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.
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.
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.
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.
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.