What are pine nuts?
Pine nuts are the edible seeds that are harvested from certain species of pines. They’re also called pignolias. They grow between the scales of the pine cones. The thickness of the shell varies according to the species of pine. They are typically elongated or teardrop shaped. Pignolias are ivory-colored and generally measure 1/2″ in length. The extracted seeds have a soft texture and a buttery flavor. They can be eaten raw or toasted. Toasting the seeds intensifies their flavor and adds a slight bit of crunchiness to the seed.
Harvesting Pine Nuts
Pine nuts are typically harvested by hand. The cones can be dislodged from the tree using a hook or a commercial tree shaker. Once the cones are picked up they must go through a curing or drying process before the seed can be extracted from the cone. When the cones are dry, they are broken open and the seeds are picked out of them. Pine nuts have a shell that must be removed. The toughness of the shell varies with the species of pine. Generally, the shell can be removed with a nutcracker. The seed will last for several months if frozen. Toasted seeds should be consumed within a couple of weeks.
Interesting facts about pine nuts
- Pine nuts are the only nut that is predominately used in cooking.
- Pine nuts have been consumed by humans since prehistoric times.
- Pine nuts are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world.
- About 80% of pine nuts sold in US are imported.
- Pine nuts are considered to be a healthy snack choice for growing kids and teens.
- The European stone pine nut has the highest protein content of all nut pines.
- All pine nuts are edible, but not all are large enough to harvest.
Species Pine Nuts
There are approximately 100 species, as well as numerous varieties and hybrids of pines. The species vary in seed productivity, physical characteristics, nutritional value, taste, texture, shape and color. They all fall under the basic term pine nuts when retailed. Approximately 20 species of pine produce edible seeds for consumption. The P. koraiensis, Korean pine, the P. sibirica, Siberian Pine, the P. pinea, Italian Stone Pine, are internationally important due to their edible seeds. Among the other more popular species of edible pine are the Swiss Pine, Chilgoza Pine and Chinese White Pine.