So is there anything useful about conifers (apart from timber)?

Well yes, – lots!   However I’m totally daunted by the idea of getting to grips with conifer ID, so am going to concentrate on Pine trees for now because they’re easily distinguished and none are horribly poisonous.

Here’s some information about Pines – mostly from Wikipedia:

Cones are used for tinder and give a reddish-yellow dye
Roots make instant cordage
Resin is used for starting fires, glue, emergency wound covering, fuel for torches, chewing gum, weatherproofing, making soap, turpentine, varnish, flavouring wine..
Needles make a tea which is rich in Vitamin C, can be eaten when young & soft, can be used as a mildly antiseptic handrub and as a nail brush, to scent a bath or to stuff a scented pillow. They are also used for making decorative articles like baskets, trays, pots, etc. This Native American skill is now being replicated across the world, in the US, Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua and India.
Pine oil is an essential oil distilled from the needles, twigs and cones of a variety of species of pine, particularly Scots. It is used in aromatherapy, as a scent in bath oils, as a lubricant in small and expensive clockwork instruments, as a disinfectant, a massage oil, an antiseptic and as an organic herbicide
Seeds All are edible, but only about 20 species of pine produce seeds large enough to be worth harvesting. Note pine cone size is not related to seed size.
In Europe they mostly come from the Stone Pine, cultivated for its nuts for over 6,000 years, and harvested from wild trees for far longer.
Here are a couple of pine nut recipes for raw fooders:
Pine nut coffee is a speciality found in the southwest United States
Pine nut oil is added to foods for “finishing”, to add flavour. Before the revolution of 1917, 10% of all hard currency in Russia was based on the trade of pine nut oil, mostly with France. The residue after pressing is used as a pine meal or flour, and made into a pine nut milk
Kedrovka is a Siberian drink of vodka infused with pine nuts. Have you noticed how everything seems to end up in vodka!?
Bark: The soft, moist, white inner bark is edible and very high in vitamins A and C. It can be eaten raw in slices as a snack or dried and ground up into a powder for use as a thickener in stews, soups, and other foods, such as Finnish pine bark bread (pettuleipä). Adirondack Indians got their name from the Mohawk Indian word atirú:taks, meaning “tree eaters”.
Pollen is also edible

This fantastic video about resin extraction in France is worth watching for the stilts and the stripey french t-shirts alone:




Saturday 23rd February 2012 at 1pm
Meet by the cafe in Springfield Park E5 9EF
To find out more about the fantastic treescape of Hackney, check out the Tree Musketeers