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Where do pine nuts come from?

By • Jul 23rd, 2006 • Category: Vegetarian Tips, Viewer questions Print Print

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.

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is Toni Fiore was raised by an Italian-American father and a German mother who instilled in her a sociable nature and the love of travel and of good food. She has lived in Italy and Germany and now resides in southern Maine. She is the author of: Totally Vegetarian: Easy, Fast, Comforting Cooking for Every Kind of Vegetarian
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22 comments
Karin Lease
Karin Lease

Unfortunately all the pine nuts available in this country (unless you harvest your own) come from CHINA. That's right...inquire more deeply into the product at your grocer and if anyone is telling the truth, that is what you will find!

jessi balls
jessi balls

omg i absolulty LOVE pine nuts they are my favorite nuts

Ellen
Ellen

I love pine nuts. My favorite way is on pizza, they give it great flavor and a bit of crunch.

Cindy
Cindy

Thanks for the info. I have a favorite cookie I like to make that requires pine nuts. I always wondered where they came from.

Meegs
Meegs

Try them on salad...yummm!

Audrey
Audrey

I love adding pine nuts to Loblaw's (President's Choice) unsweetened apple sauce with cinnamon. They make the flavor unbeatable.

celeste
celeste

I live in New Mexico and the pine nut also grows here. they are great and labor intensive to pick. worth the harvesting.

Anne
Anne

I teach first grade and we read a story about pine nuts and the kids wanted to know where theycame from and so now I know! Thanks.

Chef
Chef

My pleasure! Let me know how your recipes work out and feel free to write anytime. Toni

Janyce Russell
Janyce Russell

Thank you and thanks also for the pesto stand in idea.

Chef
Chef

Peanuts are ground nuts(actually a legume) and walnuts and almonds are tree nuts. Pine nuts are also tree nuts. It seems that since you can consume almonds you are not particularly allergic to one family of nuts, but rather individual types. So the short answer is that you could be safe or not. The only way to know for sure is to try, however only you can decide if it's worth the risk. The good news is that in pesto, or recipes that utilize pine nuts almonds are a good stand in. They are light and creamy and certainly closer in appearance and flavor than walnuts, filberts, peanuts or pecans. I hope this helps! Let me know how you fare on this issue, and thanks for writing!

Janyce Russell
Janyce Russell

I have serious nut allergies and it seems the only nut I can eat is the almond. Peanuts and walnuts are my big killers. I'd like to try pine nuts but need to know if they are in the families that I can not eat. Thank you

Chef
Chef

This of course depends on what kind of pine trees you are surrounded by! If they are any of the type listed above then you'll be able to collect them. The pine nuts are incased in a hard shell that has to be removed, revealing the soft nut inside. It's tedious and time consuming, hence the cost. When I lived in Italy we attempted to harvest our own one afternoon. After about two hours of pulling out the shells and cracking them, we decided to just go buy them. I don't really recall there being a particular season they were lying around all the time. Just pick up cones that are opening, ready to release the seeds (nuts) and start cracking!

Ann
Ann

Iam in Moran, WY. I am surrounded by millions of pine trees. How and when do I gather the pine nuts?

Rose
Rose

Thank you so much for the info. A few friends and were sitting at a coffee shop when we got to talking and were wondering just where the Pinenut came from. Your info was very helpfull. Thanks again, Rose

Chef
Chef

Hi Erica, Pine nuts grow in Spain, Italy, China, Portugal and Turkey. There are basically two varieties of pine nut, the Italian and the Asian. The Mediterranean pine nut which comes from the Stone Pine, has a torpedo-shape and a light delicate flavor. The Chinese pine nut which is the more affordable species in America comes from the Korean Pine and has a longer thinner shape. In short, unless these types of trees are growing in Malibu, you won't find pine nuts. Good question though, thanks for writing! Toni

Erica Nizam
Erica Nizam

My Memaw and I wondered about pine nuts when we were bike riding in our Malibu neghborhood. We found some pine cones, but we didn't see any nuts. Where do you look for them in the cone?

taz
taz

i just love pine nuts so much, i was sitting and wondering where do they come from, do they have a shell, my friend was wondering to, where are pinenuts from wow pinenuts wow just love em,

Chef
Chef

Thanks for writing Brittney! Pine nuts are wonderful in just about anything and now that we know how good they are there's even more reason beside their delicious flavor to use them!

Brittney
Brittney

I LOVE pine nuts =] they are very sweet, thank you for posting this! I was trying to figure out where to find them at! Merci -Brittney

toni
toni

Thanks, Rae! Hope to see you around here again, soon! All the best, DTV Staff

Rae
Rae

Hi Toni, I love pine nuts, too, and for a long time I wondered if they could be what the name implied. Nuts or seeds taken from pine cones? Who would think that they taste so good. I like them roasted with pasta.

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