rhubarb and white pine paletas

I spent the past 2.5 years of my life studying eastern white pine trees. Pinus strobus trees, for those who are curious. During that time, I chewed on a lot of pine needles. Why? – because when I’m in the woods, I like to sample. Because I like to see how things taste. Because I love to eat.

Some things have become favorites, such as wintergreen leaves. Others, such as  maple twigs, I’ve learned to ignore, because they taste like, you guessed it, twigs. And now that I’ve finished my research project, it’s only natural that I…. pine for those good ole days.

I’ve been seeing so many good popsicle recipes lately, it’s made me wild-eyed with desire to make my own. Since rhubarb is a big hit at my house, it made for a clear choice when pondering what flavor of ice pops to kick off summer with. But where I’m going with all this is that I decided to spice my pops up with none other than white pine needles.

Simple syrups are made for water-based ice pops such as these. For this recipe, I steeped a hefty amount of white pine needles in the syrup for an hour. For identification purposes, eastern white pine is a 5-needle pine, meaning that there are 5 needles per ‘bundle’ on the twig.

You can use this year’s needles if they have already grown to their full length; up here in northern Maine, they’re still small, and the new growth is still very sticky. As such, I used last year’s needles – the next whorl of needles back. Make sure to wash them well and remove any sneaky insects. Try to avoid needles from roadside trees where pesticides or heavy salt may have been applied.

At top: this year’s foliage on white pine begins to grow. At bottom: A mature white pine [plus a shadow that indicates I’m the proud owner of the world’s longest pants] captured wonkily through a fisheye. Identify this tree by the feathery appearance of its foliage.

If you don’t live in the east, southeast, or midwest of the U.S. (or somewhere in our forgotten neighbor to the north), you’re out of luck for finding eastern white pine. But you, unlucky one, can take the following advice I’m about to offer despite not having any factual basis for doing so. Find the ‘strobus‘ located in your region, and hopefully its genetic similarity will allow it to flavor simple syrup in the same way.

You could also use spruce needles.

Or, you know, you could just leave it out of the recipe. Everything will still taste prrrrrretty much the same, to the non-discerning palate.

 

By the way, those flavorless maple twigs? They work perfectly as substitute popsicle sticks.

Rhubarb and White Pine Paletas {original recipe}

Makes 12 3-oz ice pops

++Ingredients:++

~1 lb rhubarb, cleaned
Pinch cinnamon
8 oz water (1 c.)
8 oz sugar (1 heaping c.)
4 – 6 whorls of white pine needles (1 to 1 1/2 c.), cleaned

++Directions:++

In a small saucepan, make a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar, and heating until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat off, add the white pine needles, and let steep for at least one hour. Remove and discard needles when finished steeping.

Meanwhile, remove rhubarb ends. Chop roughly into pieces, and place in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover the rhubarb, and a generous pinch of cinnamon. Cook over medium high heat for 15 to 25 minutes, until the rhubarb has broken down and formed a near-homogenous mixture.

Using a strainer, separate the rhubarb mixture (a greenish color) from its juice (pink). Save the juice. In a pourable container (such as a juice pitcher), combine rhubarb mixture with simple syrup. Add in reserved rhubarb juice – which is very bitter – bit by bit, tasting frequently to reach desired sweetness level. When level is reached (I still had a decent amount of juice remaining), pour into 3 oz. paper cups or popsicle molds. If using cups, set in a shallow pan, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Insert twigs or popsicle sticks into the center of each cup, pushing down to secure.

Freeze for at least six hours, preferably overnight.

We enjoyed these as the finale to a Midsummer Feast last Wednesday night. For the feast, we made some homemade aquavit, and served dill potato and smoked salmon salad, quick pickled cucumbers, and salmon encrusted with coriander, fennel and dill seeds.

Goodbye, Midsummer. Hello, winter….. in a few short months!

165 thoughts on “rhubarb and white pine paletas

  1. Now that is a flavor combination I’ve never heard of! Sounds delicious though. Reminds me of a fruity gin cocktail.

    1. I would say that you’re spot on here – there is something about white pine that reminds me of the taste of juniper (gin).

