Pine nuts tree nuts

Where Do Pine Nuts Come From: Learn About Growing Pine Nut Trees

Pine nuts are a staple in many indigenous cuisines and have migrated to the United States as a part of our family table. Where do pine nuts come from? The traditional pine nut is the seed of stone pines, natives to the Old Country and not widely grown in North America. These tasty seeds are harvested from the tree’s cones and are just one of 20 species of edible pine nuts.

There are several pine trees that will produce reasonably sized seeds for harvesting that will thrive in North American regions. Once you know how to grow pine nuts, you can store seeds for up to a year for your family’s use.

How to Grow Pine Nuts

Toasted pine nuts in salads, pastas, pesto and other dishes add a nutty crunch and earthy flavor to any recipe. Pine nut harvesting is an arduous process and adds to the hefty price tag fetched by most producers of the seeds. As a backyard specimen, pine nut trees are strong, attractive, long-lived plants that add architectural appeal. There are several American pine trees that are useful as nut trees, any of which can be purchased as 2- or 3-year plants or bigger, or may be sown from fresh seed.

Pinus pinea is the specimen of pine from which most commercial nuts are harvested. When growing pine nuts, choose a variety of pine with large enough seeds to easily harvest and a tree that is adaptable to your region. Fortunately, most pine trees are very tolerant of a wide range of soils and climates. Most are hardy to United States Department of Agriculture zones 1 to 10, although the exact zone will depend upon the variety.

Pine nut trees may range from 200-foot-tall monsters to more manageable 10-foot-tall bushes. Four species to try with good sized nuts and easy care are:

  • Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra)
  • Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis)
  • Colorado pinyon pine (Pinus edulis)
  • Single-leaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla)

Check with reputable dealers for viable seed or potted plants ready to go into the ground.

What to Expect When Growing Pine Nuts

Pine trees will start producing cones with sizable seed in 6 to 10 years. This isn’t a quick commitment, obviously, as you will have to care for the tree for many years before you can expect to be harvesting nuts.

Most pine nut species can thrive in variable soils, from wet clay to sandy, dry loam. Adding organic matter to the planting site and ensuring good drainage will promote a faster growing tree that will produce more nuts.

Plants have some drought tolerance for short periods, but providing average moisture will also ensure better plant health and growth.

Once you have mature healthy trees, you can harvest the cones, but don’t expect a bumper crop. Cone production is influenced by climate and weather, and each cone may only contain 35 to 50 seeds. That’s a lot of harvesting to get pine nuts to feed an entire family.

Pine Nut Harvesting

When trees are producing large cones, it’s time to harvest. Depending upon the height of your tree, this may pose the biggest problem in pine nut production. Use a hook or rent a commercial tree shaker to dislodge cones. You can also pick up mature cones from the ground, but be quick about it! Numerous animal and bird species also find the seeds delicious and there will be fierce competition for the nuts.

Once you have cones, you need to cure and extract them. The easiest way to do this is to place the cones in a burlap bag in a warm, dry area. When cones are completely dry, give the bag a good whack to break open the cones and release the seed.

Now you need to pick them out of the chaff and allow the seeds to dry. If you think you are done once seed is dry, think again. Pine nuts have a hull, or shell, surrounding the tender meat. Use a small nutcracker to remove the hull.

Seeds can be frozen or toasted. Frozen seeds last for months while the oil rich toasted seeds should be used within a couple of weeks to prevent oil from turning rancid and ruining the flavor of the seed.

Why Does the USA Import Pine Nuts When We Have Our Own?

And yet, despite the fact that American pine nuts have been prized for thousands of years, the vast majority of pine nuts Americans eat do not come from Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado: they come from China, Russia, and Afghanistan. (North Korea is the third-largest producer, but you won’t be finding North Korean pine nuts sold legally in the US.) So what’s the deal?

