How to get pine nuts?

Are you looking to harvest pine nuts? Well here are some tips on how to harvest them so you have all you need to grow some beautiful and healthy pine trees.

First, you need to know when the ideal time to start looking, and ideally, depending on where you are, August is a good time to start. While that may seem a bit early, it’s actually the perfect time to get the process started. You’ll be looking for trees with green pine cones on them. And we’re not talking about just a few. You want there to be a lot. Then you know this tree will be worth investing your time and effort with. Just because you find one doesn’t mean the surrounding area will follow suit. There are a lot of varying factors, so when you find a tree that has a large number of green pine cones, be sure to mark down its location so you can circle back later.

Now that you know where the pine cones are, you need to wait until Labor Day or so. Again, this seems early, but you want to time your return out so you beat pesky rodents and squirrels to these tasty nuts. If you wait too long, you may return to a tree with no nuts, which defeats the whole purpose behind what you’re try

ing to do. A lot of studies show that squirrels and chipmunks in particular often wait nearby, so you want to strike while the iron’s hot, because those nuts disappear quickly once the cones open. Waiting until October is not smart, as you run the risk of them all being swept away. Then you’ll be behind the eight ball, and you’ll have a shortage of pine nut supply. If you’re going to do this, you have to make sure you do it right.

Once you arrive and you’re ready to gather the pine nuts so you have some healthy pine trees, you first have to make sure you have gardening gloves on. While these run in varying qualities, a cheap pair is fine for this task. Breaking the break for gloves seems unwise, and as long as these gloves protect you, you can go with a less expensive pair. Once that’s situated, know that this will likely be the one and only time you use the gloves, because the pine cones are covered in a sticky resin that gets on absolutely everything. With that in mind, you probably don’t want to wear your Sunday best either, as shirts and pants may see the brunt of the resin as well. The good news? The resin smells wonderful, so while you work, you’ll have a sweet aroma to keep you company. You’ll want to have a paper bag nearby so you can put each cone in one. Sure, you’ll run through a lot of bags, but you want to make sure the harvesting is done the right way.

Once you transfer the cones home, you have to make sure you continue to be diligent in doing your work the right way, which means laying the green cones out in a shallow and wide container. Make sure you stack no more than two cones deep. Stacking too deep creates mold, which is obviously not ideal. Again, they will smell good as you wait. Eventually, the cones will begin to open. It takes about three weeks for these cones to open, and once they do, you can pick out all of the nuts from inside. Take note that you’ll get a little pitch on your hands, but it’s alright because it comes off with oil. If you want to prevent the cleanup, continue to wear a new set of gloves as you remove the pine nuts.

The next fact can be downright depressing. Not all nuts are good nuts, and in fact, sometimes less than half are salvageable. Even so, you have to make sure to move forward with quality nuts only to ensure you’re harvesting healthy pine trees that will ultimately have the best chance of thriving for many years to come. The good news? It’s easy to tell which nuts stay and which nuts are garbage. Put all of your nuts in a bucket of water. If they float, most (approximately 85 percent) are no good. If they sink, it’s safe to proceed with them.

Did you know that those that float can serve another purpose? You can mash up the discards and fill up a mason jar with them, and cover them in vodka. Seal it up good and wait a few months. Once you open it, you will have a brand new supply of pine nut bourbon, which is delicious!

One thing to notice. The darker the shell, the better the nut usually is.

An interesting fact about these pine nuts is that sometimes they can take as long as three years to mature. Most pine nuts take around 18 months, and the bud in the beginning of the spring and grow until the end of the summer. The cones then become dormant during fall and winter.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, Pine nuts prefer the northern hemisphere. “While all pine trees will produce a pine nut, there are only about 18 species that produce nuts large enough to be of value as human food,” according to the article. “These trees are found in Asia, Europe and North America.”

Now that you’ve learned more about pine cones and pine nuts, you can now prepare to harvest a bunch. It’s never too early to start scouting trees. Even though the whole process takes quite a while, the end result truly make the tumultuous journey worth it!

Tagged as: harvest pine nuts, pine trees

The many types and uses of pine nuts

02-08-2018 in Ingredients

Pine nuts have become a popular ingredient in kitchens all around the world. Yet, not many people know where the pine nut comes from or where it grows. That is why today’s short blog will help you to expand your knowledge of commodities!

Pine nuts come from pine trees

The photo above shows a pine tree. Pine nuts come from pine trees. There are about 20 species of pine trees that grow enough pine nuts for harvesting. Pine nuts are the seeds hidden below the cone scales of the pine cones that grow on the pine trees. In the past, the pine nuts were removed by shaking the pine cone by hand, but nowadays this is usually done by machine. The pine nut is surrounded by a brown shell. The process for obtaining just a few seeds from the cones is very time-consuming. This explains why pine nuts are quite expensive.

Pine trees are located all over the world, and In Europe pine nuts often come from:

  • Italy
  • France
  • Spain
  • Greece
  • Portugal

Pine trees are also found in China and the USA. It is said that the Chinese pine nut affects your sense of taste and will leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth for two days after consumption. Chinese pine nuts can be distinguished from European pine nuts because they are thicker and smaller.

