I was out with my son this afternoon, gathering rosehips watching him eat all the rosehips I had gathered, and thinking of what else I could be gathering from the woods before the snow sets in. We're weaning, and I think I see a lot of long walks in our future for the next couple of weeks as he gets acclimated, so yea, it'd be nice to have a forest grocery list.
I've heard of locals around here foraging for pine nuts, but I'm not really sure how - it's something I probably need to ask a few local old timers more about. In the mean time though, has anyone ever successfully foraged for them? I hear they're tricky to find and harvest, and from the look of this article, it looks like I may have missed the boat.
Nonetheless, looking for the sage wisdom of the people here at Permies - are they already out of season? Which species in particular produce them? We have predominantly lodgepole and ponderosa pine here.
lodgepole pine cones are small and produce very small seeds. Ponderosa cones are much larger, but I've never harvested or seen their seeds to know for sure what it produces.\
When I harvested pine nuts for food, I was in Utah. These trees were Pinon pine. We harvested the cones when they were still green and jammed full of sap. We placed these sappy cones on a hot rock by a hot fire, and the sap melted away, and the cone opened up, revealing the seeds, which were pretty much ambrosia on a primitive survival trip.
I think that you are probably much too late in the season to harvest pine nuts, as the cones are likely opened and or harvested by birds and rodents.
That's all I got.
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:I think that you are probably much too late in the season to harvest pine nuts, as the cones are likely opened and or harvested by birds and rodents.
Yeaaaa that's kinda what I figured, especially with this growing season down here :/ Ah well, maybe next year. I appreciate you sharing your experience though Roberto, I'll have to add this one to my forage calendar for next year to take a crack at. Maybe those pondy's have some hidden gems in them.
Destiny Hagest wrote:I've heard of locals around here foraging for pine nuts, but I'm not really sure how - it's something I probably need to ask a few local old timers more about. ... We have predominantly lodgepole and ponderosa pine here.
When we lived where there were pine trees, I researched pine nuts. At that time I basically found that they were from Pinyon Pine so I stopped looking. Now I find that there are other varieties.
Here is some interesting information:
"Most pine nuts take roughly 18 months, but some can take up to three years. They bud in the beginning of spring and grow until the end of summer. The cones become dormant during fall and winter and reach maturity come the following spring/summer season."
"Pine nuts are ready to harvest about 10 days before the green cone begins to open. The cones are dried in a burlap bag in the sun for 20 days, to speed up the process of drying and opening. The cones are then smashed (as a way to quickly release the seeds) and the seeds are separated by hand from the cone fragments. The fact that it takes a lot of time and patience is an understatement — and justifies the high price of pine nuts."
"Pine nuts have a second shell, which also has to be removed before eating. (Are you beginning to finally forgive the high price?) The shell varies from very thick and challenging to remove to thinner and therefore easier to handle."
Any and all pine, fir and spruce cones have edible seeds. Many of them are just a big old pain to harvest enough to be worthwhile though. Lodgepoles are pretty small seed wise but they are one of the easiest to remove. They don't open without fire, so all you need to do is gather as many cones as you can and set them very near a fire. If you have a wood stove, place a big pot on top with a bunch of them in the pot. Much less labor intensive than most others. The fact that they don't open without fire also means you can gather them from the ground as well as the trees which makes processing enough more worthwhile. Ponderosa are good eating, but a major pain to get at. Whitebark pine is the best you will find outside the Pinyon, but there have been massive diebacks of them in the last few years due to an invasive fungus. They are subalpine though, and mostly grow above 6000 plus feet, growing best above 10,000. Very slow growing species which is why the fungus has hit them so hard. I think their flavor is every bit on par with Pinyon pine nuts.
Spruces and firs in Montana are a little easier to get the seeds but tend to be small so you need many more cones.
Overall the main problem you will encounter with seeds from any of these is long term storage. They don't store for more than a week outside the cone, though roasting can somewhat extend this. Freezing can extend this a bit, but not through a whole winter if you are looking to have a good winter nut. They are best just enjoyed as a seasonal food in my opinion. Unless you have the more traditional "pine nut" species on your property which do preserve better.
One excellent use of pine, spruce, and fir is the early spring buds. Gather them for teas in very early spring (before the snows have melted much) for a boost of vitamin C and other much needed vitamins, as they are the first green things in the north. A good way to preserve them for a year or so is to place them in vinegar or alchohol. Those who are big fans of gin will find the teas, vinegars and alcohols to be right up their alley.