Why are Pine Nuts So Expensive?

Recently I made a trip to the store to pick up some pine nuts for a pesto linguine recipe. I left noticeably poorer. After scanning my receipt to see where I'd gone wrong, I noticed that it was the pine nuts. I could've bought a gallon of pesto for what I paid for pine nuts that day.

So why are they so darn expensive? There are a few reasons. First there the obvious climate changes that are affecting crops worldwide. More specifically, most of our pine nuts are grown in China and Russia and in the past few years the crops have suffered in quality. All the while, demand is growing as more and more people are becoming acquainted with recipes for pesto, sauces, and savory desserts.

Also, pine nuts are labor intensive. Remember, they're really just edible seeds produced by pine cones. Plain and simple. To gather those seeds from the cones takes time. Combine poor crops, a labor intensive product, and a greater demand and you've got your answer.

So what's a pine nut-loving gal to do? How about finding alternatives to traditional pesto and sauces? Experiment with other nuts like almonds and walnuts in savory desserts? Or wait out the storm, and all the while, enjoy pine nuts in moderation.

Related: Ingredient Spotlight: Pine Nuts

(Image: Kathryn Hill)

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Megan is a freelance writer, recipe developer and cookbook writer. Her first book, Whole-Grain Mornings, (Ten Speed Press) is available in bookstores nationwide. Megan also owns the Seattle-based artisan cereal company, Marge Granola.