Imagine that you’re lost in the wilderness. You look around desperately to find some food but there isn’t anything edible around.
But wait a minute! What about the pine cones lying undisturbed on the forest floor? Are pine cones edible in an emergency situation?
The answer is, yes. However, you need to consume it in the right way.
In this article, we will tell you all about using pine cones as survival food.
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What is a Pine Cone?
Pine trees are classified as gymnosperms and they bear no flowers or fruits. The primary distinguishing feature of the tree is the cones.
Each pine tree contains male and female pine cones that are necessary for reproduction. The male cones contain the pollen grains that fertilize the female cones. The seeds that are formed can become other pine trees.
If you study the anatomy of a pine cone, you’ll find a central axis. The woody scales are distributed spirally from this axis. The seeds are located at the bottom of each cone in pairs.
Pine cones come in various sizes. They can be between a few inches in length to 2 feet long like the cones of Sugar pine.
Interestingly, even though the cones are made of dead cells, you will find them folding up during rains to protect the seeds from short-distance dispersal.
The dark brown, scaled cones that you normally see are the female cones. These scales are a protective device for keeping the seeds safe. The male pine cones are smaller in size and are short-lived. They are mostly found during the spring.
Are Pine Cones Edible?
It’s the edible nuts contained in these seeds that are the best food source in a pine tree. There are around 20 species of pine trees that produce nuts that are large enough for consumption.
The green and tightly closed pine cones are the best choices for extracting nuts. You can easily extract the pine seeds by opening up the cones.
Once you break open the hard casing of the seeds, you will find the small ivory-colored nuts that come with a delicious buttery flavor. In fact, consuming pine nuts for food has been a popular practice across the world since ancient periods.
What About Eating Pine Cones?
The hard outer shell of a female pine cone isn’t the best choice for food. They are difficult to digest unless cooked. You may try to find younger cones that haven’t turned hard.
If you have a fire source, boil the cones to soften them up. They are a good source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C. In some cultures, the pine cones are ground and used as flour.
On the other hand, male pine cones are softer and can be consumed directly. What’s more, pine pollen is considered a superfood as it contains a wide range of micronutrients, antioxidants, and amino acids. In addition, it’s said to have multiple health benefits.
Traditionally pine needles have been brewed like tea and used for medicinal reasons. Pine needle tea is a great drink for beating the cold in the wild.
For the best taste, collect younger leaves that are light green in color. The rich piney taste makes it a refreshing drink after a tiring day. As a bonus, the drink is also a great source of nutrients.
The goal is to make the most out of your energy so consider cutting branches full of pinecones down using a survival saw or something similar. You’ll be able to harvest a bunch at one time and trimming trees every now and again is healthy for the tree.
What Else Is Edible?
The soft inner bark of a pine tree is also edible. You can use a survival knife to remove the hard outer bark and cut small strips from the inner bark. It’s best to boil it before eating.
Make sure to cut small strips from multiple trees instead of cutting large areas from the trunk of a single tree. This will allow the trees to heal themselves.
What are the Health Benefits of Pine Nuts?
Firstly, pine nuts contain minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, and manganese. In addition, they are also rich in Vitamin K and antioxidants.
The nuts also help in maintaining cardiovascular health and keep blood sugar levels steady. Some research suggests they are good for reducing inflammation and age-related symptoms in brain cells.
A single ounce of pine nuts delivers 191 calories, 3.9 grams of protein, 3.7 grams of carbs, and 19 grams of fat. They are not only energy-dense but are also rich in dietary fiber. That means they will help you to stay full for longer hours.
On the whole, pine nuts are one of the best survival foods that you can choose.
Are Pine Cones Poisonous to Humans?
No, pine cones aren’t toxic for humans. However, you may have some allergic reactions to pine cones. It’s best to take a few bites and wait to see if there are any reactions.
There are some rare cases of people experiencing pine nut syndrome or pine mouth. This is a bitter, metallic taste in the mouth that starts within 12 to 24 hours after consuming the nuts. It can last for weeks.
Note, this is not an allergic reaction and doesn’t have any other effects on health. The exact reasons behind pine nut syndrome are still not clear.
Beyond that, there are four varieties of pine trees that have toxic components and should be avoided. These are the Ponderosa pine, Lodgepole pine, Jeffrey pine, and the yew pine.
Learn how to identify pine trees before using them as a food source. When in doubt, it’s best not to take any risks during a survival scenario.
Beyond that, pine needle tea is usually considered safe for all aspects. However, it’s not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Keep in mind, pine cones are bad for dogs and cats. But this isn’t because they are toxic.
The reason is, the hardened components of a cone can lead to intestinal blockage and other forms of gastrointestinal problems for your pets.
By now you should have formed a clear idea about how to eat pine cones and other parts of a pine tree.
In truth, surviving on pine trees isn’t a common scenario. But as a prepper, you need to stay prepared for all eventualities.
Quite simply, these often ignored trees can be a key to staying alive when you’re stuck in an SHTF scenario.