Civil Eats has a great feature about the downfall of the American pine nut industry, a truly embarrassing and damaging loss given that the pinyon species in North America can produce nuts (seeds, technically) worth upwards of $40 per pound. The problem, reports Civil Eats, dates back to the 1950s, when the US Forestry Service and the Bureau of Land Management got together to divide up the public land in the Southwest into “forest” and “range” land.

This land can be used by private industries for certain things, like harvesting pine nuts or grazing cattle. But pine nuts, despite and therefore causing their high value, are a real pain to harvest. The gigantic pine cones have to be harvested at just the right point, then allowed to dry for the scales to open, then the seeds have to be dug out, and they they have to cracked…it’s a whole ordeal. So the governmental agencies basically said, screw the pine trees: let’s raze the forest and open the land up for cattle to graze.

The razing of the forest stopped a few decades ago, but another problem took up right where the government left off: climate change. Pine nut foragers report that unpredictable weather has made the already-challenging task of harvesting pine nuts substantially harder, and potentially not even profitable.

With cheaper labor and fewer environmental restrictions in China – some just lop off entire branches rather than picking the pine cones, which is extremely bad for the tree – Chinese pine nuts have been able to take control over the past decade. Some reviews believe that China will, in the next five years, completely dominate the pine nut export market. And that’s sad! Because we have our own right here.

Classification: Pinaceae

Other names for Pinus pinea

Stone Pine, Edible Pinenut, Umbrella Pine

Introduction

Many species of pines bear edible pine nuts. These nuts are actually the kernels which are released when pine seeds are cracked open, and each cone usually has numerous seeds. Different pine species have different sized seeds, different ease of cracking and different flavours – the worst tasting strongly of turpentine. Pine nuts are very nutritious and have been an integral part of the native diet in many parts of the northern hemisphere for thousands of years.
There are at least 18 species that produce edible nuts. However, only four species have been cultivated for their seed crops – Pinus pinea and P. sibirica in Europe, and P. cembroides and P. maximartinezii in Mexico. Other species are regularly collected from native forests. Some of these sources, especially in China, are dwindling as the forests are felled for timber. The pine nuts you usually find in the shops are nearly always from the Stone pine (Pinus pinea) from Italy or the Korean Pine (Pinus koraiensis) from China.
A number of pine species producing edible nuts grow well in New Zealand, with the drier parts of the South Island recognised for good seed production. P. pinea is the most common species here and is occasionally described as a possible commercial species. However, considerably more research needs to be done before informed predictions can be made about a potential pine nut industry.

Description

The evergreen tree is medium or large, reaching 15—25m high, with a broadly-arched, umbrella-shaped crown and horizontal branches. The often leaning straight trunk has a furrowed, reddish grey bark.
Needles are in twos, persisting for 2 years, stiff and light green. Cones are usually borne singly (occasionally in twos and threes) inclined downwards at the end of branches on stalks; they are nearly round, 80—150mm long, and up to 100mm wide; they ripen in their third year. Seeds are thick-shelled and dull brown with variable-sized wings. The tree is hardy to minus 12°C.
This tree comes originally from the Mediterranean area where the nuts have been used for centuries — shells have even been found in Britain in the refuse pits of Roman encampments. Italy is the main grower of this species and produces the bulk of the world supply. The seeds are especially valuable in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and are called pignolias.

Climatic Requirements

Hardy Zones 8-10
The trees can stand strong winds and salt sea air, and once established will tolerate both wet and dry conditions.

Soils

The species will grow on almost any soil other than a highly alkaline lime soil. If grown on permanently wet soils, such as peat, the tap root will fail to develop and the trees will blow over because of heavy top growth.

Sites

These trees can be used as a multi-purpose crop in a shelter belt as the strong tap root on this species is able to penetrate hard soils, a feature which helps when competing for water. Low branches develop which remain green all their lives and lower branches tend to deter rabbits and hares while the tree is young: apparently they do not like pine needles in their eyes!
In coastal areas they are particularly useful for shelter belts and erosion control as they tolerate salt laden winds and will grow in both sands and clays. They also cope with very hot summers and cold conditions down to 23C below freezing.
It is now being recommended to plant pine nuts on sandy sites where the branching will be lighter and a good salt wind blowing through will help obtain good nut production. (This has been disputed by some growers in other areas.)

