Where do pine nuts come from?
Yesterday I attended a pot luck dinner with some friends. I brought a dish that contained toasted pine nuts and during the course of the evening, it became apparent that not many people knew where pine nuts actually come from.
Having grown up in Italy, these nuts were a regular staple and available everywhere. Pine nuts (pignoli nuts) are the seeds of the Stone Pine, a native of the Mediterranean region, but the seeds of various other pines are also eaten in different parts of the world including the seeds of the Korean Pine or North American piñon tree.
Pine nuts are very labor intensive to harvest which explains their relatively high cost, but the Italian variety is far costlier than Asian pine nuts and there is a difference in shape and quality between the two. The Italian nuts have a slimmer shape, firmer texture, and more flavor, but they’re often three to four times more expensive. Pine nuts are vital for pesto, and are absolutely delicious lightly toasted. They can easily get rancid so store them in the refrigerator or freezer. 100 grams of pine nuts contain 31 grams of protein, the highest of all nuts and seeds, and they have a slightly sweet buttery flavor. While the Italian pine nut is superior in flavor to the more commonly found Chinese variety, I still recommend purchasing the less expensive variety if cost is a factor just to get pine nuts into your diet.
Pine nuts are a welcome, healthy, and delicious addition to many dishes.