  2. My first glance of the title I read “white wine paletas”. My brain isn’t used to seeing the word ‘pine’. I wish there were some pine trees around here. It would mean I wouldn’t be in the desert.
    This sounds fantastic. I saw something else with pine but I can’t remember where. I think they steeped it in a simple syrup.
    Oh, now I miss Colorado and the smell of pine after it rained and the sun came out.

    1. White wine sounds good too, but quite a stretch from what I was going for. However, now when I look at it, I see white wine too, and wonder if I’ve made a typo:)

      I have heard so many positive things about Colorado (only negative: extreme presence of brohemes). I feel drawn to experience it myself (minus the bros) – – if only we had the means or the time to make it out there someday soon!

      Next up, I’ll be making something with spruce. Stay tuned:)

  3. Such a cool summer post–lovely photos, too. So, was the flavor of the purrrrfectly beautiful pops similar to the rhubarb slush?(and did the kitty get to enjoy them too?)

    1. Since I always went heavy on the soda, my taste memory of the slush is very un-rhubarb. This is very rhubarb-wowing. The white pine was very noticeable in the syrup but does not come across strongly in the finished product. I left some chunks in my puree so that the frozen pops would be extra purty:)

      I tried to offer Beata some of my popsicle last night, actually. How did you know?? She refused, and cried about it a bit.

      1. The main thing that I always notice with rhubarb items is the sweetness factor–rhubarb is so sour that one always needs to sweeten it up. Rhubarb slush, to me, is very sweet, as are,(usually) popsicles.YUMMY

        1. Yes, definitely. I really enjoyed separating the rhubarb from its juice, and seeing how beautiful and pink the juice was. I’m going to make some sort of cocktail or wine cooler with it, but I’ll have to make more simple syrup since it’s so sour.

          YUMMY.

            1. I know you did! Thank you for remembering:)

              I tried to cut another bunch today, but it’s been raining for days, and they’ve been laying soggily on the ground the whole time. They aren’t nearly as pretty, but they smell nice just the same!

  4. I love that you taste the needles! I thought about making fir honey (from the new, light green needles) this spring.
    And this is a great way to use rhubarb.

    1. Thanks Silvia! I’m always looking for new ways to use rhubarb… I can only handle so much rhubarb crumble or crisp, because I know there have to be so many more good ways to enjoy it.

      Fir honey sounds fantastic! I’m still waiting for forested spruce trees to finish growing new leaders around here. I’ll be using them in a recipe that I’ll write about here;)

    1. You know, I halfheartedly looked for popsicle sticks while I was at the grocery store, but all I could find were those mini plastic swords for sandwiches, and toothpicks. Then I considered using skewers, but… twigs are stouter, and make for a better grip:)

      Hmm, pine in your neck of the woods… are there no ornamental pine? There have to be some that are planted (not natural) somewhere. In a botanic garden, maybe? He he, I think I’m giving you illegal advice, so I’ll stop there;)

  5. This sounds really good, but unfortunately I live in MS. Not only are there no white pine trees here, but most Mississippians have no idea what rhubarb is. Being from Michigan, I love it. I make a rhubarb pie by combining eggs, sugar and cut up rhubarb and baking in a single pie crust. Delicious!

    1. Hi Paul! Supposedly, there are small disjunct populations of white pine in northeast part of your state. I can neither prove nor disprove this, however. I’m curious if yellow &/or hard pines would provide the same taste – – I have no reason to believe that they wouldn’t, but I should probably try it out before making that statement!

      Love rhubarb, I can’t get enough of it – your pie sounds wonderful! I love Michigan even more… can’t ever get enough of that beautiful state.

  6. Looks delicious. Ellie has been jonesin’ to make some popsicles too. I’ll see if we can’t get these a spin. mmmm

  7. Love that shot of the needles with the orange background! You can keep your ‘popsicles’ (silly word that) though, I’m cold enough as it is! :)

    1. Aww, thanks! I put the needles in a vase that I’ve since left out for decoration. It lasts a long time – I should decorate with conifers more often:)

      Indeed, I will keep my popsicles. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  8. What gorgeous popsicles these are Emma. I love how you have made them from twigs and pine needles and of course, rhubarb. They are a delightful colour, I’m sure they’re full of interesting flavours and the twigs are great as popsicle sticks xx