Spacing

Trees are best planted at a spacing of 10m for nut production or 5m if planted as a shelter belt.

Propagation

Pine seeds need varying amounts of cold treatment (stratification) before they will germinate. If sown directly into the field, rodents and birds may damage the seeds. Seeds should be sown in a well-drained potting mix, preferably in deep pots and covered with 10mm of mix and kept at about 19°C. Higher temperatures inhibit germination. When germination occurs a long taproot will grow before the shoot emerges. Take care not to damage this taproot.
A layer of pine needles or soil from beneath an established pine tree may be helpful in establishing mycorrhizal infection around the seedling roots. This soil will probably contain fungi which live in close physical association with the pine, to their mutual benefit. In fact, these symbiotic fungi are essential for the trees to grow and remain healthy. Without this mycorrhizal association seedlings may simply stop growing after a couple of years. Unfortunately, different pine species need different fungi. Young plants are susceptible to frost damage. Seedlings do not need shading except in very hot and sunny locations.

Transplanting

The trees transplant badly if they are left in one place for more than 2 years because of the long taproot and sparse root system.
Plant into permanent positions as soon as possible. Mulch will help suppress weeds.

Pruning

It is desirable to prune trees from year 3 to remove all the lower branches up to a height for access. Clearing of the lower branches facilitates the production and harvesting of the nuts and enables sheep to graze As the growth of branches begins close to the ground, the lower branches can become large if left unpruned. The extent of the growth lower branches is very much determined by the spacing between trees. Removal of the lower branches and removal of a second leader, if it develops, also improves the value of the tree for timber.
For nut production make sure that the tree has a single trunk and develops into an umbrella/parasol shape. This provides enough height to walk underneath when gathering the cones. If exuberant growth as on fertile soils, remove about every second branch so that the sap flow is not impeded – thus preventing the formation of nuts.

Pollination

Flowers are self fertile and pollinated by wind They form November to December and the seed ripens about April. This species does not hybridise with other members of this genus.

Production

These trees are slow growing. Seedling trees can start producing cones in 6 to 8 years, but may take as long as 10—12 years on poor soils, with full production by 40 years. This is obviously dependent on how the trees grow, so the better the treatment you give them the sooner they will produce nuts.
A heavy crop (mast) is produced every 3 or 4 years. Each cone holds about 50—100 nuts and 100kg of cones holds about 20kg of nuts. This means that annual yields of nuts are about 5kg per tree, but 15kg per tree in a mast year. With 100 trees per hectare this gives yields of 500-1500kg of nuts per hectare.

Harvesting

Harvesting is done by a long pole or hook which is used to pull the cones off the tree. Mechanical harvesting using tree shakers is being introduced. The nuts are crushed between cylinders to crack the shells which are separated off by sieving, then the kernels are sieved again to remove their brown skin Where no equipment is available leave the cones on concrete where the sun heats it. The cones will then open and you can retrieve the pinenuts.

Nuts

The seed 20mm x 10mm is rich in oil and has a soft texture. It is commonly used in snacks and Pesto sauce. Store in a dry place (not the refrigerator). Unshelled pinenuts stay fresh longer than shelled ones.

Pests & Diseases

An easy to grow tree with little in the way of pests and diseases in New Zealand, but not necessarily productive.

Cultivars

Thin-shelled varieties exist. The variety ‘Fragilis’ has a thin shell and is cultivated for this reason. Work is being done in Italy to select superior cropping plants. Rootstocks for these need to be 18 months old, and a cleft or veneer side graft is used.

Other Edible Species

Of the 18 species of pine which produce edible nuts the species of the most interest to us in New Zealand are: Pinus pinea, P. edulis, P. koraiensis, P. cembroides and P. coulteri. Other possibilities are: P. armandii, P. maximartinezii, P. caneriensis, P. monophylla, P. quadrifolia and P. sibirica.

