Remember Euell Gibbons, the man who would ''eat a pine tree'' on TV?

This naturalist sold cereal — and was often spoofed — in the Seventies.

Read to Me

Writing about Grape-Nuts and its intertwined history with The Andy Griffith Show yesterday, we took a trip down memory lane. The cereal had some of the most memorable commercials of the Seventies. Sure, the sweeter breakfast bowls offered toons like Tony, Sam, and Lucky — and Life had the charming Little Mikey who "liked it" — but Grape-Nuts utilized a colorful character of its own. And he was a true flesh-and-blood eccentric.

Euell Theophilus Gibbons had been a hobo, beachcomber, boat builder, cowboy, communist, carpenter, 36-year-old college freshman, and Quaker. He led a fascinating life, but it was his fascinating diet that brought him fame.

In 1962, Gibbons published Stalking the Wild Asparagus, a book on the wonders of foraging for natural foods. Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop and Stalking the Healthful Herbs quickly followed, as the fiftysomething naturalist became a pop-culture phenomenon. He had hippie appeal, but it was hard to pin such a rugged wanderer to the hippie movement. He helped kick-start the health-food movement in America.

But, really, what he is best remembered for is the immortal question, "Ever eat a pine tree?"

Gibbons posed the question in a 1970s Grape-Nuts commercial. The cereal blew up in popularity thanks to a series of commercials with ol' Euell. The straightforward ads followed the naturalist out into the field, as he wandered through willows, cattails, and woods. He plucked leaves, twigs, nuts, and berries and popped them into his mouth, before settling down at his breakfast table for a bowl of Grape-Nuts.

"Its naturally sweet taste reminds me of wild hickory nuts," he repeatedly said of the cereal's flavor.

Comedians spoofed the ubiquitous commercials. On MeTV, you might have seen a parody. 

In the fall of 1973, The Carol Burnett Show welcomed regular guest John Byner. Near the end of his episode, Byner put on bushy white eyebrows, a wild wig, flannel shirt, and bandana. "Ever lick a river?" he asked.

Byner on The Carol Burnett Show

This fellow was not-so-subtly named "Yule Twibbons." He also began by asking, "You ever eat a pine tree?"… before going on to pop questions like, "Ever suck on a sunflower?" and "Ever try eating some pebbles?" 

"Yule" then sat down at a wooden table. And began eating the wooden planks of the table. Two orderlies come to take him away. Yule bites one on the forearm. "There's also nourishment in the human arm!" he declares before being dragged off camera.

Other shows poked fun at Euell. The children's show The Electric Company did a similar send-up for kids.

Gibbons would pass away in 1975, from complications due to his Marfan syndrome. The commercials and comedy stopped, understandably. But his question stuck in the head of everyone who lived through the era: "You ever eat a pine tree?" Well, did ya?

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Coldnorth 28 days ago
Have a shot of cheap gin. Instant pine needle taste
Jimo 1 month ago
Ever eat a pinecone.....some parts are edible.
Jimo 1 month ago
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kimmer 1 month ago
I begged my mom to buy a box....got anxious and broke 3 braces off my teeth....alas grape nuts were no more!
vinman63 2 months ago
Anyone who would eat a pine tree must be nuts?
LH 2 months ago
Best comment I remember from Johnny Carson. It put my mother in stitches. When talking about Euell Gibbons and his health food, Johnny Carson said, “you’ll live til you’re a hundred, but you’ll wish you were dead.” My mom STILL cracks up when I say that, and she’s 91 ! She doesn’t remember a lot at 91 but she still remembers that!!!
kimmer LH 1 month ago
I remember!!!!
LH kimmer 1 month ago
Now THAT was a GREAT line !!!
StrayCat 2 months ago
I remember those Euell Gibbons commercials. I was pretty young at the time and this really old guy came on TV espousing eating healthy food. What struck me was how feeble old and shaky he was, so i vowed never to eat whatever he was eating.
obectionoverruled 2 months ago
Gibbons died of Marfan Syndrome. I looked it up. Exhibited by body’s inability to develop adequate connective tissue! What? Celebrated victims included Lincoln, Julius Caesar, Michael Phelps and everyone’s favorite Moslem - Bin Laden. Victims tend to be tall, thin, with extended digits, metatarsals and limbs. Dang, I just conducted a self exam and am happy to report I don’t have this disease.
Michael obectionoverruled 2 months ago
I haven't eaten meat since 1979 (though I still enjoy junk food of a vegetarian kind) and had a kidney failure in early 2019, brought on by a rare autoimmune disease. But I didn't do it for health reasons.
JHP Michael 2 months ago
Oh c'mon try some cheap weenies from aldi for 80 cents :) for an 8 pack
JHP 1 month ago
Yuk!
JHP Pilaf 1 month ago
it took this long to get a rise from the gang:)