Using pine nuts

Each country has a different use for the pine nut. In Italy pine nuts are used to make pesto with Genoa pesto being the best-known example of this. In Turkey pine nuts are used in baklava and kibbeh nayyeh, and in North America they are even used to make coffee. Pine nuts can be used in many different dishes, hot or cold, and are also a great ingredient to use for pastries. Sweet confited pine nuts are delicious in combination with components of white chocolate and yoghurt. Or place pine nuts in cold water and store in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. This enhances the buttery texture of the seeds. Finely blend the soaked pine nuts in the blender and use as a vegan alternative for butter.

On Gastronomixs you’ll find the various components in which pine nuts are used and we can assure you that they are definitely worth a try! Also be inspired by recipes that use different types of nuts and seeds such as this hearty macadamia crème or walnut cheese. Not a member but want to view the components? Sign up now and try out Gastronomixs for free for two weeks!

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Is the U.S. Pine Nut Industry on the Brink of Extinction?

Although millions of acres of piñon-juniper woodlands remain, Kolb points to climate change as a threat to the American pine nut market. “Piñon woodlands are highly vulnerable to hot weather and droughts,” he said.

Dyer M. LeBaron’s family has harvested, processed, and sold American pine nuts since the 1950s. These days, LeBaron sells primarily online as Wholesale Pine Nuts. But it’s more than just the marketplace that has changed, he said. Over the last 15 years simply collecting the nuts has become more difficult.

“You get very unpredictable weather patterns that we didn’t experience going back 30 to 40 years. Before … pretty much every year we could scout them out and find some very good harvest. Now it’s very sporadic,” said LeBaron.

In recent years, LeBaron says he and other harvesters have also been rejected for commercial gathering permits at previously productive pine nut locations in Nevada and Utah.

Pine nuts require intensive labor for harvesting and processing. Under the best conditions, says LeBaron, in an eight-hour day a single harvester with the right tools can collect 50 pounds of nuts protected by cones covered with a sweet, sticky pitch. LeBaron’s operation typically employs 12 to 30 workers during the short two-month harvest season in late summer. Much of the work is in processing the piñon. Once harvested, cones must be dried and heated in order to open enough to provide access to their nuts. One by one, the nuts are extracted from the cone, then removed from their hard casings.

Labor costs combined with decreasing harvests have made American pine nuts less competitive in a global marketplace currently dominated by China, which exported 76 percent of the world’s pine nuts in 2015. Though Chinese pine nuts are also gathered on public lands, the cost of labor is a fraction of the in the U.S. Frazier says that in some places, particularly in North Korea, which produces 12 percent of the global pine nut market, labor costs are virtually nonexistent because pine nut harvesting and processing is done by soldiers, not private citizens earning a daily wage.

At this stage of global agricultural trade and ecological degradation, there is little to slow the disappearance of American pine nuts from the market. It is likely, in fact, that the productivity of piñon-juniper woodlands will continue to decrease as the frequency of unusually warm periods coupled with drought continue to increase, says Kolb.

“When we have these episodes of piñon pine mortality, we see a shift towards junipers. A lot of areas have been converted from piñon-juniper woodlands to just juniper.”

And as mature piñon continues to disappear, so too will the American pine nut industry.

“An average of 30 years ago there was probably 20 to 30 commercial harvesters,” said LeBaron. “Now there’s just a handful. It’s a dying thing.”

Image at top by Scott Smuin.

Any pesto worth it’s weight needs pine nuts.

And, in our house, a Caesar salad without pine nuts is a sad thing indeed.

But every time I buy a small packet of these delicious little nuts, I cringe at the $9 price tag, for just 80 grams of nuts.

Maybe I should be growing them myself instead? After all, that’s one of the reasons we created our edible garden, so we could save money.

So I did a little investigating.

It turns out that once you learn what goes into growing, and harvesting pine nuts, you may not resent the price they fetch so much.

Growing A Pine Nut Tree

There are actually a number of different varieties of Pine tree that the Pine Nut can be harvested from but the ones used most often, due to the bigger sized nut they produce, are Pinus koraiensis, which is used for the majority of commercial pine nut supply, or Pinus Pinea, the Stone Pine, preferred in the European regions.

Often sold in their smaller form as table top Christmas Trees, the Stone Pine actually has a lot of potential and in it’s mature form and can grow as large as 25 feet tall, with a canopy of up to 15 feet.

It’s definitely not a small tree once it’s growing in the right conditions, and needs to be planted with care if you want to keep it around for the long term.

Which you’ll need to, if you want to actually get the nuts from the tree.

Pine Nut trees take between 6-8 years to mature fully and then start to produce the cones that the nuts are in. Then it’s another 2-3 years before the cones are fully developed and ready to pick.

That’s at least 10 years to get anything at all from your Pine Nut tree.

So this is not a quick grow crop. Pine Nuts take a LOT of patience simply to get to the beginning of the harvesting process.

Harvesting Pine Nuts

When you finally have the Pine Nut cones ready to pick from your tree you’ll need to find a way to get them down.

Assuming your tree has grown well, it will be a tall and wide tree and you’ll either need a long armed hook of some kind to pull off the cones, or be able to hire or borrow a tree shaker.

Once you have the cones off the tree, you then need to allow time and the right conditions for the cones to open and release the nuts. This involves having the cones laid out somewhere warm and dry so the cones will dry out and peel open, dropping the nut from under all their woody ‘petals’.

Another option is to put the cones into a dry sack and leave it in the warm, then when the cones have opened, hit the bag against the ground to break open the cones and extract the nut.