    1. Thanks! The twigs make for good sticks, definitely. I believe that there’s nothing quite like rhubarb to make the day better:)

    1. That’s quite the list of exceptions, which I’m glad you decided to clarify. Wheeeee! That’s MEEEEeeeeeee!!

          1. The internet heard you call it bonkers, and it was saddened by your statement. Darn crazy intelligent internet.

        1. Who wears short shorts? Bush Tucker Man wears short shorts!

          We just watched this whole episode and another one. It’s fascinating, thank you for sharing this! I’d like to think that his activities are similar to what you do at your busy office job on a daily basis;)

          1. Bahaha! Oh my heavens this has made my day! My parents own a VHS of some of the episodes (woah I’m old… VIDEO CASSETTES Y’ALL) btu I can’t actually remember anything about them, so you totally have more Bush Tucker Man knowledge that me right now!

            And yes, this is absolutely my life. Not consultations and committees and focus groups and reports and grants and projects and teleconferences and interstate meetings. I just go hunting for wattleseed, honey ants, and Tasmanian pepperberry all day.

            1. You know, I’m incredibly proud of my extensive (exhaustive?) VHS collection. It is on display at all times on a tall tippy shelf.

              I’ll have to watch more Bush Tucker Man so that when I come visit you, I can bedazzle you with an endless stream of knowledge about everything around you. I will say “Here there are plants, so let me just dig down under this paved road over here because I have a hunch that there’s fresh water underneath.”

              I’ll wear longer shorts though, I promise.

              1. All of my Disney movies are VHS. Which means I can’t watch any of them. And holy smokes, do you remember the days of VEHEMENTLY WRITING NOTES ON TAPES SO THAT PEOPLE DIDN’T RECORD OVER THAT SPECIAL EPISODE OF HEARTBREAK HIGH WHEN ANITA AND DRAZIC GOT BACK TOGETHER.

                Wait, that was just me. Oh, and Drazic wore longer shorts too.

                1. Uh oh, this sounds like another teen drama that I would loooove to watch!! I definitely had those moments, mostly on weeks when I’d have to miss episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Gilmore Girls in its early years.

                  1. I just bought Once More With Feeling from iTunes and, yep, ten years on, I still know every single lyric. Every single lyric. (I swear that hydrant wasn’t there…)

                    1. And I just started re-watching Buffy again YESTERDAY! And I made a comment about the musical two days ago. No worries, it looks like our mind connection is still going strong:)

  9. Whatiddy what what? Dat sh*t be cray cray! You are some kind of genius. A twig eating genius! All recipes should have a whorl of something! I’m so excited! I’M STARTING TO YELL!

    I must rest now.

    1. Thissity this this, that’s whatiddy what what!! Your message is coming in LOUD AND CLEAR, movita! Please, though, don’t overexert yourself, because this is how weak-sick-person relapses occur.

      By the way, I can tell you’re from some sort of “city” by this faux ghetto speak you’re utilizing;)

  10. Now why do I think most people in Maine are in the woods evaluating the biological nature of pine trees?!! I love this…I have a full stereotype depicted now…chewing on pine branches and all! I just love Maine and your writing really transported me there. Very few pines down here and I remember them so fondly from when we lived in Michigan. Love the fish eye shot with the longest pants in the world!

    1. I love that your stereotype of Mainers is based on me:) Hehe, good thing the real Mainers don’t know about this!

      I suppose pines are a rarity down your way…… but ah, Michigan. I wish I could go visit there right now.

      I’m glad someone else noticed how long my pants are;)

  11. Pinus strobus, eh? Oh how you broaden my brain space!
    And twigs for Popsicle sticks? Such a clever one, you are. :)
    Keep sampling the great outdoors for us!

  12. You are clever! Even if you haven’t been studying eastern white pine trees for 25 years, as I initially, (and somewhat alarmed-ly) read.

    These sound wonderful and look so pretty with their rustic twig sticks. And now I know my new favourite word after pinguid: whorl, whorl, whorl.

    1. Wouldn’t that be frightening if I had truly been studying one tree species SINCE I HAD BEEN BORN? Yyyyyyyyyyyyeppppppp no.

