|Tough, two needle pine and male pollen cones|
|small sea beans|
There were several pines along a sandy road we were following along resident-restricted Weekapaug Beach. They were about 30 feet tall, but appeared somewhat stunted. I tried several sources to identify this species, but my best conclusion is a non-native species, either Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), or Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis). Neither grow in this area usually, but are used as ornamental landscaping. The bark of the mature trees are scaly, red underneath. The needles are tough and grow in pairs in the fascicles, about 4 inches long. The older cones do not have a sharp spur on each cone scale, just a bump. I did not notice large seeds in the cones, just thin, flat ones.
The pines seemed to be doing well in the salty environment where the ocean is just over a single dune. While passing one of the trees, we noticed they were making buds and small male pollen cones, and when we tapped the new growth, a cascade of yellow powder coated our hands. Robert suggested collecting the pollen, he observed that gathering pollen from these pines yielded much more than gathering pollen from cattails.I let him know we had an empty gallon jug in the Jeep, so he went back and got it and fashioned a gathering tool. He cut a hole into the side of the jug, and would place the pollen bearing male cones into the hole, then give it a tap. Most of the pollen stayed in the jug.
Lately we have started just snapping off each mature and some nearly mature male cones from each tree and putting them in a large bucket. We can't possibly reach every male cone because the trees are very tall, so over collection isn't an issue. One home, the bucket is placed in a warm area for a few days for the cones to mature further. We then take a piece of screen material, it is the same thing used to replace damaged window screens, and attach a sheet over the top of the bucket and shake the pollen out onto a very large piece of paper (best to do this outside on a day without wind, otherwise your furniture and shelves get a coating of pine dust!). For use we then start sifting the resulting pollen through finer and finer sifters until it is clear of debris, then spread it out over large platters and allow it to air dry for a few days. Once dry, we store it in glass jars in the freezer to use all year in baked goods and smoothies.
|Pine pollen, almond, oatmeal, and banana smoothies|
We brought the pollen home and sifted it first through a flour sifter to remove bugs and large debris. Then Robert sifted it through a tea strainer for very fine results. He spread the bright yellow powder on sheetpans to dry in a low oven, then put it in a glass jar in the freezer for storage. So far, we made some cheery, yellow cream-of-wheat, and pollen pancakes. The flavor is not very strong, but subtle. A search on Google brings up some amazing claims as to the nutritional and medicinal values of pine pollen, along with lots of purchasing sources. One site claims "Pine Pollen has over 200 bioacitve natural nutrients, minerals and vitamins" and will be happy to charge you $29.79 for 2 oz. of pollen.
Food found in the wild, free, but for your labor. The season is short, just about 5-10 days.
We have also made a tea, or more correctly, a tisane from pine needles. The needles of the white pine (Pinus strobus) are slender and fragile, and within easy distance of our house. We gather them fresh and steep them in very hot, boiled water for 20 minutes--don't boil the needles as it will dissipate the aromatic oils in the steam.. The flavor is refreshing and pine-y, and the tisane is full of vitamin C. Robert has also gathered some of the inner bark, or cambium layer of pines and tinctured it in brandy. Gillian also likes to chew on the inner bark as a trailside nibble, and it is full of starches, sugars, and vitamins.
|Evergreen syrup added to seltzer or mixed into cocktails is refreshing!|
Finally, spruce tips are a wonderful edible in the spring, nice and tender. Gillian loves to eat them raw and right off the tree! They can be infused into syrups, sugar, or even salt as a flavoring. When nice and light green, they can be chopped and added directly into a cookie like shortbread.