Category Archives: Wild Edibles

Foraging Wild Shoots: Smooth Sumac

A lot of people are familiar with using sumac berries to make a lemonade-type drink, but what many people don't know is that you can also eat the tender shoots of this plant.

The process is simple and fun. The hardest part is locating a stand of small trees. While out for a walk in Wrentham last week, I came across a nice colony of Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra). The stand had lots of fresh new growth, so I decided to pause for a snack. Using the bend test, I snapped off a few tender growing shoots. Then I removed the leaves, peeled off the thin green bark, and ate them on the spot.

I find they taste reminiscent of melon or plum, though the flavor can vary. Overall, a nice crunch and a welcome June trail treat.

Gathering Pine Pollen Cones — Part 1

I spent the afternoon gathering the edible (and medicinal) pollen cones of Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus).  I visited a special grove of large pines which had some branches low enough to reach and were absolutely laden with bright yellow cones at the perfect stage of growth for foraging.

In just a few days, many of the cones will start to release their pollen.  Rather than trying to capture the pollen itself, I harvested the entire pollen bearing cones prior to their opening.

Photo of Eastern White Pine pollen cones

Most people are familiar with the female seed-bearing cones of this tree.  But the tree also has these yellow male pollen-bearing cones, which are smaller and easier to overlook.

Because the cones are tedious to pick individually, I snapped off entire branchlets containing tender stalks, young needles at the tips, and the yellow cones.

Photo of Eastern White Pine branchlet

Later, I removed the cones by pinching the young needles with one hand and stripping the cones with my other hand.  It took a bit of practice, but after a hundred or so, I'd found a rhythm.  With the cones removed, I had a pile of pine discards to gift to my garden.

Photo of Pollen cone discards

Below is just a small handful of the end result.  I nearly filled a one gallon bag which I've placed in the freezer.  I'll add them to meals over the next few weeks and probably tincture some of the cones for medicine.

Photo of Pollen Cone pile in hand

To learn about the many health benefits of pine pollen, check out these videos from Arthur Haines: The Protective Benefits of Pine Pollen (part 1 & part 2). Arthur also covers Eastern White Pine is his foraging book, Ancestral Plants.

If you missed this year's pine pollen crop, you can purchase high quality pine pollen products from SurThrival.

Update: In 2013, I gathered Pitch Pine pollen cones.

Foraging Wild Shoots: Japanese Knotweed

Photo of Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is another wild edible plant ripe for picking.  I gather young shoots when they are about a foot tall.  I act fast when I find this rapidly growing plant emerging -- stalks can grow several feet in just a few weeks!  This past week, I picked and froze 5 quarts of young shoots.  Cooked until soft and mushy, these shoots can be combined with fruit for a tasty sauce.