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26 responses to “Wild Pine Nuts, a Labor of Love”

  1. Nicole

    When I lived in Idyllwild California we had Coulter Pines which were nicknamed Widow Makers. I remember hearing the cones falling from the trees and running for safety!
    Until I read this piece I honestly never thought about where Pine Nuts came from. Now I understand why they cost so much!

  2. Melissa

    I think you can find pinon pines in the high desert in So Cal around the Antelope Valley. Specifically the Tehachapi area. I took a bunch of archaeology classes several years ago out there and my professor talked a lot about the pinon nuts that the Native Americans harvested around the AV. Might be worth a trip next time you are near Los Angeles.

  3. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    We live on the east coast, and have no viable pine nuts in our area, but my husband came home from a road trip out west with a few nut-laden cones — don’t know the species, and the nuts were just barely big enough to prevent the enterprise of extracting them from being laughable.

    I nevertheless concluded that the time, resin-coated hands, and aborted nut ratio, made it just not worth it. And I love pine nuts — which makes me think I’d *really* love those cookies.

  4. João Pedro Almeida

    We got something similar in Brazil.
    The araucaria is a Brazilian native tree and is commonly
    called the Brazilian Pine Tree. It has always been at the base of the food
    system of the inhabitants of the meridional area of the Country. The tree
    can reach up to 40 meters of height, and live on average 200 to 300
    years, even 500 years.
    The pine nut is the Araucaria angustifolia seed, which is approximately
    4 centimeters long, ivory colored, surrounded by a thick shell, and picked
    in large pines, which can contain from 10 to 120 pine nuts.
    In traditional cooking, pine nuts are used in many recipes; they are usually
    cooked in water for a number of preparations, or baked directly on the
    grill of cooking stoves at the houses of those who picked them. The two
    most traditional recipes made with pine nuts are the pine nut paçoca
    (cooked and ground pine nut, mixed with dry meat in a pounder), and
    entrevero (vegetable and meat stew with pine nuts).

  5. Michael C

    Thank you for satisfying my curiosity. I have heard of people collecting seeds from Digger (Grey) Pines and heard it was more work than it was worth. You have convinced me to spend my time in other ways. But….I have also hear of Sugar Pine cone seeds being collected. I live in the Sierras where Sugar Pines are very common. Might have to give that a try.

  6. Carol

    Melissa (Comment #2) is right about Pinon pines in the Antelope Valley. My family had a vacation cabin in the Tehachapi mountains, and as kids, my brothers and I spent many hours harvesting pine nuts. Last fall, while driving home from a camping trip in California’s Eastern Sierras, my husband and I stopped at a gas station on a Native American reservation, and there were small bags of locally-foraged, unshelled pine nuts for sale. I bought one and spent a good part of the drive shelling and eating them–the taste really took me back to childhood.

  7. Heguiberto

    Great post Hank, makes one feel humbled. It is is easy to just go buy these tiny source of deliciousness. It is amazing how much labor it requires to process them.
    The Brazilian pinhão is delicious. It never occurred to me but next time I am in Brazil I will try making pesto out of it. The nuts are so gigantic I think you would need just a few of them to prepare the dish.
    Araucaria trees are incredibly beautiful.
    Heguiberto

  8. Sunchowder - Wendy Read

    I loved this post. I don’ t know why the thought of foraging excites me so much. Sort of like a treasure hunt I guess. We have lots of pines here in Florida, I am now wondering if I shouldn’t collect some pine cones myself…..:)

  9. Mamajack

    Ouch ouch ouch. Hurt fingers. We collected pinenuts for dinner while at Wilbur Hot Springs – probably Digger Pines. And my wife’s family used to collect them in Nevada City. But i really respect squirrels a hell of a lot more, now.

  10. Katie

    I would try anything with a “cookie” label on it…hippie or not! :)

  11. Steve

    Hank,

    I have access to Nob Cone pines in Napa. Would they be acceptable?

