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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

October 18, 2012

Just-sprouted longleaf pine seedlings are good to eat in the fall!

A little-known fact about longleaf pine reproduction is that the just-sprouted seedlings are good to eat in the fall!

Wayne Grooms, Lexington County conservationist and long-time volunteer on S.C. Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy projects, says that when the longleaf pine seedlings are very young they lack the characteristic pine resin taste that needles of older pines have, and are a succulent, yet crispy, addition to salads.

Grooms said that in the past, during hard times in the "Piney Woods," folks took advantage of every local source of nutrients they could find. He remembers eating them in salads as a child and has continued to do so all his life.

If you wish to try this tasty, natural food this fall, look for 1- to 2-inch-high sprouts that resemble umbrellas with the fabric torn off, leaving only the handle (embryonic stem) and the five to 10 extended "arms" (these first whorls of leaves are called cotyledons, and feed the plant until it begins photosynthesizing) under mature longleaf pine trees that have recently opened cones.

But when you find them, don't depend on coming back to get them in a few days, because wildlife also relish these succulent treats, and so by then they may be gone!

Pine needles are one of the herbs used in oriental medicine. Pine needles contain many nutrients and bioactive materials, such as proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins A & C.

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