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Pine Nuts are delectable little gems that when
roasted provide a heavenly treat. They are akin to a guilty pleasure these days
because of their astronomical cost, but still remain a much sought-after
delicacy in my family.
available in October, one pound of pine nuts used to go for $7.99. Last year
they were $19.99 per pound, but unfortunately I did not see any due to
harvesting scarcity. Pre-packed and shelled pine nuts for cooking cost roughly
$2.50 per 2.25 ounces (or $29 for 27 ounces) because of the intensive labor
needed in order to obtain them.
Short of foraging amongst the pine trees myself, I
will be sadly devoid of the remarkable taste sensation for this year's autumn
and winter seasons.
Admittedly, pine nuts are an acquired
taste. I know very few people who enjoy them as I do. However, I like to
think others might try pine nuts just once to see what all the fuss
is about. Perhaps then my efforts in writing this article will have been well met.
About Pine Nuts
Eating Pine Nuts
Health Benefits of Pine Nuts
Recipes Using Pine Nuts
Links & Resources
About Pine Nuts:
Pine nuts come from the many folds of
the pine cone and are part of the Pinaceae family. They are often called "seeds"
and have been cultivated for more than six thousand years in Europe, Asia and
North America. They contain protein and dietary fiber, but because of their
small size would not suffice as a whole meal or even as an appetizer. The shells
are difficult to crack, so each torpedo-shaped nut obtained is to be savored.
Primary sources for the nuts come
from the Stone Pine (Europe), Korean Pine (Korea),
Chilgoza Pine (Himalaya), as well as Siberian Pine,
Siberian Dwarf Pine, Chinese White Pine and
The main pine tree species in North
America include Colorado Pinyon, Single-Leaf Pinyon,
and Mexican Pinyon. Other species, such as Gray Pine,
Torrey Pine, and Sugar Pine are also harvested but
historians believe that pine nuts date from Israel in 8th century B.C. The first recorded English-speaking
use of pine nuts came in the 12th century in Medieval Britain. According to some
historians, Ancient Greeks and Romans believed pine nuts contained aphrodisiac
properties and preserved them in honey. The Greeks in particular felt
Stone Pine was sacred to the God Neptune.
Pine nuts were once a staple food for Indians in North America.
Native Americans were known to grind the seeds to make soup. Legend has it that a Pueblo Indian maiden ate pine nuts and became pregnant,
later giving birth to Aztec conqueror Montezuma.
Pine Nuts are difficult to harvest,
which accounts for their high cost these days. The pine cones are often gathered
from the trees one at a time, or pickers place a tarp at the base of the tree
and knock at the cones in the branches to shake the nuts loose. Once they fall
to the ground, the tarp can be gathered up with the nuts inside. There are
sometimes 100 nuts per cone.
After gathering, pine nuts are dried
for several days and then cleaned. The most common method of cleaning is to use
a wire mesh to separate the nuts from the broken cone scale and bracts (also
known as chaff).
Bureau of Land
drying, shaking and cleaning pine nuts makes them ready to eat. Pine nuts
are nutritious to eat as is without further enhancement. Their flavor may be
improved by soaking the nuts in salted water, then toasting them in an open
pan in the oven at a moderate temperature. Another method is to wash the
pine nuts in cold water, salt them and put them in a covered roasting pan.
Steam the pine nuts in a moderate oven for 15 to 20 minutes, remove the
cover and stir until completely dry. Most people crack the outer shell with
their teeth and eat the inner nut like eating sunflower seeds.
I've always baked pine nuts to obtain
the best favor and texture.
Eating Pine Nuts:
pine nuts straight form the shell has always been my preferred method. The
process is painstakingly slow but the taste is well worth it in the end.
To bake, spread pine nuts on a
foil-lined baking sheet to avoid pine tar. Bake at 350-degrees F for about twenty
minutes. Allow to cool before eating.
Pine nuts are also available shelled
and pre-packaged in most grocery stores, although the cost per jar can often be
hard to swallow.
The heavy pine flavor of the nuts
might also leave a lingering aftertaste that can last up to three days. This
seems to be more prevalent when the nuts are eaten raw rather than roasted. The
nuts can be eaten raw, but when roasted the flavor tends to be more pronounced
while leaving less bitter aftertaste.
Health Benefits of Pine Nuts:
Pine Nuts are high in monounsaturated fat, and include Vitamins, A, C and D.
They also yield pine nut oil, which has a nutty flavor and is said to contain
Pine Nut oil is generally pressed from edible seeds coming from several species
of pine trees. The oil is generally not used during cooking because of its low
smoke-point, but it is often added to dishes at the finish to add the element of
According to a study undertaken by Lipton Nutrition, pine nut oil can "help curb
appetite by stimulating the release of cholecystokinin, a hormone that
functions as an appetite suppressant."
Other research demonstrates that pine nut
oil can also reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL's).