sorry but once in awhile cheapie hot dogs - diced onion on a bun - yummo
AnnieM 2 months ago
I remember those commercials well. I also remember him being a frequent punchline for Johnny Carson. My Grandma liked Grape Nuts; the one time I tried them, I thought I'd break a tooth! Now with all of those 'overnight' oats & grain cups out there, it might be a good time for me to try them again using that method.
stephaniestavr5 AnnieM 2 months ago
What "method" are you talking about? The "breaking your teeth" method?"
Michael stephaniestavr5 2 months ago
I think she's saying "soak the Grape Nuts overnight"
AnnieM Michael 1 month ago
Yes, soaking them overnight in the fridge! I've tried some of these granola-like cups that way, and found I really like them; everything gets nice and chewy.
geatornez82 2 months ago
Tim Conway did a bit on the Carol Burnett Show as Euell Gibbons once. "I'm gonna go eat your garage!"
Euell Gibbons was also spoofed on the Electric Company!
Yes- The Electric Company spoof link they provided in the story was funny. The st sounds.
I didn't read the story, only the comments. That's why I was surprised when I read your comment, about them-METV- having mentioned it.
Someone also mentioned that Tim Conway spoofed EG. I went to You Tube: The only one I saw was John Byner as EG. It was a Carol Burnett episode where they showed their best commercials spoofs. I have always enjoyed these episodes. The other one, (although they are all good,) I really like from this episode, was JB as Bing Crosby. He's lying in a hammock, etc....Check it out (If of course you haven't already seen it. Or even if you have....), its really funny! His impersonation was perfect!
Yes in the story if you click on the blue link " The Electric Company did a similar send-up" it's an Electric Company spoof of him focused on the "st" sound. I haven't seen the others you mention. I will have to check them out.
Here's the clip with Tim Conway doing Euell Gibbons. The part with Tim as Euell starts at 2:33. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeZvdkrsOq0&t=18s
stephaniestavr5 1 month ago
John Byner as Georgie Jessel had me in stitches!
UTZAAKE 2 months ago
Those Euell Gibbons Grape-Nuts TV commercials were so ubiquitous in the early-1970s. Unfortunately so were his detractors who were incredibly merciless at the time. All he did was raise awareness about foraging which actually comes in handy especially when one is out in the wild. He also contributed a few articles about foraging in the National Geographic magazine. Just glad that I got to understand the importance of his message as an adult. Oh, and Grape-Nuts is a good cereal.
Michael UTZAAKE 2 months ago
I noticed, because of this, that he'd written for National Geographic. I'll have to dig out the issues. I surely saw them at the time, but the name wouldn't have meant anything.
Rick 2 months ago
I remember the iconic line being, "Did you know most parts of a pine tree are edible?"

Am I misremembering?
Moverfan Rick 1 month ago
I remember it as many parts of the pine tree, but I couldn't tell you who's right. Maybe we could ask Mrs. Olson (if she's not busy making coffee)...or Josephine the plumber...
stephaniestavr5 2 months ago
Remember when cereals had prizes inside? Grape Nuts should've had the same thing. Maybe they could've put inside bag of wild hickory nuts! Or the next time someone decides to go camping: a Euell Gibbons compass, or secret decoder ring, to help decipher the animal tracks!
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Michael stephaniestavr5 2 months ago
The DVDs came long after I stopped buying cereal, but I bought some boxes to get the DVDs, I was just starting to buy them.s

I'mnot sure I saw the records, I can sort of visualize them, but not strongly, so maybe I just read about them.

Were they really cardboard, or those very thin vinyl like they sometimes put in magazines?

The boxtops were for more substantial things (and a name of a band). And probably more for other products, it's harder outting a toy in soup. Some products had deals often enough that my mother would keep the labels and boxtops, to be ready when an offer came along.