Of course there are more professional ways to do this job, but this is how you might approach it for your small scale crop.

Once the nut’s been released, there’s still more work to do. You still need to crack the edible part of the nut out of it’s hard shell. Pine nuts aren’t that big so it’s not difficult to imagine that this can be a fiddly, painstaking job without the right tools. Using some form of nut cracker to break the nuts open one by one will certainly while away a good hour or two so it could be a great time to find a good movie, or some great music and just let your brain relax over this task.

From one mature cone you should get about 50 grams of Pine Nuts. Which means you’ll need to break open the shells from at least 3 cones for a decent serving of nuts.

Is It All Worth It?

Having discovered what’s involved to get a good harvest of Pine Nuts, you might decide it’s simply not worth it. (anyways you can buy it from here )Especially if you have no plans to stay on the property you currently live at, or if the work of harvesting the nuts just sounds like too much hassle.

That’s not to say that the Pine Nut tree isn’t worth growing on it’s own merit. The Italian Stone Pine is a lovely tree when mature with a gorgeous shade giving canopy and that fresh pine smell, and getting a few nuts out of it eventually might be your secondary gain, rather than it’s prime purpose.

We decided to plant a couple of trees and have definitely gone with the theory that we will enjoy the trees for their aesthetic value first and if we’re lucky enough to get a few cones finally mature on the tree, then we’ll have a go at harvesting them.

Until then, we’ll just have to keep paying for the hard work of whoever produced the nuts for our local store.

Kudos to them. Growing Pine Nuts commercially is definitely a business for the committed, not for the faint hearted.

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If you’ve ever bought pine nuts in the store, chances are you’re eating Chinese imports that are often of dubious origin. And even if you are vigilant about where your pine nuts come from and buy, say Italian pine nuts, you may get high quality, but you pay for it through the nose.

Why aren’t there American pine nuts, you ask? Well, there are. You just have to go find them yourself. It requires some persistence, but here’s how to harvest pine nuts.

First off, you really must live in the West to do this. Unless you can find a stray Italian stone pine planted somewhere as a landscaping tree, eastern pine nuts are too small or have shells too hard to bother with. Sorry, guys.

If you are in the West, you are mostly looking for two types, both called piñons: Pinus edulis and P. monophylla. Yes, a few other pines have good-tasting nuts, chiefly the sugar pine and the gray pine, which I’ve written about before. But the real action is with the two piñons.

Where to find them?

Pinus edulis is mostly a tree of the Southwest, and you can look for is from San Bernardino County in California to most of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, southern and western Colorado, two southern counties in Wyoming, and two counties outside of El Paso, Texas.

Pinus monophylla is a Great Basin tree, and you’ll find it on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada in California, as well as throughout SoCal, almost all of Nevada and Arizona, all of western and southern Utah, two southern counties in Idaho, and, weirdly, Luna County in New Mexico.

Photo by Hank Shaw

Both are rather scrubby looking pine trees that like the high desert. The tree at right is a singleleaf piñon — P. monophylla — in eastern California and is typical of the species. P. edulis, the two-leaf piñon, is similar-looking if not even scragglier.

Once you find some trees, start scoping them out in early August. You’re looking for trees that have lots of green pinecones on them. Not every tree will set cones, and only Mother Nature knows why. But you can find loaded trees next to barren ones. Sometimes small variations in elevation or whether the trees are on a north or south face of a slope can matter a lot. Once you find the trees, remember where they are.

Photo by Hank Shaw

Return to them around Labor Day. It sounds early, but you need to beat the Insane Rodent Posse (IRP) to these tasty nuts. In my spot, there are several chipmunk or ground squirrel holes under each piñon and they are just waiting for each cone to open. I am betting that the nuts are gone within 24 hours of a cone opening. Under no circumstances can you wait until October to gather your nuts, or you risk them all being scurried away by the IRP.

How to gather? First, buy a cheap pair of gardening gloves. The cones are coated in pitch, a sweet-smelling sticky resin that will get on everything. It happens to be one of the most lovely smells in the world, so it’s not all bad. But your gloves will get wrecked, so be prepared for that. Pick each cone into a paper grocery bag.

Photo by Hank Shaw

When you get home, lay the green cones out in cheap foil roasting trays or some other shallow, wide container you can stack no more than two cones deep — if you stack them too deep they can get moldy. Enjoy the wonderful aroma and wait. Eventually, they will begin to open on their own.

Photo by Hank Shaw

When the cones do open, about 3 weeks or so, pick out all the nuts from within. You’ll get a little pitch on your hands, but it comes off with oil.

Not all nuts will be good nuts, alas. It’s a fact of pine nut processing that can be depressing. All that waiting and work, and sometimes your yield is a crappy 50 percent or worse. It happens. At least there’s an easy way to tell if your nuts are good or not. Dump all the nuts in a bucket of water. About 85 percent of those that float are no good. The sinkers are the keepers.

There is something you can do with the floaters, however. You can mash them up — most won’t have any nut at all inside — fill a Mason jar full and cover it with vodka. Put a lid on the jar, wait a few months and bam! Pine nut bourbon. Damn good stuff.

You’ll notice something: Dark nuts are good nuñts. The darker the shell, the more likely the nut is a good one. The nut on the left is a P. monophylla nut, the one on the right is from P. edulis.

