Pine nuts are the edible seeds produced by pinecones. Most pine nuts are too small to make it worth the time and trouble to harvest; only a few species of pine nuts are large enough to make it worthwhile. First, they have to be extracted from the scales of the pine cones, and then the hard outer shells have to be removed. Unless you really want to forage for your own, it's probably best to just buy them already shelled at the store!
Pine nuts are a key ingredient in pesto. They are also really great eaten as a snack and added to salads. They're a great addition to pastas, grains, and pizzas. In Italy, they are baked in cookies. In the Southwestern United States, pine nuts are brewed with coffee. They contain good amounts of protein and fiber. Their taste is slightly sweet with an oily mouthfeel. They have been eaten since Paleolithic times.
Pine nuts are prone to turning rancid, so seal them in a container or Ziploc bag and keep them in the refrigerator.
In North America, these pine species produce large, edible nuts:
• Pinyon pines
• Gray Pine
• Torrey Pine
• Sugar Pine
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(Image: Kathryn Hill)