If you purchased a live Christmas tree for the holiday season, you are probably already familiar with the fresh, aromatic scent of the fir tree, and its long lasting needles. As you may already know, fir trees are not a single species, as there are approximately 50 different species of firs that thrive throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Many firs are endemic to North America, and are often used to complement garden landscapes. In the past, Native peoples of North America used firs both for nourishment and medicinal purposes.
Most temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including mountain ranges.
Firs are evergreen conifers reaching heights of 10 to 80 meters (30-260 feet) and trunk diameters of up to 4m (12 feet). Firs are most closely related to cedars. They are fragrant coniferous trees with whirled branches, and thin, smooth young bark, with bulging resin blisters. They have characteristic slender, tightly wrapped pine cones (5-25cm, 2-10in. long). Fir trees’ flattened needles do not roll between fingers. Needles are attached to twigs by suction-like base. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Abgragra-top.jpg for image.)
Historical Food Uses:
Cone fragments of subalpine fir were ground into powder and mixed with animal marrow or fat. This paste was cooled and hardened. It was served at social events as a treat that helped aid digestion. The inner bark of balsam fir trees was ground into flour that was very nutritious, but not very palatable.
Dried, powdered needles were mixed with deer grease to heal sores, cuts, wounds and ulcers. The needles are very high in Vitamin C and also help to stimulate urination. Fir needle tea was used to cure colds and fevers. White fir branches were made into tea to treat Malaria.
Firs are commercially produced as Christmas trees because they hold their needles and have a beautiful aromatic fragrance. Norman Fir, Noble Fir, Fraser Fir and Balsam Fir are amongst the most popular Christmas trees. However, there is no major market for virgin fir timer products, because the quality of the wood is poor. However, the pulp of fir trees can be reconstituted and thus used for manufacture of plywood and rough timber products. Fir trees are also used as decorative plants in contemporary landscaping; amongst them the Fraser fir and Korean fir are most popular.
Fir resin can cause skin irritations and reactions in some people. Evergreen teas and fir needles should be taken in moderation.