Photo by Hank Shaw

As for the good nuts, you will still need to shell them. See why store-bought pine nuts are so expensive? Sadly, there is no fast way to shell pine nuts. The most effective way is still one at a time, and believe me, I’ve tried lots and lots of different ways to shell these little buggers. This video shows it really well.

Once they’re shelled, freeze the nuts. In fact, freeze even the nuts still in the shell if you plan on keeping them around for more than a couple weeks. Pine nuts are surprisingly perishable. Once frozen, however, in-shell pine nuts will keep for 2 years or more. Oh, and don’t forget to use the shells for more pine nut bourbon…

Looking for pine nut recipes? Here are three of my favorites:

Pine Nut Ice Cream

A pine nut and honey ice cream I am proud of. Awesome drizzled with desert honey, or pine syrup.

Pine Nut Cookies

Killer pine nut cookies! Easy to make and, like potato chips, hard to eat just one…

Paiute Trout with Pine Nuts

Pine nut encrusted trout reflects the flavors of the Great Basin, where both are native.

Are Pine Nuts Tree Nuts

Tree nuts such as walnuts, pecans, chestnuts and hazelnuts grow on trees. One of their distinguishing characteristics is that they have a tough outer shell that protects the dried fruit inside the shell. Pine tree nuts are actually seeds that can be found inside a pine cone but since they have an outer shell they are also referred to as nuts. There are approximately 20 species of pines that produce seeds large enough to be harvested for culinary use. The European stone pine, Asian Korean pine, Pinyon pines, the gray pine and Torrey pine are a few of the varieties of pines that have seeds large enough to harvest.

How to Harvest Pine Nuts

Patience is a necessity if you plan to grow a pine nut tree for the purpose of harvesting your own seeds. Proper growing conditions are required in order for the tree to reach maturity and provide you with edible seeds. It takes approximately 6 to 8 years for a pine nut tree to begin producing cones that contain seeds. It takes an additional 2 to 3 years before the cones reach the stage of full development and are ready to be harvested. Harvesting pine nuts is not an easy task. You’ll need to find a way to remove the cones from the tree. You might want to try climbing a ladder and removing the cones, using a tool of some sort to pull the cones off the tree or use a tree shaker to get the cones on the ground. After you have the cones off the tree, you’ll need to place the cones in a warm location so that they can dry out. When they dry out, the outer covering will open and the seed can be removed. The next step in the harvesting process is to crack the shell and remove the edible nut. This is a process that will also require a lot of patience. Knowing how time-consuming growing and harvesting your own pine nuts can be is likely to motivate you to buy commercially grown, harvested and packaged pine nuts. Harvesting pine tree nuts on a large scale is very similar to the method described above. The cones must be removed from the trees and dried either by sunlight or some type of heating method. Once the drying process is complete, the seeds much be removed by hand or machine. The seeds then undergo another drying process and finally the outer shell is removed. There is a lot of manual labor involved in harvesting, preparing and packaging pine nuts. This is the reason they are more expensive than other varieties of nuts and seeds.

Raw pine nuts also referred to as pignolias, have a subtly sweet, mild, nutty flavor. They are a popular ingredient in pesto sauce and baked goods. A sprinkling of pine nuts over a salad instantly elevates the flavor of the salad. The same is true when these delicious seeds are incorporated into pasta dishes, main dishes and side dishes. The flavor of pine nuts can be intensified by toasting them. You can turn snack time a special event by adding pine nuts to your trail mix or mixing them into one of your favorite snack recipes. In addition to enhancing your recipes, pine nuts can be eaten as part of a healthy dietary plan. They contain vitamins, nutrients and monounsaturated fats that support your overall health in many ways. Unless you’re willing to wait many years to grow and harvest your own pine nuts, simply purchase them by the bag and immediately begin enjoying their goodness and reaping their benefits.

Pine nuts are edible kernels extracted from the seed of a variety of species of pine tree. The seeds are typically thick-shelled and grow inside of pine cones that look very similar to the pine cones that grow on more common pines grown for timber. Cone harvesting and extraction and preparation of the kernels are time-consuming and costly – contributing to the high prices at which pine nuts sell. Pine nuts are highly nutritious and keep well for many months if stored properly in dry, cool conditions and out of direct sunlight. They are extremely versatile in cooking due to their mild flavor, creamy and subtle when raw and richer and nuttier when lightly toasted. They add interest, flavour and texture to many sweet and savoury dishes. They are a truly natural product – essentially unchanged over centuries – requiring no insecticides or fungicides to either grow the trees or prepare the kernels for market.

