How to Eat a Pine Tree

This post is a follow-up to the The Fantastic Four – 4 Essential Wild Edible Plants that May Just Save Your Life article. In it I demonstrate how to process and eat one of the core four essential survival plants: Pine.

When you look at your average pine tree, rarely does one think that it has the ability to sustain you in a survival situation if the need ever arose. It’s sharp needles and gnarly bark give off the impression that it’s a less-than-friendly flora. On the contrary, pine provides some of the most readily available food sources in nature.

Pine Nuts

All pines contain edible seeds in the late season cones. The only issue is the quality and size of those seeds are highly dependent upon the species of pine.

As someone who lives in the Northeast, species of pine available here do not offer up seeds big enough to warrant the effort required in gathering and processing them. However, if you live in the Great Basin areas where Pinyon pine grows, you have an excellent source of food in the fall time.

pinyon_drawing

Gathering and Processing Pine Nuts

The best time to gather pine nuts is in September and October. Look for the round open cones. Simply gather the cones, remove the seeds and shell before eating raw or roasting.

<center>Notice the seeds w/in the cones</center>

Notice the seeds w/in the cones

Pine Needle Tea

The needles of all pine make an excellent mild tea (not at all pitchy tasting as you’d expect) that is loaded with Vitamin C.

pine_needle_handful

To make the tea, simply gather a good handful of fresh green pine needles. With a knife or sharp stone, dice the needles as fine as possible. Next, take these needles and put them directly into a cup of boiling water, letting it boil for a minute or two. The water should turn a light yellow color. Add some honey, drink and enjoy!

pine_needle_boil

Male Pine Cone Flour

In the spring time, the pollen from the small male pine cones (as pictured below) can easily be shaken from the cone into a container and used as a stew thickener, or flour substitute that is a great source of protein.

pine_male_cone

Edible Pine Bark

You can eat bark? Absolutely! When first learning about wild edibles this comes as the biggest surprise to most people. But when I make it for them at home they’re actually amazed at how good it actually tastes.

Keep this in mind. When you cut off the bark of any tree be sure never to completely girdle the tree or you will kill it. The best option is to cut a small strip at most 1/10th the circumference of the tree. This will allow the tree to easily heal itself. Pine should be plentiful, so a small strip from each tree is more than sufficient to make a survival meal.

Choosing your tree

The first thing you’ll want to do is to choose a large, mature pine tree since it provides the most inner bark without harming the tree. If you have white pine in your area, consider yourself lucky since it’s one of the biggest and tastiest of all the pines.

Collecting out inner bark

With a heavy duty knife, drive the tip of the knife through the outer bark with a strong stick (this is where a good survival knife comes in handy).

pine_knife1

Then begin to pound the back of the blade with a strong stick to drive the edge of the knife down the bark. Continue doing this until you’ve made a decent size rectangle.

pine_knife2

Peel away the outer bark making sure to peel off the tender cambium layer (the inner bark) that comes with it.

pine_bark1

Continue peeling the larger sections of the inner bark.

pine_bark2

With a knife or other sharp object, scrape away the remaining inner bark stuck to the tree (this is the most tender and sweetest part of the inner bark).

pine_bark3

Cooking the inner bark

There are three ways to eat the inner bark:

  1. Boiling
  2. Frying
  3. Drying and Pounding into Flour

I’ll be covering the first two.

Boiling

I find this the least palatable of all the options. Just peel the inner bark collected from the last step into thin pieces and boil them. The end result is a softer, less chewy version of the raw inner bark. Only slightly better than peeling it off the tree and stuffing it in your mouth.

pine_boiling

Frying

This is by far the best tasting way to prepare pine bark (even my wife likes it :) ). Like in the boiling step, peel the the inner bark into thin strips and simply fry them in some butter or oil until medium brown and crispy. Add a little bit of salt and it tastes like potato chips.

pine_frying1 pine_frying2

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58 Comments»

Comment by mark
2010-08-15 01:15:50

good info

 
Comment by blowd
2010-10-23 23:53:37

Except for yew. Don’t eat that, its poisonous.

 
Comment by Jada
2011-01-06 19:23:16

Good to know. Especially when we are all needing to live in the woods hiding from the zombies. Hahaha…

 
Comment by anonymous
2011-05-26 15:39:53

because the zombies will never find you in the woods

 
Comment by lakyn
2011-05-31 11:31:50

I heard that you can eat pine needles and so on from a friend. I became interested if it’s alright to eat or not. How healthy is it to eat from a public pine tree in the city?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-05-31 23:20:09

Lakyn,

You don’t typically “eat” pine needles but they do make an excellent tea. Just pick them from an available pine (city pine is fine), clean them thoroughly in cold water, chop them into small pieces and let them steep in hot water (that was brought to a boil) for a few minutes.

