, slow-growing tree that looks like a proper little Christmas tree and is very ornamental. Whether its needles would make nice vinegar remains to be seen, but I will dig the seeds out and sow them in spring and see how far I get 🙂