If you watch a squirrel attacking a pine cone and getting out the seeds - it looks pretty easy. However, it can be very difficult if you don't have a plan.
The first step in collecting pine seeds is to find a stand of pine trees. Pine trees don’t have flowers and the pine cones are not seeds. Each tree has male and female cones. The female pine cone, with its classic cone shape, is the one that first comes to mind when you think of pine cones. The immature female cone starts out green and turns tan to wood-ish brown as it matures.
The male pine cone is smaller, orange and flimsy. They are also called catkins. The male cone grows in clusters at the bottom of the trees, while the female cone is found on the higher branches. In the spring, the male cone releases yellow colored pollen that is carried by the wind slowly upward to the female. After pollination, the male pine cone, its job done, drops from the tree.
The young female cone is green and turns tan to wood-ish brown as it matures. The large female cone can contain up to 200 seeds each. The seeds, usually two, are located under the pine cone’s scales. As the seeds ripen, they become full and plump.
It varies from species, but the best time to harvest pine seeds is in summer and fall. Watch the squirrels. If the cones are open, the seeds are gone. Closed pine cones still contain seeds. Check the area around the base of pine trees for ripe pine cones that the squirrels have dropped to the ground. You can also pick them directly from the tree.
After gathering the ripe cones, the next step is to dry them out, so they will open up. This can be accomplished by laying the cones on a screen in the hot sun. Another option is using an oven at a temperature no higher than 120 degrees. When the pine cones are dry, place them in a paper bag. Shake the cones to release the seeds still inside. You have accomplished your goal. You are a collector of pine seeds.