Pine Nuts, Stone pine, piñón, pinyons, Indian nuts
pignon (French), Piniennufs (German), pignolo (Italian), piñón (Spanish), pinhào (Portuguese), pignólia (Greek), camfistigi (Turkish), habb-es-sanawbar (Arabic), song guo (Chinese)
(Pinus sp. – Family Pinaceae)
Pine nuts are commercially sold under these names and are the most common of the pine nuts. The kernels are small, creamy-coloured and obtained from the cones of different varieties of pine trees. They greatly resemble puffed rice. The best of these are of high value, but are difficult to cultivate commercially. Pine trees only grow in the northern hemisphere under conditions that defy cultivation, fertilization, irrigation, mechanical spraying/harvesting/shelling. All operations must be done by hand while in competition with rats, birds, and insects.
The finest pine nuts are most in demand for Arab, Spanish, and other cultural dishes and confections. Native Americans have used pine nuts for eons; and, in the Old World, their use goes back even farther. The Mediterranean stone pine, P. pine, which grows at quite low altitudes, is a familiar feature of the landscapes of Provence, Italy, and the Middle East. Its nuts are the finest and the second most expensive nut in the USA because of their import status (Macadamias are first and pistachios third). Some pine nuts are eaten out of hand, raw or roasted, but most are used as ingredients in cooking, most often in Turkey, the Middle East, North Africa, Sicily, and other parts of Italy and the Iberian peninsula. They work well in both savory and sweet dishes. Tunisians add a few to their glasses of mint tea.
There are about eighty different pines in the world, being most numerous in the cooler latitudes and relatives of the spruce, fir, and hemlock. The pines belong to the Gymnosperms, which literally bear naked seeds. These nuts play a very small role in the economy of pine products with the lumber, pulp, and resins being more important. Pines may not produce cones heavily until after they are seventy-five years old. Therefore, the lack of demand, the slow growth, and seed-production make it economically unrewarding to cultivate them solely for food. In addition, man cannot compete with the small animals and birds for the crop.