The Spring has hit the (Eastern) hemlock trees here in the Catskills and they are all sporting their new neon-green manicures! I can never resist collecting a few, they are delicious straight from the tree- a very tender, citrusy taste with of course the evergreen tones. Super good natural breath freshener :) Or muddle them into cocktails or add sugar and let them sit for about a month and you’ll have some delicious syrup… or you can make a tonic that will keep all year.
What I’ve learned about Hemlock is that medicinally they are known for their aid to the respiratory system as well as for helping with coughs, colds, stuffy noses- which of course are all ailments of the breath. The shape of the trees and their needle structures are very reminiscent of the bronchi in our lungs- I love how nature sends you messages like that. Remember to not take from the young saplings and gather a few tips from different trees rather than depleting the new growth of one.
My recipe for tonic is very simple, great during allergy season or whenever you need a respiratory clean up. You can mix it with seltzer as a delicious drink or take daily by the spoonful, medicine style! I’ve written it in ratio rather than for a specific serving, here’s how:
-Brandy (at least 40% alcohol)
-raw local honey
1) Fill your vessel a fifth full with the honey, then up to the halfway mark with brandy.
2) Stir and shake until the honey is dissolved.
3) Add the Hemlock tips until your vessel is filled to the halfway mark with them, then top up with brandy.
4) Shake well, then leave to sit for a month at least- I re-shake mine every week to keep it mixed. After a month you can strain the needles for a pure tonic. I leave mine in, as I find them beautiful- but entirely up to you.