P. koraiensis (Chinese nut pine, Korean pine)

A medium or large pyramidal tree of loose conical shape, this species grows to a height of 20—30m with a trunk up to 2·5m in diameter. Branches are strongly horizontal to erect. Needles are in fives, loosely arranged, stiff, green on one side and bluish-white on the other. Cones are borne at or near the end of branches in groups of 1—3, are cylindrical and erect, 90—140mm long by 50—60mm wide, bright yellowish-brown when ripe, with woody scales. In New Zealand cones ripen in their 2nd year in March and the seeds fall a month later. These seeds are greyish-brown and unwinged. In its native habitat of Manchuria, Korea and north Japan it grows on mountains, usually in well-drained sandy soils, in mixed forests of conifers and hardwoods. It is hardy to minus 35°C, but not good on wet sites.
Trees start to bear cones at 25—30 years of age, with heavy seed years occurring every 2—3 years. Cones contain, on average, about 160 seeds.
The nuts are highly valued in Asia, where numerous improved selections exist. In North America two improved selections, ‘Grimo’ and ‘Morgan’, are available.
At present cones are collected in conjunction with logging operations in north-eastern Chinese forests which are being over-cut. The cost of seed collection will increase enormously as trees become scarcer. In 1981 there were 390,000ha of this species, but by the year 2,000 it is anticipated that the accessible timber will have been logged.
When seed is collected in conjunction with logging operations it makes the seed collection cost extremely low — as workers have been receiving wages as low as $US1.00 per day. Thus, immediate market prospects for cultivated edible pine seeds from New Zealand are not bright.

P. edulis (syn. P. cembroides var. edulis) (Pinyon pine)

This medium-size tree (to 15m high) is usually multi-stemmed with irregular habit. It would need training with a single stem if cultivated. In New Zealand the cones usually open in March or April after a frost, the seeds falling out over the next 2 weeks.
Native to the high mountain slopes in south west USA and Mexico and hardy to minus 22°C, this slow-growing straggling tree has adapted to a dry climate. Trees under 250mm diameter appear to be dioecious, providing fewer cones but many seeds per cone, but larger trees seem to be monoecious and produce many cones, but with fewer seeds per cone.
Young trees start bearing at about 25 years old and when about 1·5—3m high. Heavy crops are not borne until trees are about 75 years old. Because of this time factor there are no cultivated orchards of pinyon pines.
Cones take 2—3 years to mature, and large crops are expected every 4 to 7 years. Trees can be shaken to get the seeds to fall on plastic sheets. (A traditional harvest method used by the Amerindians was to allow kangaroo rats to collect the nuts and store them in a tunnel a few inches under the ground, and then raid these stores.)
Unshelled nuts have excellent keeping qualities, and can be stored for 3 years. Shelled nuts must be used within 3 months. Pinyon nuts contain 20 essential amino-acids, and have been used in the USA for centuries, where demand always exceeds supply.

P. cembroides (Mexican pinyon, Mexican stone pine)

In commercial importance this nut is second only to P. edulis. It is slow-growing, tolerant of competition, and very long-lived, not reaching maturity until 250-350 years old.
It is a small tree, growing to 8m high, with a rounded crown and outspread branches. The cones are roundish, 30—50mm long by 30—40mm wide, with only a few scales which open widely when ripe. It is native to south-west USA and Mexico where it grows on hot arid mountain slopes, and is hardy to minus 15°C.

P. coulteri (Big cone pine)

This is a large, straight-stemmed tree, 25-30m high, with a loose, green, pyramidal crown and very stout wide-spreading branches. The bark is thick and very dark brown. Needles are in threes, persisting for 2—3 years, and are long, stiff and dark bluish-green. Cones are borne on short stalks and are very large and heavy (250—350mm long and up to 150mm wide), a shiny yellow-brown, and very persistent. Most cones open to release the seeds, which are black with a 25mm wing. This species is native to the coastal mountains of California and Mexico and is hardy to minus 15°C. Trees are quite fast-growing and drought-tolerant.

