Lou and I are house sitting in a semi-rural area of Spain’s Andalucía region. Bordering our villa is a forest dominated by pine trees. We even have a pine tree in our back garden. No doubt you’ve seen pine cones before, but have you ever wondered how to get pine nuts from pine cones?
In this piece we’ll explain what pine nuts are and what’s so good about them; Show you where you can find pine nuts; Demonstrate how pine nuts can be harvested and give you some great ideas for how to use pine nuts in food.
WATCH THE VIDEO: ‘How to get pine nuts from pine cones’
What are pine nuts?
Pine nuts are misleadingly named. They are not nuts in the same way as almonds or hazelnuts but the seeds of pine trees, known as tree nuts. You may have seen pine nuts for sale in the health food section of your local shop because they are an excellent source of nutrition. The price for a kilo of pine nuts is commonly around 50 EUR (£45 or 60$).
Where can I find pine nuts?
There are over a hundred species of pine trees, all of which produce edible seeds. However only twenty or so have nuts of a size worth harvesting. These are found all over the world, particularly in places with a Mediterranean climate such as Andalucía, but the leading exporters are Russia, Mongolia, Korea, China and Afghanistan.
You find pine nuts within the wooden cones that fall from pine trees during the autumn. Walk through any forest where there are pines, and you see pine cones littering the floor. The nuts are accessible when the cone has dried up, and the ‘scales’ of the cone have separated. Each ‘scale’ contains two pine nuts. Potentially, one cone could provide fifty grams of pine nuts.
How to get pine nuts from pine cones
Removing the pine nuts from the pine cones is quite a simple process but a little fiddly. Let’s walk you through it:
🌰 Find a pine cone near a pine tree. A fallen cone is usually ready to be harvested.
🌰 Now tap the pine cone on a hard surface, and the pine nuts should fall out.
🌰 If that doesn’t work, you can crack each ‘scale’ of the cone upwards, to release the nuts.
🌰 Remove the shells of pine nuts either by gently banging them with a hammer or a pestle.
🌰 Be careful not to crush your nuts.
🌰 Do not eat pine nuts if the shell has split. They will be rancid.
🌰 Discard the cones and the shells of the pine nuts, leaving you with a small pile.
🌰 You must check with the landowner that you are allowed to forage.
🌰 To store, keep the pine nuts in a freezer.
Why we’re nuts about pine nuts
Pine nuts are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as both Vitamin K and Vitamin E, which should provide a body boost. The best thing about pine nuts is what you can do with them in the kitchen.
Why not check out our recipe for pesto HERE. The main ingredient in any green pesto is pine nuts. All you need to do is mash them up with herbs and hey presto, you have a great Italian sauce!
It’s also usual to toast pine nuts before cooking with them. Toasting pine nuts will add complexity and depth to the flavour. Sprinkle them on top of salads or any moist dish where they can add a crunchy counterpoint.
In conclusion, you’re probably not going to make yourself rich by harvesting pine cones for pine nuts. But, you might save yourself a bit of money and get the sense of satisfaction that comes with foraging for your food.
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Ant & Lou