After Christmas, don’t throw out your tree… eat it. Seriously.

There are so many wonderful things about having a live Christmas tree in your home. It’s such a lovely Christmas tradition to pick it out. And that amazing pine-y smell! But what do you do with it after Christmas is long over? When it’s mid-January and you have no idea what to do with your fir-y friend, don’t toss it out — eat it instead. Yes, totally serious.

According to Danish chef René Redzepi, whose restaurant has been voted best in the world by Restaurant magazine four times, evergreens are “delicious” and shouldn’t be tossed out, but eaten instead. “At my restaurant we use their needles as a spice,” he wrote in the New York Times. “You can cook with a branch of spruce or fir as you would a sprig of rosemary or thyme. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if families gathered after Christmas, festively removed the decorations and then cut off the tasty needles of the tree to flavor their food?”

The needles, he explained, can be dried and mixed into a powder foracitrus-y, aromatic spice that can be used during cooking — adding to rice, rubbing on chicken, or smoking meat, for example. On top of that, smaller spruce branches can be added while cooking just as a flavor addition. “I find that game meats respond especially well to these flavors — which is not surprising, when you consider how animals like to eat the tender, bright-green shoots in spring,” Redzepi said.

But it’s not only Redzepi who dines on his Christmas tree. Designers Lauren Davies and Julia Georgallis, who specialize in the “alchemy of nature” and waste reduction, experimented with reusing Christmas trees as food. “The idea of cooking with a Christmas tree seemed fresh and in line with our ethics,” Georgallis told Vice. “So we did some research on what people have done with conifers in cooking. Still, there’s not a huge amount of information about people who’ve cooked their Christmas trees.”

However, something incredibly important: Make sure your tree is *not* a yew. “All spruce, firs, and pines can be eaten, but yew trees are extremely poisonous,” Davies told Vice.

That said, if you have a spruce, fir, or pine, it can be a totally delicious way to spruce (sorry, had to) up your dishes. “We had a lot of trial and error before we came up with recipes that made us realize it was doable,” Georgallis told Vice. “We discovered that Blue Spruce was very good when sweetened, and that it had a balsamic kind of flavour when infused in vinegar. Douglas Fir is particularly good with apple and lemon.”

You can also make pine needles into tea, which is incredibly healthy for you. According to Livestrong, pine needles are rich in vitamins A and C, and they could help prevent heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.

Next month, when you’re debating what to do with your faithful Christmas tree, just eat it. Your neighbors may look at you funny, but your body and tastebuds will thank you.

(Image via Shutterstock.)

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