As I wrie this it is holiday season and time for some pine. Not just because they are a holiday plant – but also because they make a great addition to your homestead landscape and can be used in many ways.
Pine is Useful
Pretty. Evergreen. Great for shade. Can be used for food. Medicinal. Great for dye. Good for the garden. So many uses! We will cover an overview today. Some recipes will come later.
Wearing my Gardening With Soule hat – I recently discussed which pines grow well in the Low and Middle Desert and suggested getting a living holiday tree this year. Living Holiday Trees
Cooking With Pine
Most popular and widely known for cooking are pine nuts. But there is so much more to enjoy off your tree!
Fresh young needles of pine make a nice tea, can be chewed off the tree, or can be used to make a wonderful seasoned vinegar. (post soon).
Pine needles raw – simply chew them to extract the juices, and then spit out. Avoid swallowing them as they are high in silicates. Taste varies not just from tree to tree but also from branch to branch. If you don’t like the taste of the first needle you try, try again. Some needles are quite tasty.
Pine inner bark, carefully harvested, preserves the plant and is tasty indeed. You can fry it like bacon. Alternatively, dry it and grind it into meal for pan bread. It tastes rather nutty and stores well without going rancid like flour can. (post in summer)
Male cones are edible. These are the clusters of small, soft cones toward the tips of pine branches. These are the pollen-producing parts of the tree and are only available in spring. They can be eaten raw, baked, or boiled. (post in season)
Pine pollen is a good source of nutrition, including protein, folic acid, several B vitamins, and vitamins C and E. It even contains some vitamin D, which is not common in plants. The pollen also contains several minerals and trace elements. Like cattail pollen, it is easy to harvest, use, and store. (post in season)
Pine cones and twigs both make dyes that are relatively colorfast in sunlight. I am going to have to do some test batches and share them with you all.
Sap & Resins
Pine sap is sweet and tasty – but hard to come by. When you wound a pine tree to get the sap, you also get resin. The resin is that sticky stuff that clings to your hands forever. This resin is a strong anti-bacterial, and one of the reasons pines can survive like they do. There are anecdotal stories of woodsmen getting wounded and melting “pine pitch” to pour into the wound and help seal it. Not sure I would try this. Basically the resin is useful as a survival tool – great to help start fires and waterproof baskets – maybe not so necessary in our modern life.
Humans around the world have used pine as medicinal herbs for eons. They used whichever species lived near them to treat just about every sort of affliction. Pine has especially used for the ailments that have truly plagued humankind, like internal and external parasites and the aches and pains of being human and getting older.
In almost every case needles or bark are used as a herbal tea (infusion) to either drink or bathe tissues. For intestinal parasites, the tea was drunk, for external ones such as ringworm (a fungal infection) or lice, the tissues were bathed with pine tea. Pine oils and resins have also been extracted, purified, and used medicinally.
Safe for Medicinal Uses
Commission E, a German-based group which scientifically studied herbal medicines, recommends using pine oils externally for rheumatic and neuralgic complaints, as well as for upper and lower respiratory tract inflammation.
You can use fresh needles, or harvest and dry pine needles for later use. Drying allows some of the more acrid and bitter compounds to evaporate. The active ingredients are predominately in the oils and are not lost by drying.
Pine for Cleaning
Modern housekeepers around the world use pine-based cleaners to keep the house smelling clean and fresh, little realizing that this harkens back to a yesteryear tradition of using pine products, including turpentine, to kill off pests, treat colds, and dress wounds.
Note that some people and especially some cats are highly allergic to pine and pine-based cleaners. Allow your family members and pets to sniff the bottle of a new cleaner and wait 24 hours for negative reactions before using the cleaner throughout the home. Asthma and the inability to breathe is a life-threatening condition.
Self-groomers like cats should especially be tested first. Turns out, our homestead cat was highly allergic to the pine oils. His eyes ran and ran and breathing became labored. Learn from my mistake! Washing the floor 5 times with soapy water, trying to eliminate the pine oils, was a real pain. Dogs too can be affected. (Heres a video about our Homestead Cat)
I am sure I missed some of the many ways to use pine, because there are just so dang many! If you do want a holiday tree – I hope you will consider adding this useful plant to your yard. Ranks right up there with mesquite trees as all around good for us to grow and savor here in the Southwest.
Thanks for Reading
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