P. maximartinezii

This species is proving to be a very difficult species to establish with our present knowledge. The late Louis Trap reported that his were only 50cm tall after 4 years, with many deaths. It can withstand cold winters and is probably better suited to colder drier sites in the South Island. In its native habitat of Mexico this tree is not very big, 5—10m high, with a trunk 150—250mm in diameter. The branches are irregular and drooping. One of the largest trees Louis saw was 20m high and had a 600mm trunk diameter. Obviously if we can find the ideal conditions to suit this tree it will grow larger than in its natural habitat.
The cones are very large, 100—220mm long and 100—150mm wide, and can weigh up to 2 kg. They are borne singly and appear pendulous on slender branchlets. The seeds are wingless, oblong and a very light brown in colour, 10—12mm wide and 20—25mm long — reportedly the longest pine nut in the world. These nuts (800—900 to the kilo) are available on the local Mexican market. The seed coat is thick and very hard.

P. armandii (Chinese white pine)

One of the more easily-grown species, this pine begins flowering quite early, around 12 years of age. Native to the mountains of western and central China, it is hardy to minus 23°C. The seeds are regularly collected and sold in the markets there and regarded as a delicacy.

Other Species

Several other species produce edible nuts but are of much less significance. Of these P. monophylla and P. quadrifolia appear promising. Peter Leerschool mentions growing P. caneriensis in the Wairarapa. Nick Ledgard of NZ Forest Research Institute, Rangiora, obtained seed of 10 species in 1987, and no doubt different individuals have imported several more. How these are all doing and where they are is not clear.

Conclusion

Most of the world’s pinenut-producing species can be grown in New Zealand, and there is evidence that good nut production can be obtained from some species. P. pinea and P. koraiensis have already shown their ability to grow and produce good nuts. P. pinea appears suited to dry areas and P. koraiensis to the moister, more humid sites.(Especially around Lake Coleridge). They are the most encouraging species so far.
The Korean pine is interesting because its cones fall intact, making it less costly to harvest than the other pines. P. maximartinezii, because of its large seeds, should be tried also.

Commercially, the cost of production, length of time to cropping and the prices received are at present hardly enough to make a viable industry, and immediate market prospects for cultivated edible pine nuts from New Zealand are not bright.

Nevertheless, the total market size has increased significantly over the past decade with the advent of health food consciousness. So we should be looking ahead and trying out different species and management, so that we are then in a position to exploit any future market opportunities. In the longer term there may be room for optimism, and ongoing research should not be neglected. It would certainly be beneficial to select precocious early and heavy cropping trees. The length of time to maturity for some species seems daunting. If high-producing seed lines can be found and better orchard management techniques developed to maximise seed production, future prospects could be improved. Until this is done, pine nuts are likely to remain a cottage industry for lifestyle enterprises or a small adjunct to another major business.

Compiled by: Roy Hart – May 1997

Updated by: G Newcomb – November 1998
Privacy removals and proprietory format conversion – December 2007

This fact sheet has been produced with the latest information available at the time of publication. In no way, however, can this sheet be considered the ultimate in information for New Zealand growing conditions: it is just a basic guide on the subject. If any member has information to add, or feels that any of the information is misleading, then we ask you to write to the contact below.

Growing edible pine nuts in Michigan

Last week, I received a voicemail message from a gentleman who wanted to learn where he could find a “pine nut tree.” His father had emigrated from Lebanon many years ago and he remembered how his dad always reminisced about eating pine nuts in the Old Country. For years he had wanted to plant a pine nut tree in memory of his dad. The problem was every time he went to a nursery and asked for a pine nut tree, nobody knew what he was talking about.

