Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pine Trees and Survival

If you live in North America, you’re probably near pine trees, and they can be used in several ways for survival. For one thing, they supply a free source of survival food. You’ve heard of pine nuts, right? They’re seeds that come from pine trees. Of the more than 100 species of pines, only a few have large seeds, but the seeds of all pine trees are edible. Some just take a bit more work.
How to harvest pine nuts
The easiest way to harvest pine nuts is to gather the pinecones after they’ve opened, which is usually in the fall. Place the cones in an old pillowcase and hit them against a large tree, a brick wall, or some other hard, sturdy surface. This will force the seeds out. The seeds have to be shelled before eating and can be enjoyed raw or toasted in a skillet or in the oven. When dried and stored properly, pine nuts will keep for several months and are a good source of iron, protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, manganese, and magnesium.
Eating the phloem
You can also eat the phloem of pines. The phloem is the soft tissue inside the tree that transports glucose and other nutrients. The phloem from small twigs usually has a sweet taste, and it contains vitamin A and vitamin C. Native American tribes often ate pine phloem. It can be eaten as is, or it can be dried and pulverized. The resulting powder can be used to make bread or to thicken stews.
Pine needle tea
Have you ever tasted green pine needles? I don’t know why, but I used to like to chew on them as a kid. I always thought they had sort of a citrus taste. The young, tender needles make the best tea.  After harvesting a handful of needles, rinse them well in clean water. Break them up into small pieces and cover them with boiling water. Steep the tea for about fifteen or twenty minutes. Pine needle tea is a great source of vitamin C.

Pine trees have a thick, sticky resin that can be used as glue. Examine holes or splits in the trunk for the resin. If you can’t find enough resin, cut a notch in the tree and return later to collect the resin oozing from the cut. If the resin has already hardened, heating it will soften it.
Dental uses
Pine resin can also be used to fill cavities in teeth. Take a small bit of semi-soft resin and place it in the cavity to mold it into the perfect fit. Pull the resin out and allow it to harden. Return it to the tooth, with just a tiny dab of soft resin to hold it in place.
Pine resin makes a great fire starter, and you can burn dried pine cones, too. Of course, you can also burn dried pine logs, but they’re not good for cooking over. Pine fires do, however, provide a lot of quick heat.