As I sit here writing this, a steady snow is coming down outside, covering up what remains of my plant friends. Tomorrow, we will wake up to a winter wonderland, but I won’t be doing any foraging.
At times like these, foragers in the north east have traditionally turned to their stores to get them through the winter months. When these supplies began to dwindle they would often turn to the trees for sustenance. The foliage of the evergreens and the inner bark of several species provided some nutrition until spring growth comes around.
Fortunately, in this modern age, we have no need to prepare for winter or to resort to eating trees, however, it is good to know that we can turn to evergreens for sustenance and medicine in times of need - particularly the ubiquitous White Pine.
During those sparse winter months it is reassuring to know that tea made from the needles and inner bark is filled with vitamin C and other antioxidants. However, to enjoy the benefits of the white pine, one needs do little more than to cut a strip of bark from a small limb and chew on it. It is rather like putting a cough drop in your mouth. You can almost immediately feel the soothing effects on your throat. If you are all stuffed up with a cold or a sinus infection it won't be long before you start to feel relief.
Even the Pine cones can be of medicinal use. Each cone is generally spattered with chunks of dried Pine resin, which can be scraped off and used. Just a note: As pinecones are resinated , they make great fire starters.
Larger chunks of gummy resin can be harvested from the trunks and limbs of wounded trees, however, this resin is usually filled with debris, needing to be melted down and filtered before it can be used.
Pine resin has a number of uses; as an adhesive, a sealer, a fire starter and as medicine. It is anti-microbial, anti-fungal and analgesic (three straight A’s). It can be dissolved in olive oil, to create a medicinal oil (using the hot oil method) to be used in the treatment of wounds, chest ailments and cold symptoms.
The Pine oil can be mixed with bees wax to create a healing salve which can be used to soothe burns, bites, ulcers and hemorrhoids. It will even draw out splinters. A mixture of 75% pine resin and 25% bees wax makes a good adhesive, that won’t get brittle.
In May, the pollen can be collected and used to make a tincture, for combatting tiredness and boosting testosterone. We gather the catkins just as the pollen is beginning to release in the air (this is a very brief period, so you need to keep an eye on the tree to make sure you are there at the right time.
I carefully snip off the catkins (male cones) and put them into a clean gathering bag. A brown paper shopping bag with no holes is ideal. When we’ve gathered sufficient, we take them back and put them through a sieve to extract the pollen (be prepared for everything to turn yellow). It is best stored in the freezer, until you are ready to use it.
To make a tincture from either the resin or the pollen, a strong (at least 95%) alcohol is required.
Pine Resin Tincture:
Use either the resin scraped off pine cones, resin that has been purified by melting in a pan, then pouring through a fine metal sieve, leaving behind the unwanted debris.
Break the resin into small pieces
Half fill a jar with resin resin
Add enough 95% alcohol to almost fill the jar
Put the lid on tightly
Store in a dark place
Shaking regularly at least once a day, until the resin is dissolved (could take a while!)
It may need to be filtered once finished
Once it is ready, add an equal amount of water before jarring up for storage
The pollen tincture is made similarly.