The Edible Pine
As I look out my window, all I see are the pine trees lining my driveway, the snow has melted, signs of spring have finally appeared, I catch myself dreaming of warm summer days; that I almost forgot all the amazing qualities that pine has to offer.
Pine is a quick growing, light wood tree that is adaptable to harsh environments, tends to grow well-spaced, protecting and providing shelter and nutrients for smaller, more sensitive plant species and provides multiple uses throughout the year. Almost every part of the tree is edible and is an important survival food for most forest critters and can be a life saver for us as well. It has a long history for its uses as food, medicine, shelter and survival food preventing starvation and scurvy. Pine needles are very high in vitamin C and make a tart flavourful tea but should not be used during pregnancy. Its inner bark can be stripped and eaten raw or blanched quickly in boiling water to create a pasta-like dish, fried in butter till crispy or dried and ground as a thickener for soups and stews. The inner bark is high in starch and sugar and provides the essential energy we need in survival situations. All pine tree nuts are edible but can be a difficult and time consuming pursuit as most open only after a fire. If you have the time or inclination, place the cones near a source of heat and allow the pine cones to dry out. The nuts will be found in wing shaped coverings that can be rubbed off to expose the nut (which is truly a seed.) Sounds like the perfect task when on a camping trip, being present in the moment and enjoying the abundance that nature has to offer.
Pine has many medicinal and practical uses as well. I collect pine needles and infuse them in white vinegar for a week then strain and dilute with water for washing floors, counters and walls. The oils from pine needles are a mild disinfectant, antifungal and decongestant and leaves a fresh woodsy scent that as an aromatherapist, I know has the added benefits of reducing nervousness and mental fatigue. I am currently dreaming up a new soap and skin salve made from dried needles and pitch which when used topically help heal abrasions and mild skin irritations due to its antiseptic, deodorizing properties as well as ease sore joint and muscle pain due to its warming properties, increasing circulation. The steam from pine needles are good for lung congestion and can ease bronchial ailments caused from the common cold or pneumonia.
When out on my daily forest walks I am always on the look out for fallen pine branches and pine resin, like nuggets of gold to me, to bring home and create inspired wildcraft body products.
Healing Pine Bath
Add a handful of pine needles to a warm bath with a cup of Epsom salts to help ease aching muscles and chest congestion.