Harvesting Pine Pollen– How & Why

We spent Saturday afternoon harvesting pine pollen.  I know, you’re probably wondering why we would do that!  The idea had never crossed my mind, until a recent email conversation with a reader in Oregon.  We were talking about wild foods, and she said that she and her husband were going to be harvesting pine pollen.  I started looking it up, and was quickly convinced that we should do it, too!Harvesting Pine Pollen How & Why

Why you might want to try harvesting pine pollen:

I learned a ton of fascinating information in the last couple weeks about pine trees and pine pollen!  Not only are most parts of the tree edible, but pine trees offer us so much in terms of nutrition and medicinal benefits.  Pine pollen has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, as both food and medicine.

Here are the nutritional properties of pine pollen:

  • Contains 18 amino acids
  • Has numerous vitamins, including A, B1, B2, B6, B3, B9, Vitamins C, D (rare for plants!) E and Beta Carotene
  • Is full of minerals
  • Contains many powerful anti-oxidants
  • Has beneficial enzymes and other beneficial compounds

Some uses in Chinese medicine include:

  • Relieving rheumatic pain
  • Relieving fatigue
  • Increasing endurance
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Improving the skin
  • Strengthening the heart
  • Strengthening the GI tract and stomach
  • Increasing mental agility
  • Healing prostate problems
  • Increasing agility
  • Decreasing weight

Now pine pollen is becoming super-popular with herbalists, nutritionists and wild-food enthusiasts.  Daniel Vitalis especially promotes the benefits of pine pollen, and has recorded a podcast about it.  I found so many totally-jazzed hippie-types making videos about gathering it.  And it was kind of hilarious and also just fascinating and educational!

From the Surthrival site, I found these benefits of taking pine pollen, both for men and women:

  • Restore hormone levels in Andropause and Menopause
  • Regulate and strengthen the immune system
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Relieve rheumatic pain
  • Enhance metabolic function of the skin and nourish the hair at its roots
  • Adjust the endocrine system and raise immunity power of the organs
  • Improve endurance for high efficiency and quick pace
  • Protect the cardiovascular system and increase superoxide dismutase levels (potent antioxidant) in the heart, blood, liver, and brain
  • Improve metabolism and regulate weight
  • Accelerate activity of the liver cells and regulate bile secretion
  • Regulate prostate function
  • Common cold preventative
  • Restore androgen and estrogen balance
  • Improve metabolism and regulate weight (safe and toxic-free fat-lowering supplement)
  • Nourish the brain
  • Stimulate liver regeneration
  • Increase free testosterone levels in the blood
  • Dramatically improves your vitality and stamina

So interesting, right?  I have a history of adrenal exhaustion, so my ears always perk up when I hear about things that support adrenals and help to normalize hormones.  I was totally sold on collecting some! (Especially after I saw how much it costs to buy it.)

Harvesting Pine Pollen

The weekend before last, we went and checked the local pine trees on our foraging walk.  The male catkins that hold the pollen were still very firm, and there was no powder.  However, I broke some off and ate them.  People.  I have to tell you, you must try them!  They are crisp, juicy and taste like a Christmas tree in the best possible way!  They have a slight sweetness and the feel of under-ripe apples.  Seriously, they are tasty!  Just peel off the papery bits and enjoy.IMG_9460We picked a bunch and brought them home.  I finished peeling off the papery parts, then put them in raw, local honey.  This is a great way to preserve the pollen, by the way.  They have given the honey a great flavor, and are slowly releasing their yellow pollen into the honey.

I knew that the pollen was about to be released from the pine trees in our area, because some of the lowest catkins were slightly powdery.  So on Saturday (a week later) we went to collect.  And we were right on time!  Those little green buds had swelled and become soft, releasing puffs of pollen with every breeze. (I forgot my camera, and just have pictures from my phone of the pine pollen harvesting.)photo 3We brought several zip-lock bags, and slid them over the catkins as we popped them off of the branches into the bags– there was a lot of pollen released as we did this.  We found so many low-hanging pine branches covered with these catkins, so there was plenty.  We got pollen all over us, and gathered about 2 1/2 full bags.Harvesting Pine PollenI do not recommend doing this if you have pine pollen allergies, obviously.photo 4Gathering this amount took about 1 1/2 hours for Jeff and me.  (Amelia mostly spent that time gorging on miner’s lettuce she found underneath the pines.)  Some people bring a big paper bag, stick a branch in there and shake really vigorously.  But this is more efficient.  It’s pretty much impossible to over-harvest, as the trees are usually way too tall for you to even reach the majority of the branches.