Pine nuts are the seed from pine cones and the pine nuts the gentleman’s father cherished were likely from stone pine (Pinus pinea) trees (Photo 1), which are the pine nuts (pignoles) favored for making pesto (Photo 2). In the United States, pine nuts that are sold commercially usually come from pinyon pine (Pinus edulis), which is native the southwestern United States. Unfortunately, neither of those trees will grow here in the Upper Midwest.

There are, however, many other pine trees that produce edible nuts – the main reason stone pine and pinyon pine are widely used is because they produce very large seeds, making them relatively easy to harvest. About 20 species of pine produce seeds large enough that harvesting the nuts is worthwhile. Two pine species that produce edible nuts and grow well in our area are Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) and Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra) (Photos 3- 4). Both trees are excellent landscape trees and are included in Michigan State University Extension’s tip sheet on recommendations for alternative conifers for Michigan.


Photos 3-4. Korean pine (left) and Swiss stone pine (right). Photo credits: Bert Cregg, MSU

If you want to try your hand at growing your own pine nuts, here are a few factors to consider.

Be patient. Pines, like most conifers, may not produce cones until they are 10 or 15 years old. Planting large container stock or balled and burlapped trees rather than seedlings can provide a jump-start.

Plant several trees of the same species near each other. Pines are not completely self-infertile, but trees that are “selfed” (cones are pollinated with their own pollen) will have poor seed set and many empty seeds. Pines are wind pollinated so allow enough space between trees for air movement to carry pollen between trees.

Expect “boom and bust” cycles. Cone production in conifers is complex and controlled by weather as well as internal, alternate-bearing cycles. Forestry seed orchard managers often try to induce stress in pine trees in order to get them to produce seed cones.

Dr. Cregg’s work is funded in part by MSU’s AgBioResearch.

American Pine Nuts

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Nevada Jumbo Soft shell Great Basin Pine Nuts shelled and dehyrated naturally at 110 -120degrees! The most flavorful of any pine nut you will ever try. American Pine Nut product, including pinon pine cones, pine nut shells (for pine nut vodka tinctures) Truely an amazing product ! See our reusable grinder, add your own spice blends and have instant pesto!! Grind pine nuts on your salads, oatmeal, baked goods!\

SHELLED Nevada Pinyon PINON PINE NUTS Shell Free –

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Pinon Penny

Liston Pine Nuts

You can buy fresh Nevada Soft shell pine nut seeds and Hard Shell Pinon Pine Nuts here at Liston Pine Nuts.

We specialize in selling fresh locally grown Nevada soft shell Pine Nuts. (American Pine Nuts)
The Nevada soft shell pine nut is a local seasonal pine nut that is harvested in the fall of each year. These are the freshest pine nuts you will find. We sell them raw and in the shell. We usually only have these pine nuts during the fall and are sold out by December. So be sure to order these when they arrive. Please get on the mailing list to be notified when they are available.

2019 Nevada Soft Shell Update

Sold Out. Please check back with us in September 2020.

Get on our mailing list to be notified when they arrive.

2019 Hard Shell Pinon Update Will not be available this year. Please get on our email list for updates.

FAQ Frequently asked questions

What are Pine Nuts?
Pine nuts are the seeds that come out of pine cones. People have been eating them for thousands of years. Or at least as far back in history as we are able to know about. The pine nut was a staple of the American Indians. They would harvest them in the fall and save them to eat through out the year.

How do I crack pine nuts?
The traditional way to crack the pine nut is to use either your fingers to crack the shell, then pull the shell off and eat the seed or gently crack the shell with your teeth, then use your fingers to pull apart the shell and eat it. Its pretty simple. Just don’t eat the shell.