By some counts there are as many as eighteen different pine species that have been or are now customarily used as food for humans. These grow across North America, Europe and Asia. Pine nuts have been an important food source for thousands of years. Roman soldiers took them as campaign food when they raided Britain over 2000 years ago. Even before that, Greek authors mentioned pine nut trees as food producers around 300 BC, and it is thought that earlier societies used them and transplanted them throughout the Mediterranean region to Israel and even Georgia and the Black Sea between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. A smaller group of the larger, tastier and easier-to-collect species has survived the transition from hunter-gatherer and local farmer societies to the modern world of global trade. The most significant of these are:

  • Chinese pine nuts (Pinus koraiensis). These form the bulk of world supply and are almost always the pine nut you will find if you buy from a supermarket bulk-bin in New Zealand, Australia and many other parts of the world. They have a shorter triangular or teardrop shape and are actually sourced over a wide area including north-east China, south-east Russia, the Korean peninsular and Japan.
  • European stone pine nuts (Pinus pinea). The pine nut of Mediterranean cooking from Spain, Italy, southern France, Greece, the middle east, Turkey and north Africa. They are preferred in Europe over Chinese nuts and sell for a significant premium. They are occasionally available in other regions but usually in very small packets at very high prices. European stone pine nuts are longer and more torpedo-shaped than the Chinese nuts.
  • Siberian pine nuts (Pinus sibirica). A widespread species found through south-central Siberia and into the Russian far-east. They are rather small and rounded nuts but revered among Siberians as a food of high status and health benefits. They probably find their way at the margins into the large Chinese nut supply and sometimes end up in western supermarkets as a result.
  • Himalayan or Chilgoza pine nuts (Pinus gerardiana). Chilgoza pine nuts are a little longer and more slender than any other species. They are harvested from forests in Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of northern India and are used locally and sometimes available in markets in Europe and elsewhere in Asia.
  • Pinon or pinyon pine nuts (Pinus edulis, Pinus monophylla and several other pinon pines of more restricted range). A historically important food for native American tribes of the southwest (Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and northern Mexico) and now highly sought after by residents throughout the region. They are medium sized nuts requiring good harvesting technique to manage the sticky pine pitch on the cones, and often sold in the shell which is thinner and easier to crack than many other species.
  • Mexico has the world’s largest array of pine species and some of these have limited natural range but produce edible nuts that can be locally important. One of these species produces a pink pine nut. Another produces the world’s largest pine nuts (Pinus maximartinezii) but it is a very rare tree and fully protected.
  • California has three species (Pinus coulteri, Pinus sabiniana and Pinus torreyana) that produce notable edible pine nuts used historically by native Americans, but they are not significant in modern commerce because of the scattered occurrence of trees and high harvesting costs.
  • The Swiss nut pine (Pinus cembra) is found through the mountains of central Europe. It has beautiful purple cones with bright tan coloured nuts. In addition to eating the nuts, Italians use the nut shells to flavor and color local grappa.
  • St David’s pine (Pinus armandii) is a highly regarded species in South West china. It produces a small and round-shaped nut.

European stone pine nuts take a full three years to mature on the tree, the longest maturation period of any pine species. As winter begins in late May or early June, a few cells in the buds at the very tips of the crown differentiate as cone-producing cells. In the following spring as the buds begin to swell, the growing conelet first becomes visible, looking like a tiny pineapple the size of a large pea. The trees also produce pollen from separate pollen “flowers” during spring of this first season and the conelets open up to trap the pollen so that the embryos tucked inside can be fertilized. If the timing of the opening of the conelet misses this pollen season, the conelet just withers and dies. Those that open at the right time and get fertilized grow and expand to the size of a large marble by the on-set of the following winter. During the next spring and summer seasons, the cones fill out to the full size of an orange and turn from purple-nut brown to bright lime green by the onset of their second winter. In the last year, they further expand to the size of a grapefruit and turn to a rich nut-brown colour as the third winter sets in. That’s when they are ready to harvest – during the late winter or spring of their third year – and before summer conditions dry out the cones enough for them to shed their seed. They produce new cones every year but about every third year is a particularly heavy cone season, known as a mast year.


Pine nuts are wonderfully healthy and nutritious food. They are rich in the kind of healthy fats now considered to be important in a healthy diet. Fatty acids found in pine nuts include linoleic acid and pinolenic acid which both are the subject of research into their role in regulating blood pressure, suppressing appetite for those trying to control their weight and preventing and treating stomach ulcers. More surprising to some is that pine nuts are very rich in protein. Some studies have found at least trace amounts of every one of the 28 amino acids needed for human metabolism. The European stone pine nut has the highest protein content of all the nut pines at 34% by weight. As a result of the high protein content they have a lower oil content than other pine nuts (48% as against 65% for Chinese sourced nuts). They also contain antioxidants (including vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K as well as lutein) which are claimed to prevent disease and aging by eliminating free radicals. Pine nuts have almost no sodium, and contain useful amounts of other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous and iron. And finally, they contain moderate amounts of dietary fibre.

Pine Nut Allergies

A small proportion of people have found they have allergic reactions to pine nuts. As far as we can tell from our research, pine nut allergies are significantly less common than allergies to other tree nuts or peanuts, but it is a little hard to be sure because more people have yet to try eating pine nuts than say peanuts, almonds or hazelnuts. It may also be possible that people could show allergic reaction to one pine nut species but not to another species. For anybody who has any reason to believe they might suffer from nut allergies, we highly recommend caution at first when eating pine nuts. One thing we are very sure about is that our company and our factory only produce pine nuts. We can say with confidence that the machinery used to harvest and process Pinoli premium pine nuts has not been used to process other types of tree or ground nuts.

Researchers from the Food Group, Department of Wine, Food and Molecular Biosciences, Lincoln University have just completed a research project comparing the nutritional mineral content of Pinoli Premium Pine Nuts with other pine nuts from New Zealand and other countries. See their research poster here. The full research paper is available online Mineral content of our pine nuts is significantly better than for imported nuts bought from the local supermarket. Dr Savage and Mr Vanhanen are following this up with a fatty acid analysis that should also be very interesting.