After a break for snacks and lying in the grass to soak up some sun, we headed home with our harvest.
Processing Pine Pollen After HarvestIMG_9521The first thing I did was to empty the bags into a very large bowl and start picking out twigs, bugs and pine needles.  Amelia ran a “bug rescue” operation, carting them out carefully into the garden on leaves.IMG_9520I saved the pine needles, which had a fair amount of pollen on them, for making tea.  I boiled a big pot of water, and added them to it to steep overnight. (The next day, I decided to try a pine needle soda, sweetening with some of the pine pollen honey and using leftover blackberry soda as a starter culture.  I’ll keep you posted on the results!) [Update: the pine soda definitely "worked" but the flavor was pretty antiseptic.  We let it ferment longer to "dry out" and be more like a non-alcoholic beer.  We drank it, but it wasn't that great.  But I see potential for brewing beer with pine in the future!]IMG_9525Next, I pulled out the green, juicy young catkins to add to my jar of honey from the previous week.  We ended up also adding more honey.IMG_9531 I left the rest of the catkins in the metal bowl in a warm spot, covered loosely with a kitchen towel, to dry out a bit overnight.  Yesterday, I started sifting.  I haven’t gotten through all of them yet, but did sift out 9 grams, which was 1/8 of a cup.  I have a whole lot more to do this afternoon or maybe tomorrow, and will update with the final amounts.  I decided to wait a little while for more of the catkins to dry out and release their pollen.IMG_9534To gather the pollen from the catkins, you’ll need to sift a few times, ending with a bit of cheesecloth over your strainer.  This is pretty effective in only letting the very fine pollen particles through.

Pine Pollen Tincture
With the 9 grams I strained out yesterday, I made a tincture by adding 2 parts high-quality (non-gmo) vodka to 1 part pollen.  I am keeping it in a glass jar in my cupboard, agitating occasionally, for two weeks.  At the end of two weeks, I’ll strain it through the cheesecloth again into a glass dropper bottle for a very strong tincture.  For more information about using a pine pollen tincture, I would recommend looking at the information at the Surthrival shopI am not a doctor or an herbalist, so I cannot give any advice on taking the supplement, but I would definitely encourage you to do a bit of your own research!

Storing Pine Pollen
Another good way to store the pollen is in a glass jar in the freezer.  From what I gather, pine pollen is pretty safe in any amount as a whole food, for men, women and children.  People like sprinkling it on their food or adding it to smoothies, etc.  It becomes much more powerful in tincture form, and will need to be treated more intentionally that way.  I plan to keep mine in honey and make tinctures, and will experiment with some other food usages.

I wanted to get this post up right away, as NOW is the time in many places to go out and start gathering pine pollen.  The season is from now to early June, so get out there and check your pine trees!  If you need some help identifying the conifers in your area, this video might be helpful.

Have you ever eaten any part of a pine tree?  Do you think you’ll try harvesting pine pollen?  I think it’s a fun and interesting thing to do!

Sources: http://www.surthrival.com/supplements/pine-pollen-gold.html?acc=e4da3b7fbbce2345d7772b0674a318d5, http://supermanherbs.com/pine-pollen/

Harvesting Pine Pollen How and Why  And Here We Are...PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

, , ,

16 Responses to Harvesting Pine Pollen– How & Why

  1. Naomi May 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    How neat! I gathered some spruce tips this spring (and am still planning on getting a post up about it) but haven’t heard of pine pollen before. On our next walk I’ll keep my eyes open for pine pollen now!

    • ariana May 6, 2014 at 9:08 am #

      I hope you find some, at the right time Naomi! What will you do with your spruce tips? We’ve been thinking about a Spruce Tip Beer…

  2. GrassFood May 6, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    As always, Ariana, totally brilliant! I have never heard of this and am so glad to find out before our pine trees bud out! Thank you. :) Jamie

    • ariana May 20, 2014 at 9:10 am #

      Great! I hope you can gather some when the time is right, Jamie!