Where can I go to harvest my own pine nuts?
The most difficult part about harvesting your own pine nuts is finding a location that has the pine trees. They are usually found in remote areas in the mountains at about 7,000 feet in elevation. Commercial harvesters spend many days/weeks scouting out an area (or areas) that is large enough to supply them with the volume of pine nuts needed to make it profitable. But if you are just looking for a small pocket of trees that you can take your family out to for a camping trip I would suggest calling the local BLM or forest ranger station to see where they recommend. Tell them that you are looking for a place to harvest some pine nuts for personal use. They should at least be able to give you an idea of where you can go look. Every year is different. It takes about 18 months for the pine nut to mature. So if you found a good spot this year it will most likely not be a good place the following year. Also, if you think you are going to save money by harvesting your own pine nuts, think again. Unless you are planning on harvesting pine nuts on a large scale you will probably not make enough money to pay for your gas and supplies. Harvesting pine nuts on your own is purely for the experience and to create memories with.

What is the difference between the Nevada Soft shell type and the NM/AZ Hard Shell Pinon type?
The Nevada Soft shell type, also known as the pinus monophilla, is primarily located in Nevada and around the state lines bordering Nevada. They are larger than the hard shell type and have a softer shell that can easily be cracked by using your fingers or teeth.
The NM/AZ hard shell type, also known as the pinus edulis, is primarily located in the south western USA in New Mexico and Arizona. They are smaller than the Nevada type and have a harder shell that is more difficult to crack.
Many people prefer the taste of which ever one they may have grown up eating. If your not familiar with the difference in taste, it would probably be a good idea to get s sample of each before purchasing a large quantity.

Why American Pine Nuts Are Getting Harder to Come By

karandaev / Getty Images

A warning all pesto lovers: U.S. pine nuts are in serious danger. Pine nuts, those little seeds taken from the inside of pinecones that can be found in everything from salads to hummus to some baked goods, have been an important product of America’s Southwest. But things are taking a turn for the worse. According to Civil Eats, the combination of the destruction of thousands of acres of piñon-juniper woodland, wherein pine nuts grow, and cheaper prices for pine nuts imported from Asia is dealing a massive blow to the U.S. pine nut industry.

A lot of the piñon-juniper woodland was cleared in the mid-twentieth century, when the U.S. Forestry Service and the Bureau of Land Management decided that, since the trees didn’t make good timber, they were pretty much useless. They wanted to convert it to ranchland for the cattle industry.

The U.S. has since stopped removing all that piñon-juniper to make room for cows for the most part, but a force bigger than the U.S. government has taken over the business of making pine nut farming more difficult: the Earth’s climate. Recent unpredictable weather patterns have taken a serious toll on pine nut production, and it’s only getting worse (i.e. weather so hot you could bake a pizza in a parking lot). It’s also getting harder for pine nut farmers to get approved for a shrinking number of commercial gathering permits, and labor is tedious and expensive—the day’s harvest for one worker is about fifty pounds of pine nuts at best.

Between that and the affordability of pine nuts from countries like China and North Korea, things really don’t look good for the U.S. (even though Chinese and Korean pine nuts can cause something called “pine mouth”). If things get much worse or too expensive, you may want to learn to make a good pine nut-free pesto.

Stone Pines consist of about 20 different varieties of pine trees which produce an edible seed or nut (known as a Pine Nut). Due to their great flavor and nutritious value, these nuts are always under high consumer demand and usually command a high price tag as well. They are often used to make pesto, added to salads and more. In addition to producing abundant crops of these nuts, Stone Pines can also make great ornamental and shade trees.
While eventually needing full to partial sun, young Pine nuts benefit greatly from shade or a grow tube for the first few years to prevent desiccating in the hot summer sun. One way to achieve this is to plant them in the shade of a shrub or small tree that they will eventually out grow or move/cut down the shade producer later. Pine nut trees do best in well drained soil. In addition to that it is recommended to plant your pine nut with a shovel full of soil or duff that comes from underneath a native pine tree to inoculate the roots with naturally occurring, symbiotic mycorrhizae fungus which can greatly help the young tree grow healthy and strong. Pine nuts are self-fertile, and are capable of producing 20+ pounds of nuts. However, they can take 6 to 10 years to start producing. Please be patient – it’s well worth the wait!

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