      I still like pinguid! I tried using it in a sentence last week, but realized I’d forgotten its meaning:) Oops.

  13. Nice to read about Nordic midsummer food on another continent…The popsicles look refreshing, to say the least. Greetings from Sweden

    1. Ooh, hello Sweden! Pleased to meet you;)

      I hope that I started something good by celebrating Midsummer this year – – new traditions are always welcome in my home.

  14. Sounds delish, sadly I’m way too far away from any type of pine. Rhubarb slushie with gin sounds heavenly or white rum…. I may have to make syrup now and save it for our summer sipping under the mango tree later in the year when it warms up….

    1. What a bummer, no pine! No other conifers, either?

      Rhubarb slushie does sound heavenly, with either of the additions you mentioned. I love it best with carbonated lemonade.

      I was just thinking last night that I need to make up a big batch of rhubarb so that I can save the juice and puree for later in the year when rhubarb is no longer available.

      Oh boy, you have a mango tree. I am officially jealous:D

      1. We have Norfolk Pines, but I’m not sure we have anything else coniferous here. Wonder if our native malaleucas will be similar? (tea tree). The mangos make great slushies too, have a whole lot of mango cheeks in the freezer from last summer. Will see us through the first few weeks of summer before the next crop ripens…. Luscious with Cointreau!

        1. I bet Norfolk pine could do the trick… I had one growing in a pot for years, but never tried nibbling on it:)

          I’d be interested to try Melaleuca – I don’t have any access to it here, but I’d love to see what it tastes like. Rhubarb-Melaleuca tea might have promise.

          Ooh, Cointreau. Yep, that sounds fantastic!

    1. I was being resourceful – I didn’t have any popsicle sticks, but I had plenty of weedy tree saplings in my backyard!

  15. I’m so glad to find someone who does experimental cooking for their LOVE of food just like i do! Thank you for sharing this with us all, i will have to make some for my girls this Friday!
    Is there any good suggestions as to a substitute for the white pine needles, as i live in California? Or should I just go taste some trees (you think eucalyptus)?

    1. I definitely love to experiment in the kitchen, and see what I can come up with!

      I’m not sure where in California you live, but there is a western white pine tree that grows in your state. If there aren’t any of those near you, I would go for any other pine that you can find. If there are no pine, I would recommend spruce needles. You could also try western hemlock needles, or those of Douglas-fir.

      I would NOT recommend eating eucalyptus… I believe the leaves and bark can be toxic if ingested.

      1. Thank you – I appreciate that you saved my life today! I will not do eucalyptus plant at all, maybe just to make a candle out of…. Alright I’ll try to snatch up one of those alternatives then give it a go! And of course report back to let you know how everything went!
        Thank you and God Bless!

        1. I’m glad I could help out, although it’s also probably my fault that you almost gave yourself a serious belly ache! Eep!

          Eucalyptus is definitely okay for topical applications, or candles:)

          Please do let me know if you make these, and if you enjoy them!

  16. So we can no longer go outside and say “there’s nothing to eat!” Lovely photos and great recipe. I’m looking forward to reading your other posts.
    Cheers!
    irunibreathe.wordpress.com

    1. Hah, exactly! I usually find something to snack on… in my area right now, it’s wild strawberries:)

      I’m glad you like what you see here!

  17. Wow, super interesting flavor combo, Emma. Sounds just perfect. Glad I found your site — lovely pics too! Feel free to check out my roasted banana and cardamom paletas recipe! Perhaps we can have a paletas duel, a la Star Wars! lol Most friendly, of course =)

    1. I think any attempt on my part at a paletas duel would wind up with my pops …er, popping… off their lil twiglets and onto the floor. But that sounds pretty fun, and since my cat had no interest in eating these, I see no reason to worry about it. Duel on! ;)

    1. Oh ya, I find that living up here amongst the potato fields inspires an interesting and adventuresome life, fer sure:) Cheers!

  18. I love paletas of any kind, I make them out coconut with cinnamon, peach with milk, passion fruit…they are so refreshing! This post reminded me of those hot summer afternoons as a kid and my mom or grandma would make these amazing treats for us! Nice blog and I will stop by more often and see what you have done!