 
 
Comment by Tibor
2011-09-03 08:00:14

Hi. I’ve been taking a few wild eatable/medicinal plant work shops in my area. (Western MA.) I had a question that I decided to look up, and stumbled on your site.
Not only was my question answered, but I found myself bopping around, looking into other information you have on the subject. Not only was I thrilled with the knowledge offered, but the pictures and simple way you conveyed that information were both wonderful. Thank you SO MUCH!

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-09-07 18:05:09

You’re very welcome!

 
 
Comment by Amy Muniz
2011-09-07 12:51:28

You said, “All pine trees produce edible pine nuts”. However, in Arizona we have the Arizona cypress that produces pine cones. I don’t know if a cypress is in the “pine” family, but are you saying that cypress tree pine nuts are also edible?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-09-07 18:04:42

Hi Amy,

Cypress, which is part of the “Taxodium” genus, is actually not a “true” pine although people call it pine in some locations and it bears cones similar to true pines. True pines are from the genus “Pinus”. Unfortunately, based on what I’ve researched, cypress cones are not edible.

Hope that helps.

 
 
Comment by Denny
2011-09-09 01:36:04

Wow, I think some inner Pine bark sounds like some badass pancakes buddies ;)

Comment by TacticalIntelligence
2011-09-09 09:45:55

Nice Dennis. Good combination.

 
 
Comment by Marshall Hansen
2011-10-11 22:24:16

This is great survival stuff! More than once I’ve been trapped on a beach because I didn’t pay attention to tide charts and ended up pretty hungry by the time I was able to get out. Is there actually any nutritional value, aside from the fiber, to eating the bark? Thanks.

2011-10-12 02:17:13

Marshall,

Pine bark does contain a good antioxident called Pycnogenol that not only helps the body to assimilate Vitamin C (found in large amounts in the pine needles) but also aids in heart health. Not sure just how much bark you’d need to eat to get the benefits.

 
 
Comment by Gretta
2011-10-11 23:32:42

I can’t imagine the bark retains much nutritional value when you fry it in butter but anything fried in butter is delicious so I’ll try it! I live in the Pacific Northwest. Up here we have a lot of Douglass Fir, Noble Fir, Hemlock, that sort of tree, are Fir trees considered pine trees? In my imagination if it makes a good Christmas tree it would make a good cup o’ tea! Is that true? Can I access all the same delicious tree edibles from Northwest pines?

 
2011-10-12 02:22:42

Gretta,

While Fir — like Pine — is a conifer (evergreen), it is however not a true Pine. There are a number of pine in your state that you could use though like Lodgepole Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Shore Pine and White-bark Pine so be on the lookout for those.

I would NOT try this method on Fir, Hemlock and especially not Yew.

 
Comment by Emmy
2011-11-12 17:10:17

Are there different kinds of pine trees in texas?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-11-14 03:24:05

Emmy,

A quick google search brought up the following native pine in texas:

Pine, Arkansas
Pine, border limber
Pine, border white
Pine, black hills poderosa
Pine, Colerado pinyon
Pine, hard
Pine, heart
Pine, hill
Pine, interior poderosa
Pine, limber
Pine, loblolly
Pine, longleaf
Pine, longleaf yellow
Pine, longstraw
Pine, longtag
Pine, Mexican pinyon
Pine, Mexican white
Pine, New Mexico pinyon
Pine, nut
Pine, nut
Pine, oldfield
Pine, pinyon
Pine, pitch
Pine ponderosa
Pine, Rocky Mountain ponderosa
Pine, shortleaf
Pine, shortleaf yellow
Pine, shortstraw
Pine, southern yellow
Pine, southern yellow
Pine, southwestern white

 
 
Comment by Jason
2012-03-26 16:27:34

Just checking on the site and how your doing. Been showing all your wild edible posts to my coworkers at a restaurant. Can’t wait to make some”chips”this year, will be my first attempt, wish me luck.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-03-26 23:39:26

Thanks Jason for the support!

 
 
Comment by Tyler
2012-03-28 15:12:10

I have trees in the woods behind my house, i live in florida bunnell in the mondex is there any type of tree that i can eat? And i have what we call a pine tree but i dont know what it really is so would it be safe? Thanks

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-03-29 23:19:50

Hi Tyler,

If you could send me a photo of your “pine” I could let you know what it is. I’d need a close up on the needles, the bark and an overall shot of the tree.

