British Columbia

Saanich woman creates dipping sauces, vinegars and drinks from Douglas fir needles

“They say when you've got lemons you have to make lemonade. Well I had lots of fir trees so I had to do something very different with the fir trees."

Laura Waters initially planted fir trees on her Vancouver Island farm to sell as Christmas trees

Laura Waters holds a glass of one of her sparking Douglas fir drinks she created. (Laura Waters)

A dipping sauce made from chili and Douglas fir, Douglas fir vinegar, and even sparkling Douglas fir drinks — those are just some of the things Laura Waters came up with when she started experimenting with the needles that come from the large evergreen tree.

Waters, who sells gift baskets, home-made cards and food products through Snowdon House Gourmet & Gifts in Saanich, said she initially planted fir trees on her Vancouver Island farm to sell as Christmas trees.

"I kept mowing in between them and thinking there had to be something better to do with the trees," Waters told North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay.

She said she knew that indigenous people used to use the needles to make tea, so she began researching what else she could do with the fir tips.

Waters has now created a variety of products using fir, including a bread made with juniper and Douglas fir, and a herb blend of Douglas fir seasonings that she said goes well with cream cheese and goat cheese and can be spread on bread.

'It seems to heighten different flavours'

She has also created what she calls a "fir and fire dipping sauce" — a combination of Douglas fir with red and green chili peppers — which she said she cooks meatballs in.

Waters has created vinegars, sparking sodas and dipping sauces from Douglas fir needles. (Laura Waters)

She also makes vinegars from Douglas fir, offering variations of blueberry and fir, strawberry and fir, peach and fir.

"I wanted something that was Canadian. Everyone uses balsamics, but I wanted to showcase local fruit and use a vinegar that didn't have sulphites. White vinegar doesn't have sulphites, it's Canadian, and we infuse it with local fruit," she said.

Waters adds carbonated water to the vinegars to create a range of sparking Douglas fir drinks — but said that anyone who has one of the Douglas fir vinegars could top it up with soda water to create their own drink.

She said she finds that fir heightens the flavour of other ingredients.

"When we add the fir to the strawberries to make the fir strawberry vinegar, they taste beyond the possibility for strawberries. It totally punches them to a different level," she said.

"So it seems to heighten different flavours. And the more you play with spices and flavours the more you see what it works best with, and what it doesn't work well with."

"They say when you've got lemons you have to make lemonade. Well I had lots of fir trees so I had to do something very different with the fir trees," she laughed.

With files from CBC's North by Northwest


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