Celebrate Local Plants Through Food: Fir Tree and Ginger Ice Cream Recipe

| Colorado Native Plants

By Pam Sherman

Courtesy ponce_photography on Pixabay

Julia Georgallis, author of the cookbook How to Eat Your Christmas Tree from which this recipe is taken (p. 86-7), says this is “hands down my favorite recipe” from her fir tree-eating supper club. A special occasion treat to stimulate conversation on native plant gardening and guardian-ing!  

Georgallis recommends blue spruce needles (as in Colorado blue spruce) because they taste to her a bit like vanilla “but, as with all these recipes, you can interchange the type of … tree you use depending on what you have access to.” By “type of tree” she means spruce, pine, or fir, all of which are in the fir family. (Check this Colorado  list for native firs.) 

Consider eating down the non-natives and re-planting with natives! Fir needles are often discarded this time of year after wreath-making and in January when Christmas trees are hauled away; she wrote the book to help readers re-purpose the trees. 

The book is British, so we have translated the following recipe into American terms.

If you want to substitute non-dairy ingredients for cream and milk, try cashew milk and coconut cream and anything else your expertise tells you to use. Please let us know how it turns out!  

Disclaimer: As with any new food, use common sense if you think you might have allergies to eating spruce, pine, or fir needles; consult your doctor first. WOFR is not responsible for any adverse reactions. The author herself gives no such warning. 

(She does remind us to never, ever eat cedar or cypress or yew, but they are definitely not firs and definitely not on her or our menu.) 

As with any wild food, make sure you get your needles from a tree grown well away from pollutants and pesticides! 

And most important, make sure you have positively identified your needles! Use a trusted resource such as Flora of Colorado or this Colorado State Forest Service site.

Makes  2 lb  2 oz  (950 g) of ice cream

Preparation Time 2 hours with an ice-cream maker, 4 hours without one


10.5 oz  (300 g)  blue spruce needles or 14 oz (400 g) any other type of fir/pine needles. 

17 fl oz / 2 cups (510 ml) heavy/ whipping cream

6 fl oz / ¾ of a cup (170 ml)  regular (full fat) milk 

6 oz / ¾  of a cup of super fine sugar (between the texture of granulated and powdered sugar)

8 egg yolks

5 pieces of ginger, chopped


Prepare the Needles:  Rinse and snip the desired amount (see ingredients list). Needles can be sharp; some cooks wear gloves. 

In a heavy bottomed saucepan whisk the cream, ,milk, sugar and egg yolks until well combined.

Add the needles to it and heat gently, stirring continuously so the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom of sides of the pan.

After 15 minutes, turn the heat up to medium. When bubbles begin to appear around the edge of the pan, the custard is ready and can be removed from the heat.

Sieve the mixture two or three times through a fine sieve (fine mesh strainer) so that none of the needles end up in the final ice cream mixture.

If using an ice-cream maker, add the sieved mixture to the churning pot and begin the churning process.  Before it freezes, add the chopped ginger and continue churning until it is frozen.  Transfer the frozen ice cream to the freezer.

If you don’t own an ice-cream maker, transfer the mixture to a tub or dish and leave to cool completely.  Once cooled, transfer to the freezer.  Stir the mixture every hour and when it is beginning to freeze (about two hours) but not completely solid, add the chopped ginger and mix well.  Continue stirring each hour until the ice cream is completely frozen. This will take about 4 hours.

Once it is frozen, keep it in the freezer until ready to serve.  

Curious to learn more about transforming your garden into a habitat with Colorado native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees? Check out our native gardening toolkit, register for an upcoming eventsubscribe to our newsletter, and/or become a member – if you’re not one already!