    1. Aren’t they refreshing? That’s how I feel, too. I found myself ready for one of these by 10 am!

      Knowing that I stirred up memories of your mom and grandma is one of the highest compliments I could receive, as I know how much I cherish such remembrances of my own. Thank you:)

    1. Thank you! I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed this. I’m always looking for sneaky ways to get the public interested in forestry – – it’s a tough task!

  19. Very nicely written and an interesting recipe…never thought that way about pine trees..loved their smell however!

  20. What a fantastic and imaginative post. I love your idea of using maple twigs in place of boring everyday popsicle sticks and the mixture of pine and rhubarb sounds delicious. You sound so knowledgable about all things tree – any other wonderful combinations that you have come up with?

    1. Thanks, Fiona! Let’s see, other combinations… I’ve made quite a few tinctures from plants (St John’s Wort and Prunella vulgaris), and I recently picked a large amount of newly-grown spruce tips to make tea with. You can also use maple leaves to wrap around fish before cooking.

      As far as sweets, I might make another batch of popsicles with some spruce tips and fresh raspberries, or perhaps peaches. Or both. I think that would be great!

    1. From Canada to Texas, that must have been a drastic change for you! I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t find fresh rhubarb… I guess I might move:)

      Tropical popsicles sound delicious, I’ll definitely check yours out!

  21. I know there are supposed to be white pines down here in the Blue Ridge (glaciers dragged them down) but I can’t find them, are christmas trees white pines? We have Xmas tree farms. I have Tall loblolly pines on my property, not sure about taste… (I’m from NH so this is frustrating, I love pines and rhubarb!)

    BTW, I have some california friends who are taking expensive french pine bark for hot flashes, how different could our pines be? Just curious… http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/HerbsVitaminsandMinerals/pine-bark-extract

    1. Most Christmas trees today are fir; depending on where you are down there, there may be plantations of Fraser fir Xmas trees near you. I saw quite a few last spring while traveling near the Virginia/NC border.

      The literature tells me that in the southern part of its range, white pine grows best on soils along rivers and streams, and somewhat more slowly on more well-drained soils. Despite this description, I would expect white pine to be close to or in the mountains down there – look for it at higher elevations, along wettish slopes perhaps.

      I love pines and rhubarb too, but there’s something about the words Blue Ridge that bring elaborate and beautiful daydreams to my mind:)

      Lastly, that’s an interesting article you linked to. In it, they mention that the impetus for that extract began in Quebec in the 1500s, when a bunch of Europeans were suffering from scurvy. They used the bark of white cedar to cure them…. I bet white pine’s bark has some merit to it, too.

      1. Yes, we have lots of Christmas tree farms, if you look on a map they look close but any travel over the mountains takes a chunk of time. Also, the Blue Ridge Parkway has a max speed of 35 mph, which makes it a nice, lazy day drive not so great when temps are over 95º.

        I’m guessing the Natives taught the French about white cedar bark, not sure why I missed that reference! I took some lob lolly pine needles and put them in cider vinegar last winter and it is a nice flavor, not faux balsamic but subtle pine, really nice on cucumbers! ;-)

        I knew a german pharmacist whose education involved a lot of analytical chemistry of plants. I wish we had a focus here on these things. I might have actually enjoyed that class in college if we were looking at local plants and not looking for water contamination… sigh LOL

        1. I’m going to have to try combining cucumber and pine needles – what a neat idea:)

          I’ve taken a few classes where understory plants were the focus… but that was just the nature of my education!

  22. Rhubarb is my all-time favorite. Both sets of grandparents used to grow it in their yards. Going to have to try this. Thanks for posting and congrats on being freshly pressed.

    1. Thanks Richard! Rhubarb is a wonderful treat, in part I think because so many people seem to associate it with their parents or grandparents in a very positive way. There’s none in my yard, and I definitely envy those that have it in excess!

        1. I believe that early spring is the best time to plant rhubarb…. good luck – with all the space you have, you could start a veritable rhubarb farm!

      1. And would you like to be featured on “Best Blog Recipes”? Your recipe, your picture, a little about you and your blog plus a link to your blog? Beautiful cat BTW…I have had Siamese cats all my life.

    1. Are you in Norway? I’m guessing there is more spruce than pine there… spruce would probably work just fine, too!

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