Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vitamin C Anyone ?

Since man has roamed the earth we have hunted, gathered and forged for building materials, water and food sources.

Over the years our dependence upon the land has diminished as has our knowledge about the abundance of edible and medicinal plants and trees that exist just inside our local forest.

One of the most amazing gifts that mother nature provided us and the many scurvy sufferers of yesteryear is the White Pine.

When European explorers left their home country bound for new lands they packed their food holes with lemons.  Lemons were a known source of Vitamin C.  A vitamin necessary to ward of the evils of scurvy.  However, over the long journey their supplies of lemons were exhausted and many boat hands became extremely ill or perished due to the scurvy.

For those who were lucky enough to make it to land and sit amongst the First Nations people they received a gift greater than lemons.  They received the White Pine. 

The White Pine needles have long been utilized to make Pine Needle Tea.  A warm medicinal broth filled with Vitamin C known to rejuvenate the body and cure the common cold.

The pine needles found in clusters of five can be removed from the branch and chewed.  The juices that come from the needles can be swallowed and provide relief for mouth ailments as well as sooth the sore throat. (Don't swallow the needles)

Cooking the inner bark of the White Pine tree provides starches necessary during long journeys or exhausting work. 

The White Pine does not just provide edible and medicinal qualities but also many other bush craft and survival uses.

The dried pine sap on the outer bark can be collected, heated and mixed with charcoal and rabbit scat to make a very strong pine pitch glue.  That same dried pine pitch can be collected and melted over the cattail and ignited as a torch or candle.  The hard pine pitch can also be collected and left in it's hard form and used as fire starter or tinder.

The sap from the White Pine is also an antiseptic and is known to heal cuts, protect wounds and draw slivers from your skin.

Last but not least Naturalist and Herbalist have long fermented white pine needles with apple cider vinegar to make a medicinal tincture similar to cough medicine.

In Eastern Ontario we are surrounded by white and red pines.  Next time you're out for a walk in the forest take time to stop and study this amazing tree that provides so many gifts. 

Remember that there are many wonderful edible plants in our forested areas but there are also many toxic and poisonous ones as well.  Before you start picking wild edibles find a course with a respected teacher and learn how to identify the good from the bad.

If you're ever caught in a winter survival emergency you will quickly recognize that wild edibles are hard to come by.  However, the white and red pine maybe the very tree your sitting under while contemplating the peril you're in.  Look up.  Your survival meal may be right above your head !

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