Now’s the time of year to celebrate our evergreens. So here we have the Monterey Pine, or Pinus radiata. This beautiful, lush 3 needle pine has spreading branches that can hang low down. When I say ‘3 needle’ I mean that the needles are arranged in bunches of 3, and they are around 15cm long. It can grow around 30 to 45m tall.
These are the trees that sheltered John Steinbeck’s homeless, alcoholic ex soldiers in his classic novel ‘Tortilla Flat’, set in Monterey, California! It hails from a small section of the California coastline, but is planted in milder parts of the UK. I have been nicking pollen off the ones at my local lake for several years now!
So onto edibility.
Make a Vitamin C rich tea by boiling the needles. Cut the freshest, most bright green ones, rinse, and erm..boil, until the water changes colour and the needles go from green to dull umber. Trappers and hunters would use pine needle tea to prevent scurvy (and other awful things that happen to people that don’t eat any fruit).
Something more substantial, you say?
Most pines have Edible seeds, but many are pretty small and a faff to use and harvest. Monterey Pine cones are large, ripening to 15cm long and 9cm across. The seeds are sealed in these things until a ruddy great bush fire comes along and causes the cones to pop open, scattering the seeds over what is (by now) a lovely nutritious layer of ash. You can help nature along by heating the cones on top of your stove or in your oven.
The pine nuts that drop out are nutritious, rich in good fats, omega 3, vitamin E which helps skin and hair stay healthy, iron,magnesium and fibre.
They need rubbing in the fingers to separate the wings from the dark nuts, then ‘micro winnowing’ (stick them in a bowl, then blow on them…the lighter papery wings will fly off and leave the nuts behind, all over your kitchen).
Lightly toast them in a pan then sprinkle on soups or salads. (or stay tuned for my Pine Nut recipes)! Im not sure how accurate this story is, but a young Japanese girl ran into the forest during the war and spent several years subsisting on pine nuts and needle tea, too afraid to return her village. She was eventually found once the war had ended. However, she was in good health (and I’m assuming she had great skin and hair!).
But that’s not all our Monterey Pine has to offer.
In Spring the male parts of the tree release a bright, sulphur yellow pollen.This contains quite a lot of testosterone, so It makes a great tonic for those who wish for hairier chests, deeper voices and a heightened sex drive! Obviously one to avoid if you are not wanting these, or if pregnant or breastfeeding. The pollen can be added to flour to make cakes and breads to spike your man with (NB: The author is joking, spiking is naughty. Tell them first.) You can also eat the catkins as they are.
Collecting It is fun: tap the catkins into a plastic bag or large jam jar. The pollen will puff out in a yellow cloud.
Check later in the week for my Monterey Pine Nut & Burdock Latke experiments!
For more recipes with Pine Pollen in Spring, follow my blog http://www.hedgewitchadventures.com