The Curious Saga of Pine Mouth

A very odd reaction to eating pine nuts has been reported by a very few people from several countries. The prevalent symptom described was the development of a strong bitter or metallic taste sensation some hours or days after consuming pine nuts. Technically, this is called “dysgeusia”. In some people it lasted for as long as two weeks and in the worst cases sufferers reported symptoms so strong that they were unable to consume any food for a day or two. Obviously this was of great concern to us, but we are pleased to report that studies carried out by scientists at the Nestle Research Centre and the Belgian Poison Control Centre have identified one species of pine nut, Armand or St David’s pine (P. armandii) from South West China as the culprit. See the full article here. (link is

While undoubtedly distressing to those who have suffered from “pine mouth”, the story has many interesting aspects from commercial, physiological and medical perspectives. Every two or three years, the pine nut harvest in China is reduced to very low levels just due to natural cycles of production in the main species, Korean pine. World demand for pine nuts continues to rise and in years of poor supply, prices rise sharply, providing an incentive for people living in the South West of China to forage for Armand pine nuts that would not be economically worth collecting in a more normal year. With ever-globalizing trade, these Armand pine nuts have gotten mixed into the export supply chain over the last decade or so, thus explaining the sudden appearance in many countries of a syndrome barely known before 2001.

To their credit, the Chinese authorities immediately issued new rules prohibiting the collection and inclusion of Armand pine nuts into supply intended for commercial sale. Enforcement of these regulations though seems to have been inconsistent, leaving a continued risk of contamination of Chinese supply by Armand pine nuts. The 2012 year was a very poor harvest in the Korean pine regions of North East China and we may see further cases of pine mouth as a result in the next year or so.

Pine mouth is a very odd syndrome. It appears that the taste sensation in the mouth is triggered by absorption of a naturally occurring chemical in Armand pine – when it enters the lower digestive system, and not before. Sufferers report enjoying their pine nuts – and only hours or days later suffering the taste problems. This is so unusual that it has researchers studying it further to try to understand neural pathways that connect the digestive system to the brain and our system of taste in the mouth. They hope to learn more about how our whole food metabolism works in the process.

It may be small consolation to those who have suffered pine mouth, but the other helpful conclusion from research is that while most unpleasant, pine mouth apparently has no other effect on human health. In the worst cases, some people have lost some weight due to not being able to eat other food for a while, but there are no known toxic or other debilitating effects of the syndrome and all sufferers recover completely after some period of time lasting from hours to a few weeks at the outside.

As far as we can tell, there is zero risk of developing “pine mouth” from eating Pinoli Premium Pine Nuts. All of our product is pure European Stone pine (P. pinea). We are experimenting with other interesting species for the future but will be sure we never produce and sell any Armand pine!

I. Overview of Siberian Cedar Pine Nuts

Pine nut is the only nut Russia produces in commercial volumes, and the stocking occurs mainly in the Siberian forests. Siberian cedar(also called Siberian pine, Pinus sibirica, or sibirsky kedr in Russian), is a national pride of Russia. The trees are widely grown in Siberia and the Russian Far East. They can live up to 800 years and grow to over 100’ tall and reach 2 meters in diameter. Siberian pine nut develops only in the upper part of the crown.

II. Benefits and Uses of Siberian Cedar Pine Nuts

Of the over 20 pine tree species in the world which produces pine nuts, Siberian cedar nut is considered as the most nutritious. Cedar nut has a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially linoleic acids. The pinolenic acid, which is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, is present only in pine nuts and pine oil. Cedar nut also has a high content of amino acids, especially arginine. Nut protein is easy to digest. Cedar nuts contain Vitamin E, B1, B2, B3, A and D. 100g of cedar nuts is sufficient to meet an adult’s daily need for amino acids, as well as copper, cobalt, manganese, and zinc.
The nuts are very good when raw, but also can be roasted in the nut roasting machine. Many variants are known for preparing dishes using cedar nut kernels. Cedar nuts contain about 60% oil, they are therefore pressed by oil press machine to obtain cedar nut oil. Cedar nuts can also be used to produce cedar cream and milk. Cedar nut cream is twice as rich as dairy cream in fat content. Cedar nut, oil, cream, and milk have been used since the old days for the treatment of various diseases.
Cedar nut shells can be pulverized to be used as animal feed. The shell is a component for some balsams and tinctures. Infusion of cedar nut shells has astringent, analgesic, anti-inflammatory effect. In folk medicine, the infusion is used against hearing disorders, diseases of liver and kidneys, hemorrhoids, salt deposits, gastrointestinal disturbances, blood diseases, osteochondrosis, arthritis, etc. The infusion is also used externally as a means of depilation.

