Pine isn’t usually the first tree that comes to mind for wilderness survival, especially for food. But the humble pine tree doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. Nearly every part of the tree contains edible material, from the root to the needles. Pines are full of food! That being said, the amount of food contained within each part of the tree can differ widely based upon species, but if you are hungry in the wilderness, a pine is always worth a look.
The pencil thin portions of a pine tree’s roots can be eaten. The outer bark should be removed, and the root can be cooked or eaten raw.
The cambium layer of the tree can also be eaten raw or cooked. To harvest it, remove the outer bark from a section of a large old pine in order to increase the tree’s case of recovery. If there is a thin pale layer attached to the dark woody outer bark, that is the cambium, some is also likely to be stuck to the tree. Use a knife to peel it away. The taste doesn’t improve much when it is boiled, but it does become a little easier to chew.
Not all pines produce nuts that are large enough to justify collecting them for food. But, if you don’t know every species of pine and its nuts, it’s worth collecting a few pine cones to test them out. Look for closed pinecones that have prickles on them. Roast them in a fire until they open up. Look inside to see if you have nuts worth eating and collecting more of. Shell the nuts prior to eating them.
Male pinecones are the soft orange cone shaped pollen dispensers found in spring. These can be boiled and eaten. They are a great source of protein when meat is not available.
The needles cannot be eaten as food, but they can be chopped and boiled to make a tea. The tea tastes good and can improve one’s morale while dealing with the psychological stresses of survival. It also contains vitamin C, which can provide a much-needed boost to your immune system while you are dealing with the physical stresses of survival, as well.
Even though the pine doesn’t produce any tasty fruit and some don’t produce large nuts, a pine tree is still a real source of vital food for wilderness survival that should not be taken for granted.
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