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!
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.We 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.)We 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.I do not recommend doing this if you have pine pollen allergies, obviously.Gathering 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 HarvestThe 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.I 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!]Next, 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. 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.To 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 shop. I 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/
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