Pine nuts are known for their distinctive taste and for the wide range of uses – from sauces to breads to the sweetest desserts.
The pine nut is the edible seed from pinecones of certain varieties of trees. It is an important ingredient in Italian pestos, but is also used extensively throughout the Middle East in stuffings and many types of desserts.
China produces a majority of pine nuts, along with Italy, Pakistan, Spain, Portugal, Africa, Russia, and Turkey. The United States, especially in the southwest, also contributes to the worldwide market availability.
There are two main groups of nuts. American/Mediterranean (also called Italian) nuts come from the stone pine tree. Asian varieties are oilier, less expensive, and have a stronger flavor. All types are high in protein and monounsaturated fats.
• Pine nuts may be labeled in a number of ways: pinon or pinyon, pine kernels, Indian nuts (Eastern U.S.), and pignolia (Europe).
• They will be sold unshelled or shelled, salted or unsalted, and fresh or dehydrated.
• “Fresh” pine nuts should only be sold in the shell.
• The expense lies in the harvesting methods. Inferior products will be reflected in the price, which is indicative of a poor growing season and inadequate cleaning and storage.
• Keep refrigerated or frozen, whether in the shell or not. They will remain good for about 30 days cold and up to 9 months in the freezer.
• Do not use airtight containers for refrigeration, as the nuts will grow moldy without some circulation.
• To freeze, place nuts in a plastic bag or other container and add water. Once thawed, they should be consumed (raw or roasted) immediately.
• Roasting pine nuts at home is simple. Preheat an oven to 350ºF and roast for approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Watch closely; the heavy concentration of oils cause them to burn easily. When they begin to pop, toss and continue baking until the preferred golden brown is reached.
• It takes approximately 1,500 nuts to make up a pound. Each nut is one calorie.
• Puree and add to sauce