Dietary Values of several pine nut species:
|Type of Nut
Table Data Source:
Click here for pre-packaged pine nut
Recipes Using Pine Nuts:
wonderfully satisfying eaten alone, pine nuts can also be added to other foods
to marry the pine flavor with dishes including pasta, fish, vegetables, meats
Catfish with Pine Nuts
1/4 C pine nuts, ground (use mortar &
1/2 C cornmeal
1/4 C flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 LB catfish fillets
2 TBS pine nuts
In a bowl combine ground pine nuts
with cornmeal, flour, salt, cayenne pepper, and paprika. Heat the vegetable oil
in a large skillet over medium heat. Dredge the catfish fillets in the
cornmeal-flour mixture. Pan fry the fillets for about 4 minutes on each side, or
until the fish is opaque. Sprinkle with additional pine nuts.
Chicken & Pine Nut Salad
1/2 LB package
mixed salad leaves
boneless chicken breasts
3 TBS sunflower
6 bacon slices,
4 TBS Russian or
Catalina salad dressing
1/2 TBS olive oil
4 TBS pine nuts
Salt & pepper to
Chop the lettuce
into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a large salad bowl, cover with plastic
wrap, and chill until ready to serve. Clean and dry the chicken breasts, and
slice them in long strips. Heat the oil in a wok or a large, non-stick frying
pan. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat until the bacon is browned and
crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Leave the bacon
fat in the pan (or wok) with the oil, and add the chicken strips and cook them
over medium-high heat until the meat is no longer pink.
Remove pan from
the heat, and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the salad dressing, mixing
well to coat all of the chicken (add more dressing if need be). Wipe out the pan
and add the 1/2 TBS olive oil. Heat on medium high, and then stir in shelled
pine nuts. Cook long enough to "toast" the nuts, stirring frequently (about 2 or
three minutes). Stir into the chicken mixture. Take the salad bowl out of the
refrigerator, and toss the chicken mixture with the lettuce. Serve at once.
Green Beans with Pine
1/4 C pine nuts, roasted
1 1/2 LBS green beans, trimmed & cut
into 1/2" pieces
2 TBS lemon juice
2 tsp. Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Toast the pine nuts in a baking dish
in a 350-degree F oven for about three or four minutes, shaking the baking dish
frequently. Steam green beans in boiling water or an electric steamer-cooker
until tender. Drain green beans and transfer to a serving bowl. Toss with lemon
juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Pine Nuts in Sugar
1 C pine nuts,
1 C sugar
Melt the sugar in
a clean, dry pan for about 10 minutes over medium-high heat. When the sugar is
melted, add the pine nuts and stir to coat. Remove the pan from the heat and
form the mixture into shapes similar to cylinders (let the mixture cool until
you can handle it without burning yourself). Make each "cylinder" about 6" long
and roughly 2" wide.
Pine Nut Pesto
2 TBS pine nuts, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
4 C basil leaves (4 oz.)
1/2 C fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 tsp. salt
Using a food processor, process the
pine nuts and garlic until finely minced. Add olive oil and pulse three times.
Then add the basil, Parmesan cheese and salt to the processor bowl. Process
until finely minced, scraping down the sides. Toss with cooked pasta. Note:
Refrigerate leftovers and use within seven days.
Pokerounce (Medieval bread & honey)
8 oz. honey
Pinch each of
ginger, cinnamon, pepper & nutmeg
1 TBS pine nuts
Place honey in a
saucepan, and then add the spices. Stir over low heat until the honey and spices
are well-blended. Be careful not to let the honey burn. Cool the mixture, and
then toast individual slices of bread (bread quantity will depend on how much of
the honey mix you dollop on each slice). Cut the slices of bread into quarters
(either square or lengthwise), and lay them flat on a plate or cookie sheet.
Drizzle the honey mixture over the toast pieces, and then place the pine nut
kernels upright into the bread so they are erect. Make patterns with the pine
nuts, or eat the toast as it is.
Spaghetti Squash with
1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
1/4 C toasted pine nuts
1/4 C Romano cheese, grated
2 TBS fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp. butter, melted
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F.
Place squash cut side down in a large baking dish. Bake squash for fifty
(50) minutes. Scrape the flesh of squash from the rind using a fork and place in
a bowl. Add pine nuts, cheese, parsley, butter, salt, and pepper; toss to
combine. Serve at once.
Pine Nut Links & Resources:
Good from the Woods
How to Cook with Pine Nuts
LeBaron Pine Nuts
Pine Nut Harvest
Pine Nut Oil
Pinon Nuts.Org (BLM
Pinion Penny Blog
Popularity of Pignoli (Epicurean)
Red River Foods
The Nut Factory (Pine Nuts)
Wholesale Pine Nuts
Wild Crops Pine Nuts
Reprinted exclusively for Food Fare
"Pine Nuts" was written for entertainment purposes only and expresses the sole
opinions of the author. This article is not meant to be a professional
chef's essay about pine nuts, but rather an observation about the generalities of
pine nuts from an amateur home kitchen.
You are free to use the material in this article as reference, but if you
happen to use direct wording from this piece, I would appreciate the credit.
To order the PDF version of Pine Nuts,
To send Shenanchie a comment about Pine Nuts, click
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