III. Pine Nuts Harvesting and Shelling Processes in Russia

Pine nuts harvesting

Cedar nut takes two years to mature and a good harvest happens approximately once every four years. Collecting pine nuts is a source of income in many rural areas. During the fall, the collectors go off into the forest for a few weeks to pick cedar nuts. The work of pine nut gatherers is toilsome. They live in tents and it gets cold at night.
The cedar cones are collected as “windfall” cones from the ground. This ensures that only the ripe nuts are harvested, which has the highest nutrient and oil content. Sometimes the cones are gathered by striking the trunk with a large wooden mallet, which causes both mature and immature cones to fall to the ground and the tree is damaged.
Pine nuts can stay inside the cones with the vitality retained for over a decade. For the sake of oil production, the nuts should not be removed from the cones until it’s time to press the oil. However, as it is inconvenient to transport the nuts within the cones, the removal of the nuts often takes place in the forest, using special devices. The mixture falling out of the cracker are separated by using a special type of sieve in the shape of a trough with holes. After arriving back home, the nuts are cleaned and dried and then stored or sold to dealers. Cedar nuts must be kept in a refrigerator, usually with a shelf life of 6 to 12 months. If frozen in a freezer, they can be kept indefinitely. Usually, the in-shell nuts are sold to local nut shelling factories or exported to China, where they are shelled and sent overseas. They are usually marketed shelled, and sometimes in the shell.

Pine nuts shelling processes

In the pine nuts shelling factories, using a specialized pine nuts shelling machine which can crack the shells open upon impact with no damage to pine nut kernels. After elaborate cleaning and selecting, a portion of the nut kernels is packed(usually vacuum-packed to avoid oxidation) and ready for shipment. The remainder is further processed to produce cedar nut oil. As the pine nuts contain some volatile oils which start evaporating after shelling, it is necessary to press the oil immediately after the nuts are shelled.

IV. Pine Nut Oil Production Methods and Benefits of Pine Nut Oil

Cold pressing of pine nuts oil

In cold pressing, the oil is pressed by wooden presses. During the processing, the oil is not permitted to come into contact with metal, which will immediately oxidize the oil and reduce its healing properties. The method of cold pressing is the most costly, however, the oil thus obtained is of the highest quality and is widely used in traditional medicine and cosmetology.
In fact, the wooden press is not well suited for large-scale oil production. Most pine nut oils are pressed using steel oil press machine. On the one hand, by using wooden presses, part of the oil would penetrate the wood pores and eventually go rancid, while steel has no pores and does not spoil. On another hand, the pressure applied by wooden presses is much lower than that in hydraulic steel press machine-consequently, much less oil is squeezed out.
The byproduct of pine nut oil pressing is pine nut meal or flour. Cedar flour contains high levels of vitamin C, B1, B3, E. It contains a high amount of easily digestible vegetable protein, ideal for vegetarians. Cedar flour is perfect for adding to flour for baking. It is also mixed in milk or yogurt, etc.

Hot pressing of pine nut oil

Hot pressing often renders high oil yield. There are several methods of hot pressing. The most common is separating the oil from the heated crushed kernels while rinsing with hot water and hot pressing. This method is less expensive, but due to the high temperature, many wholesome substances have been destroyed. The oil thus obtained is for culinary use.

Extraction of pine nut oil

Most often, an extraction method is used for producing the cedar nut oil. The cedar kernels are first crushed and then drenched with a special compound. From the solution obtained, something is extracted which is later called cedar nut oil. The oil thus obtained is very cheap, and provides huge profits to the distributors.

Benefits of Cedar pine nut Oil

Cedar nut oil contains a large quantity of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including linoleic, oleic, pinolenic acid, palmitic, and stearic, etc. The proteins of the oil include 19 amino acids, 70% of which are essential. Cedar nut oil is a good source of Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, D, E, and F. It is very rich in Vitamin E, with the amount five times greater than in the olive oil. It is also very rich in vitamin F, which is three times greater than in fish oil. The oil is a rich source of trace elements, such as phoshporous, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, cobalt and iodine.
Siberian pine nut oil makes a tasty salad dressing. The oil should be stored at a low temperature or kept in a refrigerator. Keep the oil away from light and avoid any contact with metal. Cedar nut oil has virtually no contraindications. It has been widely used for the treatment of gastritis and ulcer diseases of the stomach and duodenum, nervous disorders, eye disorders, liver and kidney diseases, tuberculosis, cardiovascular diseases; to eliminates chronic weakness syndrome; to increase physical and intellectual ability to work; to normalize digestion and to strengthen immunity. Cedar nut oil is also applied externally giving the effect of rejuvenating the skin, making it supple and smooth, and also helps to treat various skin diseases. Cedar nut oil adding to the hair can help eliminate dandruff, combat brittleness and hair loss.

Eastern Nevada, a hub for commercial pine nut harvesting

Piñon pine trees grow on public land in eastern Nevada. The public can harvest up to 25 pounds of piñon pine nuts on BLM land for their own use without a permit. However, the BLM requires a permit for commercial harvesters and for people harvesting more than 25 pounds.

“It takes two years for a pine nut to fully develop. With such a long growth cycle there are many factors that can plague the crop and cause a harvest to perish.”Dayer LeBaronowner

The BLM conducts their annual pine nut auction each year around August at the Ely District Office for commercial harvesters to bid on units. A unit is a define area of BLM land where commercial pine nut harvesters can gather pine nuts.

“They are places where there have historically been a lot of pine nuts,” Chris Hanefeld, spokesman for the BLM, said.

Once the press release announcing the auction is sent out, the BLM begins taking sealed bids up until the oral auction. There are more than 50 units up for bid each year.

After the auction, the commercial harvesters pay one third of the contract at that point. They also pay for a bond that is refundable if they follow all of the stipulations.

There are only a handful of commercial harvesters in Nevada.

“This year we had about five or six commercial harvesters,” Walsh said.

