Pine needles have become big business for landscapers, but don't plan on quitting your day job unless you've got a whole lot of the trees and even more time to put into the project. Pine nuts, however, are edible treats that can be worth the effort of harvesting even on a small scale. Of course, timing matters.
Between August and January, pine trees shed their needles in order to supply the soil with nutrients that spur the trees' growth. These needles can be harvested as "pine straw," popularly used in landscaping, after the tree reaches about 8 years of age and during the months of August through February. October and November are particularly prime harvesting months. Before harvesting all your tree's pine straw wealth, consider the cost it will incur on the tree's growth, since the needles serve to enrich the soil, insulate the root system during winter and maintain the ground's moisture during the summer. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists recommend harvesting only every second or third year to mitigate the negative effects that include increased runoff, nutrient loss and soil erosion.
Late summer through late fall is when pine cones are most ready to be picked and harvested for their nuts. Pine nuts are edible and used in some popular recipes such as pesto sauce. The pine cones can be twisted off the tree or picked off the ground, dried in the sun for a few days (allowing them to release their seeds), then dislodged of their pine nuts.
- Photo Credit pine nuts image by fafoutis from Fotolia.com
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