    Steve

  12. Stephen

    Great post Hank. Growing up in NE Nevada, havesting pinon pine nuts was an annual affair. Some years were better than others just like any other crop. We also used the gunny sack beat on the ground separation technique. Then pliers. I now live in AZ and up in the north there are huge swaths of pinon pine. Or I should say that there USED to be. Boring pine beetles have decimated the stands of pinon pine. Same thing up into northern NM. I have often wondered if a similar catastrophic dying out of pinon pines led to the sudden disappearance of the Anasazi, or “Ancient Ones.” They inhabited the area generally located around the Four Corners area. Pine nuts would have been a primary source of nourishment. Especially winter stores. If the pinon pines died en masse, so too would have other food sources. Squirrels for example, which indigenous people hunted extensively using deadfall traps and probably snares. I have also personally witnessed mule deer pawing at pinon pine cones and munching on the nuts, so that food source would have been diminished as well. Just a theory, but a good mystery begs a causation hypothesis. Suddenly I’m thinking of a version of Navajo fry bread with pine nut flour. Hmm. :-)

  13. Andy G

    Try coating your hands with vaseline before handling pine cones. The pitch comes off much easier.

  14. Matt

    For those of us in the North/East/Northeast, there are several options for edible pine nuts.

    In slightly warmer climes (Zones 7-9) the Italian Stone Pine can be grown. The hardier Korean Stone Pine and Siberian Stone Pine can be grown farther north.

    Burnt Ridge Nursery and One Green World are both excellent places to find these trees. Happy munching!

  15. Daniel

    The Chumash used to take the “path of the pinon gatherers” to Mt. Pinos which is located in the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura/Kern County. Pinon pine abounds there. I have been taking the path myself over the past few years. A truly magical place and a truly tasty nut!
    Good chukar and quail hunting nearby as well.

  16. Are you a nutter? | Ponderings of a Perplexed Primate

    [...] Island (or Isla Tortuga, or if you must, North America).  Out here in Cali, we get acorns and pine nuts.   What about [...]

  17. Jerry

    Hank
    Great post. You had info I was looking. My family started gathering pine nuts
    last year. We use them for traditional necklaces. Thank you

  18. Pesto di Noce |

    [...] or the pine nuts of the Fertile Crescent.  According to this guy, working with wild pine nuts is a labor of love.  Walnuts on the other hand, simply require shelling, like a good domesticated orchard crop [...]

  19. Melissa

    Thanks so much for the very valuable information. I love to forage for all kinds of foods. This was very informational, and now I understand why pine nuts are so expensive in the store. I will be looking for some of the trees mentioned on this page, hopefully some of them have been planted here. In any case this has been a great read! Thanks for sharing it!

  20. jan dalluge

    ok, so now I’ve been blessed with some very coveted pinon pinecones, the nuts are now extracted and hammered……what now, do you just refridge or freeze or how do you store them? thanks so much for all your valuable information!!!

  21. jan dalluge

    please one more question…..would it be wise to store the individual nuts unshelled until you need them, I’m trying to think like a squirrel getting ready for winter…he or she doesn’t shell them all at once, they hide them….

  22. Jeff Wilson

    I used to collect the Digger Pine cones from around Lake Berryessa, in Napa County, and dig out the nuts. It’s hard to crack the shell, without smashing the meat inside. But they do taste good. I still call them Digger Pines, because that’s what I learned they were called in my dendrology class and in most of the books I read. I have the utmost respect for Native Americans.

    Pinus sabiniana (Digger Pines) can be recognized in the following ways: They usually have a trunk that forks into two trunks, making a Y-shape. The needles are very long, and they make a sparse crown, that you can see right through. Coulter Pines are like a giant version of Digger Pines. Digger Pines can be found anywhere in Sunset Western Gardening Climate Zone 7. I’d love to know how you made your acorn flour.

  23. Ali Bligh

    l live in New Zealand and have tried getting my pinenuts out of their shells and have found this so difficult even after cooking. Any ideas plese.

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