  3. Hilda May 6, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

    Thanks for the timely post. Can’t wait to try it out.

    • ariana May 20, 2014 at 9:11 am #

      Great– I hope you can get some!

  4. Cathy May 6, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

    Sounds lovely; I’ll have to try gathering some!
    As for the pine soda, I’m guessing it won’t fizz? Seems like the anti microbial properties of the honey would kill the good microbes in the culture.
    Found your blog on a link from Punk Domestics, now I’m looking forward to seeing the rest!

    • ariana May 20, 2014 at 9:12 am #

      Hi Cathy! Actually, I have successfully made sodas with honey quite a few times. People often don’t think it will work, because it won’t work with kombucha– but it’s just fine with lacto-fermented sodas. The soda definitely fermented quickly, but the taste turned out to be rather antiseptic. We let ours dry out quite a bit, and drank it more like a non-alcoholic beer. It was OK, not great.

  5. Raia Torn May 7, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    Soo, I’m guessing if you’re allergic to pine you shouldn’t do this? Cause I’d be all for it if I could breathe when our pines are pollinating, but I can’t. :/

    • ariana May 20, 2014 at 9:13 am #

      Raia, you’ll want to skip this wild food– it’s not for people with pine pollen allergies.

  6. Todd F Wright May 18, 2014 at 5:22 am #

    Ariana – Thanks for writing this! We love finding, eating, and preserving wild foods. We were just reading through this, and I immediately ran outside to the Scotch Pines and plucked a few catkins. We tasted them, even though it’s a week or two early. I never even thought about eating them, but we can see how they will taste pretty good.

    Anyhow, do you ever put spruce (or pine) leaves in your drinking water? I have done this for years, and it really does taste great. My favorites are red spruce and jack pine. Give it a try. I just put them in bottles of water in the fridge and let them soak in it.

    • ariana May 20, 2014 at 9:15 am #

      Hi Todd! So happy to hear that you read this in time to enjoy some juicy catkins– and I’m sure you’ll be able to harvest some, too!

      I like eating spruce tips– they are so citrus-y! We haven’t added them to our drinking water, but that’s a great idea we’ll have to try. Thanks!

  7. guestimate June 12, 2014 at 4:50 am #

    I harvested pine pollen this year, a local Goodwill store and city park had a dozen or so smaller trees so the catkins were low and eminently pickable! At first I was frustrated because the ripe buds shed 90% of their pollen to the air before I could get the bag over the branches, and the bag kept snagging! Then I got the idea to just pick the bud clusters that hadn’t opened yet; I filled a garbage bag about 3/4 full and brought them home, lining the bottoms of two big plastic trays that I set upstairs in my warm attic. In a few days, most had opened and dropped their pollen into the trays. I carefully scooped the clusters by hand (to prevent too much pollen from becoming airborne) into a screen bag, already placed in a garbage bag, and just shook and massaged the inner screen bag. That caused most of the pollen still in the buds to fall through the screen bag into the garbage bag. Then I emptied the dregs and refilled the screen bag like before. I’ve done this to the entire batch, twice, and collected over a kg of pine pollen! And the dregs still have some unopened buds that need to be rubbed through the fingers as they dry out, to obtain what pollen still remains. If you want to buy pine pollen it’s expensive! Sellers in China charge upward of $100/kg or more! I found a few whose price + shipping were under $70. but free is still better! Pine trees are so common and often wild, a really valuable and unexploited resource.

    I recall reading a story about a chinese maiden who escaped to a pine forest when raiders attacked her village. Living in the wild she was cold, wet and miserable. An Immortal appeared in answer to her prayers and showed her the bounty of the forest she was living in. She began eating the pollen and pine nuts and grew very strong, her body developed a coat of soft fur and she could run so fast, no one could catch her.

  8. Lori Powell June 27, 2014 at 2:46 am #

    It’s almost july here in denver do you think it would be to late, we have had some very wicked wind here?

    • guestimate June 29, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

      You have to go out and physically look at the buds. If they’re just starting to open, yes their pollen will blow away, but you can harvest the unopened ones and let them dry in a warm enclosure.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Foraging DOs and DON’Ts - June 2, 2014

    […] Harvesting Pine Pollen […]

Share your thoughts with us...