Autumn brings with it an abundance of foods. The woods are alive with the dash to get ready for winter. The forest floor is covered in a carpet of sweet chestnuts and hazelnuts. The perfect feast for small mammels. Scurryings and scuttlings, a nibble here, a cache there.
And deep in the woods, wounds on the pine trees bleed sap down their bark.
Pine Sap – Food, Fuel and Tool
We found one great use for pine sap on the last bushcraft course but it has more uses than starting fires. Pine sap is packed full of Vitamin C and can provide a boost to your immune system. It’s also great for getting out splinters.
Our ancestors would rub a generous amount of pine sap around the splinter area which, essentially, brough things to a head; speeding up the healing process and displaying mild anti-microbial properties. It is this anti-microbial action that makes pine sap great for cleaning your teeth – and it tastes good too; a strong, pungent, refreshing pine-y-ness!
All pine trees are edible, but not all other coniferous trees are. So how to tell the difference between spruce, fir and pine?
Firstly, have a look at how the needles are attached to the twig. If the needles are grouped (2, 3 or 5 needles attached at one spot) then it’s pine. If the needles are attached singly then it will be spruce or fir.
Secondly, to tell the difference between spruce and fir, roll a single needle between your fingers. If it rolls easily, it’s spruce. If it feels flat and doesn’t roll easily, it’s fir.
Finely chopped pine needles make a refreshing and Vitamin C packed tea when left to steep in hot water. A simple way to get a much needed boost in a survival situation.
Pine sap has also been used for millennia as a glue. Lumps of hardened pine sap are melted anf brought to a steady boil before being mixed with ground charcoal and binder material. Often this binder material is herbivorous animal droppings.
This pitch can be used for fletching arrows, attaching arrowheads to shafts, axe heads to shafts, making birch bark canoes, as a slow burning torch and so much more.