First of all, the pine nuts (which are actually seeds) of all pine trees are edible and nutritious, though those varieties growing in the southwest are of the largest size. These ‘nuts’ are located underneath the scales of pinecones. These will slowly dry and open on their own depending on the time of year, but they can also be placed near a fireplace, which will hasten the drying process. Young pinecones can be steamed or boiled and then eaten; they can be eaten raw, but taste tartly of turpentine. Other edible uses include eating the cambium (inner bark) by boiling into a porridge or frying into a crunchy snack or steeping the needles in hot water to create a pine-needle tea. One forager recommends cutting up fresh pine needles and soaking them in hot water instead of boiling, as boiling them releases bitter-tasting terpenes (similar to turpentine). During Lewis and Clark’s expedition, Sacajawea used loblolly pine needles to cure the men of scurvy. In fact, there is evidence to support the use of pine-needle tea as a remedy for the flu, common colds, obesity, dementia, bladder and kidney issues, as an antidepressant, anti-hypertensive, anti-tumor, to reduce the toxicity of chemotherapy on patients, and for many other health problems. Nutritionally, pine needles are extremely high in vitamin C, containing nearly five times the concentration of that found in a lemon, providing approximately 400 milligrams of vitamin C per cup of tea. Moreover, pine-needle tea is high in vitamin A, an antioxidant required for healthy vision, red blood cell production, and skin and hair regeneration. It should be noted, however, that pregnant women should avoid taking pine-needle tea because it contains phytoestrogens which can affect the pregnancy. The pollen of the loblolly can be eaten as well, being nearly identical to the hormone testosterone in the human body and was once used as a testosterone supplement. Native American warriors would carry pouches of loblolly pollen to ingest to energize them before battle.
Furthermore, one can also tap pine trees to collect their resin, which contains turpentine which is antiseptic, diuretic, vermifuge, antimicrobial, and antifungal. This resin, once tapped, will harden with exposure to air, but can be reheated to soften it for use. Native Americans would chew this resin or make it into a drink by mixing it with water, which was thought to help stomach ulcers and ease rheumatoid arthritis. Wild food expert Sunny Savage notes that loblolly resin flowing from the tap smells strongly of butterscotch. Survivalists note that pine resin can be used to waterproof and seal things like a hole in a shoe, can be used to make pine resin glue, and therefore similarly can be used to treat wounds by sealing them or at least using the resin to stem the flow of blood similar to stitching. Moreover, the resin can be collected into some kind of container, such as a depression in a rock or a bowl-shaped piece of wood/bark and burned as an emergency candle by putting a wick-like material on top to get the fire started which will then ignite the resin. More resin can be added to this resin once ignited.
Another interesting fact is that out of more than one-hundred species of plants in the Pinus genus, the loblolly pine is the first to have its genome completely sequenced, which is a very long, tedious process. Furthermore, of those organisms that have had their genome sequenced, the loblolly pine has the largest sequenced genome size with more than 20 billion base pairs, more than seven times larger than that of humans.
So remember, try and eat one wild food every day, just add it to something you are already eating! If you have ideas for wild food articles or have any questions or comments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.