Part of Walsh’s job is to make sure that the sites keep clean and the harvesters are following the proper rules and regulations during the harvest season.

“They have been in the business a long time,” Walsh said about the harvesters. “By and large they take care of things.”

Many of the commercial harvesters have been harvesting pine nuts in Nevada for years.

“These are professionals,” Hanefeld said. “They come back every year.”

Dayer LeBaron, owner of, is one of these commercial pine nut professionals. His ancestors have been gathering pine nuts in Nevada since the 1800s and his father started the family business harvesting pine nuts in 1958.

Since then, his family has been harvesting pine nuts and selling them to warehouses and various markets as well as fulfilling phone and mail orders. Today they also sell their pine nuts online.

“I was seven-years-old the first time I went out to gather pine nuts,” LeBaron said in a recent phone interview with NNBW.

Pine nuts are found in the Nevada Mountains typically at evaluations of 6500 to 7000 feet. LeBaron explained that commercial harvesters move to different sites based on the harvest for that year.

“When it comes to this business we are mobile,” he said.

Since pine nut harvesting is a seasonal business many commercial pine nut harvesters have other businesses and jobs during the remainder of the year. LeBaron also harvests pecans at his orchard in El Paso, Texas and does construction work.

LeBaron explained that it takes two years for a pine nut to fully develop. With such a long growth cycle there are many factors that can plague the crop and cause a harvest to perish.

“It is so unpredictable,” he said.

He said that he has seen a change in environment over the course of the years. According to LeBaron, the weather used to get colder gradually. But in recent years, the weather has fluctuated more with warm and cold spells during the harvest season. This takes a toll on the harvest.

“A year ago the harvest was down to basically nothing,” LeBaron said.

According to the BLM, in 2016, they sold 119,200 pounds of commercial pine nuts while in 2015 they only sold 15,000 pounds. In 2014 they sold 169,500 pounds.

“2014 was one the better years in the past four to five years,” LeBaron said.

However, he said that recent harvests have been nowhere near the amount of cones he used to see in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

One year in the 1980s, “we have harvested all the way into January,” LeBaron said.

Now he is seeing a lot of undeveloped and hollow pine nuts. This is creating a marketing problem for commercial harvesters, as it is harder to sell the smaller seeds.

“The consumer always prefers the bigger seed,” he said.

LeBaron’s children work with him in the family business. His sons are now in the process of taking over the pine nut business.However, LeBaron worries that the environmental changes he is seeing will continue to make it harder for future commercial pine nut harvesters.

Do you like pine nuts? Most store-bought pine nuts (sometimes called piñons or pignoli) come from Europe or China, but we are lucky to have a local source from a tree common around Moab. Pinus edulis, or the two-leaf pinyon, grows throughout the mid-elevations in our area, with additional species of pinyon pines found throughout the Intermountain West. And piñon season is upon us! Pine cones usually turn brown and open to expose the ripe nuts in the late summer and fall. You may begin to notice one common indication that pine nuts are ready. Pinyon jays, a bird that specializes in eating pine nuts, congregate in large flocks during this season, raucously descending on pinyon trees to forage. For thousands of years, people have also depended on this tree.

Shoshone women harvest pine nuts using long poles with a small cross-bar,
a traditional-style tool. PC Kate Magargal, 2018.

Archaeological sites throughout the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin contain evidence that people harvested and consumed pine nuts. Shell and pine cone fragments are typical materials that indicate consumption of the nuts. Pine nut fragments located in human coprolites (ancient feces) further note the fact that people ate this local delicacy. Back when harvesting food from the surrounding environment was the only option, pine nuts were among the most calorie-rich plant foods available to prehistoric people. The abundance, portability, and durability of pine nuts provided sustenance through the lean times of winter and early spring. This legacy connection between people and pinyon trees maintains. Indigenous people across the West continue the tradition of harvesting pine nuts for use in stews, cakes, and snacks.
Although widespread throughout the Intermountain West, pinyon trees occupy a relatively specific and increasingly fragile ecological niche. The current extent of pinyon pines reflects their reliance on the monsoon rains. Pinyon pine trees slowly spread into this region about 8,000 years ago with the advent of the North American Monsoon. Dates from archaeological sites throughout Utah and Nevada indicate that people began harvesting pine nuts as soon as they were locally available. Today, as drought conditions become more frequent and more severe, pine nuts may start to become scarce. Drought conditions in 2002 and 2012 killed many pinyon pine trees across the region, and these types of events will likely continue to occur.
So what is a person who likes pine nuts to do? For now, the trees and the abundance they provide remain on the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin, and the changes happening to them offer essential insight. Our communities rely on a foundation of the environmental resources around us. In southeast Utah today, open space, oil and minerals, and water are some examples of the types of local resources that allow the people of Grand and San Juan counties to make a living. Although resources like piñons are a relatively tiny piece of our economy today, they are part of the complex web of human ecological connections that make this landscape habitable to people and many other species. Although a global economy currently allows us to import resources from far away, ultimately we rely on resources closer to home and our ability to make a living from them. Empowered by knowledge of how these connections develop and change through time, we are better equipped for the future

Habitat range of intermountain pinyon pine species. Figure from Cole, K. L., & Arundel, S. T. (2007). Modeling the climatic requirements for Southwestern plant species. In Proceedings of the Twenty-First Annual Pacific Climate Workshop.

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