Keep in mind that many people refer to pines as any conifer (ie spruce, cedar, hemlock etc). These are not true pines and cannot be eaten in the same manner as described here.

 
 
Comment by Zachary.Rose
2012-06-17 19:36:56

Can you actualy eat the bark raw?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-06-17 19:41:29

Hi Zachary,

You can and although it’ll begin sweet (especially with White Pine) it will quickly turn very “piney” tasting. It’s much better fried then eaten.

Comment by Zachary.Rose
2012-06-30 01:58:44

Thanks, just got a new survival knife for my birthday and I love this new snack! Driving mum crazy though ;-)

(Comments wont nest below this level)
 
 
 
Comment by Damian
2012-08-22 01:57:22

I’ve read something similar to this before, but they mentioned trying to find freshly fallen trees first to use, as then you are assured not to harm the tree.

It’s amazing how many edible plants we ignore because we’re so used to getting everything from the supermarket. If humans ever die out, it won’t take much to do it. Just cut food supplies to stores..

As long as I have my Bath Salt repellent I’ll be fine with my weeds and trees and furry little tasty friends!!!

:)

 
Comment by destk
2012-10-16 11:58:17

YUM!!!thx bc i live in the woods and with the economy the way it is……

 
Comment by Anonymous
2012-12-16 11:45:02

Thank you for this information! I was looking up Cherokee Indian Medicine and They said you could drink tea from inner bark of white pine. Thank you for explaining!!

 
Comment by TasteofBeirut
2013-01-03 13:24:33

I am thrilled to find your site! I recently found out about a type of zaatar (a mixture of thyme, sumac and sesame seeds) that is made in the Chouf Mountains in Lebanon (a lot of pine forests there) and when I asked what was so special about it, I got the answer: it contains pine seeds! I have since bought a couple of jars and love it! apparently the info was obtained through some grannies who used to eat not only the seeds but also the pine cone. Of course Lebanese eat pine nuts which are some of the best you will taste.
Thanks for your informative web site! I live in Texas also and appreciate guidance to wild plants.

 
Comment by Mountainrose
2013-02-28 22:21:24

What a wonderful site to happen upon! In the late winter/early spring, pines emit “shoots” in the crux parts of the needles. They are fun to munch on, but a little, um, sappy. In fact, it’s a good idea to have a water bottle nearby to wash em down. I figure they’re safe to eat since most of the rest of tree is edible. But if anyone has heard otherwise, I certainly don’t mind changin’ my ways. Perhaps it’s better to cook them? I’m not the biggest believer in 100% raw diets, but how much of the plant’s nutrients would be compromised by cooking?

 
Comment by Joseph
2013-04-09 17:07:22

Tyler, until 2 years ago I lived in east Volusia county for over 40 years. I’ve routinely had pine nuts, needle tea and used the pines medicinaly and never ran across a pine that was not safe (except for specific medicinal uses). Spent a lot of time in Bunnel and the same was true there. As mentioned here just make sure it is a pine and not a cyprus,fir,yew or other. The White pine is the most universal but not abundant in your area (at least that I could find). To identify the white pine each cluster of needles will number 5 while all others will number 4. I was raised since a tot to wild harvest, unfortunate for me it was all in Florida because now living in Michigan I’m having to learn what is here. I miss the hundreds of ‘familiar’ wild foods.

 
Comment by Blackberry
2013-05-07 21:44:27

Hi! Thank you so much for your site, but i have a quiestion. please answer, thx!

Are the pine trees that grow in Oregon edible? How about Canada?

thx again!

 
2013-05-08 20:21:14

Berry,

As long as it’s a true pine (many people call spruce, hemlock and anything else that’s green a “pine tree”) you can eat it.

If you’re not sure, be certain to check a field guide.

Thanks for visiting!

- Erich

 
Comment by Lin
2013-06-09 11:20:43

We have a neighbor who cut a bunch of pine trees down and they are just laying in a pile, cut up in logs. These were cut down two or three months ago now. How long can the logs lie before they are no good to eat the inner bark anymore? The bark can be dehydrated and ground up to be used in soups, stews, breads, pancakes, etc?? I’m assuming…

 
Comment by Lin
2013-06-09 11:27:44

What is an “Arkansas pine”? I live in Arkansas and no one calls them that – just yellow pine, usually. Or bull pine. Lots of pine plantations around.

 
Comment by Peggy PK
2013-06-14 06:34:35

Very interesting, common-sense education here.

