When it comes down to survival, it is absolutely vital to know what you can eat, and what you can’t eat, out in the wild. Knowing what is edible and good for you will keep you fed and alive, but eating the wrong thing could have some potentially terrible side effects!
Pinecones are relatively common and easy to find, and many animals consume them. So what if we told you that you could eat pine cones too? Of course, you’d have to then know how to find them, and how to eat them, and what parts of the pinecone to eat.
Luckily, we’re going to tell you all about eating pine cones, where to find them, and if there are any potential side effects. So let’s get right into it!
What Are Pinecones?
Before we proceed to talk about eating pine cones, it might be worth clarifying exactly what pinecones are, just so that we’re all on the same page!
Pinecones are essentially just the seeds of a pine tree. So you know how most trees will bear fruits, and the seeds are inside the fruit? Well, pine trees bear pinecones, and the seeds are protected by the scale of cones and the outer shell.
So pine cones grow on pine trees, and as they mature they will either be germinated in order to produce a new pine tree, or they will be eaten by animals, or simply fall to the ground.
It is also worth noting that there are both male pine cones and female pine cones, and they both have slight differences that tell them apart!
Can You Eat Pine Cones?
Let’s get to one of the most important questions: can pinecones be eaten? As in, is it safe to do so? Or should you stay away from them?
Well, the answer is yes! As in, you can absolutely eat pine cones, and it is safe to do so. At least in part.
So, male pine cones can be eaten in their entirety, and they are actually considered to be quite a delicacy in some parts of the world! A dry pine cone that has already matured, on the other hand, can’t be eaten directly. Instead, you can eat certain parts of it, or if you prepare the pinecone in a specific way.
Most commonly, it is just the seeds of a pinecone that are eaten, which are popularly known as pine nuts.
So…yeah. Although pinecones don’t look like the most appetizing of things, they have actually been harvested and consumed throughout history, in many different parts of the world. They can be eaten sweet, or savory, as sauces or garnishes, and in many different ways!
And if you find yourself desperately searching for a source of food out in the wild, knowing which pinecones you can eat, and which parts, will very much come in handy!
Which Parts Of The Pine Cone Are Edible?
Male pine cones that are still young and not mature, can be eaten whole. But as a general rule, pinecones are consumed by people eating the seeds of a female pine cone, aka, the pine nuts.
These seeds are more or less similar to sunflower seeds in size, they have a light cream color, and are described as being sweet and nutty in their flavor. Whether you like them or not, is completely subjective and up to you!
But here is the thing, there isn’t just one type of pinecone. There are, in fact, around 20 different species of a pinecone, found in different parts of the world. And although it is mostly safe to eat pine seeds from them, some species are toxic and non-edible. Meaning, you have to know which pinecones to eat, and which ones to avoid!
The most widespread species of a pinecone, from which humans commonly consume the pine nuts, are the following:
- The Mexican pinon (Pinus cembroides)
- The Colorado pinion (Pinus edulis)
- The Italian stone pine (Pinus pinea)
- The Chinese nut pine (Pinus Koraiensis)
Different types of pine trees produce different seeds, that although are the same in concept, have different sizes, textures, and flavors. Asian pine seeds tend to be a lot more bitter, while European pine seeds are often sweeter.
And of course, there are many varieties in between. We recommend looking for pine nuts in the market, and testing out different varieties, so that you know what to look out for, and can decide which ones you prefer!
Other than eating the female pine cone seeds, the only other way of eating a pine cone is if you eat an immature male pine cone whole. But this option is not as common, despite it being a delicacy in some places. It is very important that the pinecone is still green and young, and it can be prepared and cooked in many different ways!
How To Eat Pine Cones
Pinecones can be eaten in many different ways, and there is a vast multitude of recipes and methods that you can follow when preparing them for consumption. Pine nuts, for example, can be eaten raw.
However, they are most commonly roasted, which intensifies their flavor, adding more nuttiness to them. They can be used as a salad topper, in desserts, added to pasta dishes, or simply as an added ingredient in a recipe just so that you have an extra tang of nut taste.
If you have a fire source, boil the cones to soften them up. They are a good source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C. In some cultures, the pine cones are ground and used as flour.
In places such as eastern Europe and Russia, pinecones are often made into a jam, to be used on toast, desserts, and more. In other places, pine nuts are used to make tea, and are sometimes even added to coffee as a flavoring option.
And some will use pine nuts in soups throughout the winter season! Truly, there are endless possibilities.
But basically, they are most often used as an added ingredient or flavor, rather than being eaten as a stand-alone food. Which makes sense, you’d need to have a very big plate of pine nuts in order to feel full!
If you are ever out in the wild, in survival mode, then one of the best ways to eat pine cones is to consume the spores of male pine cones. They have good nutritional values and can be used in stews and all sorts of meals.
Traditionally pine needles have been brewed like tea and used for medicinal reasons. Pine needle tea is a great drink for beating the cold in the wild.
For the best taste, collect younger leaves that are light green in color. The rich piney taste makes it a refreshing drink after a tiring day. As a bonus, the drink is also a great source of nutrients.
The goal is to make the most out of your energy so consider cutting branches full of pinecones down using a survival saw or something similar. You’ll be able to harvest a bunch at one time and trimming trees every now and again is healthy for the tree.
The Nutritional Value Of Pinecones
In order to optimize your consumption of food, in dire situations, it is important to know what is going to give your body the needed nutrients, and therefore, you need to know the basic nutritional values of different foods and ingredients.
Pine nuts have fewer proteins than other more popular nuts such as almonds or walnuts, but they have a very big source of micronutrients and minerals that your body needs.
In fact, pine nuts include high amounts of manganese, which maintains bone density. They also contain magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, calcium, and the vitamins E and K.
Overall, pine nuts are good for your heart, and they are good antioxidants. They are also great at controlling blood sugar levels, and they lower bad cholesterol. They are also good for your mind, and can even help improve your memory and cognitive functions!
In many cultures, pinecone jam and pinecone recipes in general, are also considered to be good for curing all sorts of problems and are used to boost the immune system and protect the body from illness.
Potential Side Effects Of Eating Pine Cones
Finally, let’s address one of the other important questions on eating pine cones: the potential side effects.
We will begin by saying that some people can be allergic to pine nuts, in the same way that people are allergic to other types of nuts.
They could cause reactions such as swelling of the tongue and lips, vomiting, hives, tightening of the chest, difficulty breathing, and others. If this happens to you, then you should seek medical help immediately, and avoid them from then on.
If you eat certain pine nuts raw, you might also get pine mouth syndrome. This is essentially a side effect that causes your mouth to have an unpleasant bitter taste, which can last for up to a month. And trust us, it is not a nice side effect to have to suffer through!
This is why it is recommended to cook pinecones, even if they are safe to consume raw. Just to be on the safe side!
Beyond that, there are four varieties of pine trees that have toxic components and should be avoided. These are the Ponderosa pine, Lodgepole pine, Jeffrey pine, and the yew pine.
To sum this all up, the basic answer is yes. You can indeed eat pine cones, and it will mostly be safe. You either eat young male pine cones or the seeds of female pine cones, and they can be eaten raw, or preferably cooked and prepared.
Pinecones can be found anywhere you can find pine trees, as that is where they come from. And the potential side effects you should worry about are being allergic or eating the wrong kind of pine cone species, which will be unsafe.