Nowadays the really good offers seem to require the "boxtops" and the cash register slip, with the item circled, to prove you bought the item.
stephaniestavr5 Michael 2 months ago
You said you bought the cereals for the DVDs, what if the offer for them was on one you didn't like? Did you eat it anyway, or give it to someone else? I don't think (no matter how interested I was in the DVDs, same goes for the premiums "back in the day,"- I would have gotten the cereal. I felt it would've been a waste of $$, unless I knew someone who would like the cereal.
The records were printed on cardboard, but if the part that was played was, I don't thing it would've played. The record part looked like a record. So I'm assuming the same material was used for these, as for a real record.
Thanks for mentioning the ones that came from magazines. I couldn't remember whether it was these, or the cereal box ones, that had a spot to place the coin (next to the hole,) to keep the record flat, so it would play.
You mentioned it would've been hard to place a premium in a can of soup! The closest to a liquid form that premiums were placed inside were powdered items. dish and clothes detergents had towels and knife sets inside them. Funny Face drink mix had decals/patches, I remember the Funny Face ones, but the only reason I know I of the others I think, is because I have seen their commercials.
JHP stephaniestavr5 2 months ago
give me capt crunch anything - gees what a A1C bomb
Back in the late sixties/early seventies, my mom bought Fab detergent both because it worked and because they had glasses (the kind you drink from) in the box. We had quite a few of them at one time.
OlgaBagley 2 months ago
I hate to admitted. But I rember him🤦🏼‍♀️
Andybandit 2 months ago
I never heard of this guy or saw the commercial.
He did more than one commercial. If you're interested, you can check him and his "wild hickory nuts" out on You Tube.
MrsPhilHarris 2 months ago
I love Grape Nuts but they aren’t made in Canada anymore. 🤨
daDoctah MrsPhilHarris 2 months ago
You've got Shredded Wheat (says "the original Niagara Falls cereal" right on the box). Be content with that.
MrsPhilHarris daDoctah 2 months ago
Actually I like Shredded Wheat. 😃 But it is not even close to the same taste.
I ran across an article that was datelined a year ago. It talked about Grape Nut Ice Cream, (something I don't think the States sold.)
The article said something to the effect, about being able to find the ice cream in most cities, but don't look for it in Alberta. (I didn't read it thoroughly, I just eyeballed it.) I don't know, (of course,) where in Canada you live, but are/were you able to get the ice cream? If so, what did it taste like? (I remember eating it a couple of times. It wasn't bad. It did have a sweet, nutty flavor as per the commercial's description.) I know you said that Post is no longer shipping/making it north of the border.
Sadly I never got to try it. In fact I’ve never heard of it.

I live in B.C. Borders are closed so I can’t even cross the line and go to Fred Meyers to buy it.
LoveMETV22 2 months ago
That is a unique name. Yule, Euell. The only other I can think of is Yul Brynner. Anyone else know of any famous Yules? besides yule logs LoL
Yule tide, yule tree.
stephaniestavr5 2 months ago
I remember seeing on You Tube, a behind the scenes look of Euell making one of his GP commercials. It was interesting. If I remember right, (unless I'm mixing it up with another one I saw,) it not only showed him shooting the commercial, but how the advertisers brainstormed the idea. Come to think of it, the video might have been about how tv ads are brainstormed in general and his commercial was used for an example.
For those of you who are stumped, (whenever the mood strikes you,) for something to watch on YT, you might want to consider Euell for you "viewing pleasure." (If, of course, YT still has it.)
I checked. The video is still on YT and it is about how tv ads are brainstormed, and Euell was used. The outtakes were rather amusing! Euell saying Jesus Christ, when he messed up! Out in the cold and snow, etc. Rating from Siskel & Ebert: (R.I.P. to them both.)
Michael 2 months ago
When I think of Post cereal, I think of Alpha-Bits and other sugar ladened cereal. The good stuff.

Did Euell Gibbons know Will Geer? They must have been in the same circles.

I think in 1962, it was camping that made his book attractive. If you're out in the woods, here's food. I think I remember digging for clams around that time. It's later in the decade that his books became more popular.

I never saw the ad. But I probably first heard his name in Lary Gross's "Junkfood Junky", played on Dr. Demento.
Peter_Falk_Fan Michael 2 months ago
I agree. When I was a kid, our usual Post cereal was either Honeycomb or Super Sugar Crisp. Usually, though, our choice of cereals depended on the toy inside.
Michael Peter_Falk_Fan 2 months ago
And despite the sugar, there were some I didn't like, but had to eat because I wanted the prize. Or more like the box sat unfinished, no new cereal until it was finished
Moverfan Michael 2 months ago
"I'm a friend of old Euell Gibbons and I only eat home-grown spice/I got a John Keats autographed Grecian urn filled up with my brown rice, yes, I do..."
The usual cereal when I was a kid was either Quaker Oatmeal or Cream of Wheat. T!!!hen graduated to Captain Crunch, Quisp, and Quake. Love the sugar
birddog 2 months ago
I do remember Euell on TV with some of his adventures! Did try some of that wild weed growing!! Jury still out on that one :))
stephaniestavr5 birddog 2 months ago
What kind of weed was it? Loco weed, gypsum weed, canabis weed?!?!
birddog stephaniestavr5 2 months ago
Wow! still trying to figure that one out RRR ✌
Zip 2 months ago
I never ate a pine tree. Though, I can't remember if I tried. I do remember that I did like Grape Nuts.
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