My, very new, site, “The.Source.” is all about nature’s medicinals, from trees right on down to weeds and my first article/post is about the humble pine. I do like to check, check, CHECK my facts before publishing any article and was in the process of researching whether or not all pines share the same chemical components when I wound up here. Hopefully the site will be ready to publish by this weekend!

Granny always told me about pine needle tea having a lion’s share of Vitamin C (between 5-8X more than citrus fruit) and I’ve learned that there are also any number of antioxidants, triglyceride reducing, antiviral and even anti-inflammatory components just to name a few, to be had by using different parts of the tree.

All of that being said, I was just wondering if you have any information on the “across the board” similarities between types of pine???

Just want to let you know, I’ve bookmarked your site as a valuable resource for any article I may write on “Health in the Wild”!!

I’ll certainly be back!!

 
Comment by lina
2013-07-13 10:22:33

how can I send for you recognized pine pictures kind? thanks!

 
Comment by kirstie alley diet
2013-08-09 11:08:48

What’s up, I check your blogs like every week. Your story-telling style is awesome, keep up the good work!

 
Comment by alirosk wick
2013-09-08 23:00:06

does ponderosa pine work with all three? I’ve been eating the pine nuts, but I haven’t tried the tea yet, and especially not the bark, since that doesn’t really seem right.

 
Comment by John
2013-11-07 15:47:22

Oh man, the zombies… they will find you in the woods. Zombies can find you almost anywhere. Its unnatural, like they can sense a human anywhere within a 5mi radius and if you are so low on stores that you are sustaining yourself on pine bark, you will not have the energy to get away. They are not quite as fast as some believe but they have amazing stamina; they can run about 20 miles non stop before they collapse. Just don’t get caught in the open woods, you have to fortify.

 
Comment by John
2013-11-07 16:04:15

Oh man, zombies… they will find you in the woods. Zombies can find you almost anywhere, its unnatural; like they can sense a human anywhere within a 5 mile radius, and if you are so low on stores that you are sustaining yourself on pine bark then, you certainly wont have the energy stores to outrun a zombie. they are not as fast as some people think but they have quite a bit of stamina, able to run up to 20 miles constant before they collapse. My advice, don’t get caught in the open woods, fortify.

 
Comment by John
2013-11-07 16:05:26

oops

 
Comment by TabbyKat
2013-11-20 15:08:07

I would love to try this, but I am wondering if it possibly to shred the inner part of branches as opposed to the trunk? This looks like a good wild crafting food for winter, but I would rather not harvest from the trunk and kill the tree.

 
Comment by stump remover
2013-12-21 09:24:50

There may come a time when you have got to
eliminate a tree from your yard. That is a
headache but the bigger challenge is removing the tree stump that
remains. It’s critical to eliminate it otherwise you’ll entice pests to your back garden (and usually your home) so you
really should contemplate your solutions for this.

 
Comment by Jan
2014-01-03 13:11:03

Hey!

Where I’m from, the most common pine tree has very short needles which makes making the tea very time consuming. Could you just steep the whole twig? Also, I know you already wrote about the antioxidant found in the bark, but do you maybe know anything else about the nutrition of the bark?

Thank you :)

 
Comment by Sharon
2014-01-13 01:07:30

Hi, like some others on here, I too stumbled upon your site. I have a question: What parts of the Longleaf pine are edible. As a child I remember nibbling on the seeds with no apparent problem but would like to now know more.

thank you.

 
Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-01-13 13:44:16

@Sharon,

All the food items mentioned above are edible on the Longleaf pine. The seeds are small, but they’re still edible.

 
Comment by keith
2014-01-30 21:06:18

Just a quick comment regarding the tea, I would suggest cutting the ends of the needles that were attached to the branch first (then dispose of ends), then cut the needles themselves into small sections. Do not add needles while the water is boiling as this “boils” the nutrients out, add the boiling water to the needles if that makes sense. You know it’s time to drink the tea when the needles settle to the bottom of the cup.

 
Comment by ray
2014-02-04 23:25:11

Genus pinus….lmao

 
Comment by cran2
2014-03-14 13:00:57

dont eat the near roads they can be poluted try to get 100 feet away

 
Comment by Brent
2014-03-18 12:58:11

Anyone know which pine trees have nuts that are big enough to be worth harvesting around the 45th parallel in North America? I heard the Pinyon is the best but they don’t exist in my parts. We have the jack pine, and white pine. Are any of these good candidates? Thanks!

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-03-21 10:21:35

Hey Brent,

There aren’t really anything that will compare to the Pinyon. But all pine cones have edible seeds…albeit many of them are so small you need to gather in bulk to make a difference.

 
 
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