Pine nuts are actually edible seeds that grow underneath the scales of pine cones. Although many varieties of pine trees produce edible seeds, only about 20 types of pine grow seeds that are big enough to make for a worthwhile human harvest. Pine nuts are easy to find, but somewhat expensive. They can usually be found in the bulk section of most health food and gourmet stores. Pine nuts are a nutritious, flavorful seed.
History and Harvesting
Europeans, Asians and Native Americans alike have a history of enjoying pine nuts. Pine nuts were a critical food source for many Native American tribes, such as the Washoe, who would dry the nuts over hot coals for preservation, then later grind them into pinyon nut flour. This flour would be mixed with water and also berries, fish or plants for a mush. Although many Native American tribes have exclusive rights to U.S. pine nut harvests, some may be legally harvested by anyone. In the majestic Great Basin National Park in Baker, Nevada, harvesting is allowed for personal, non-commercial consumption. There are certain regulations enforced, such as a 25 pounds-per-household limit. Harvesting pine nuts can be a fun, healthy way to enjoy the seeds.
Pine nuts are most delicious when toasted. This gives them a roasted flavor, and a somewhat crunchy texture. Roasting pine nuts takes just a few minutes in a 400--degree oven on a cookie sheet. Pesto is probably one of the most familiar ways to enjoy pine nuts. Many times, other nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, are used as a replacement in recipes, but pine nuts bring the best flavor. Pesto sauce is usually basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil blended together. It is delicious over pasta, pizza or meat. Pine nuts are also often used in desserts such as cookies and cakes.
Pine nuts, like other nuts, are a good source of protein. Vegetarians and vegans can eat nuts as a protein replacement for meat. One serving contains 4 grams of protein. A pine nut serving is more satisfying than some nut servings. One serving equals 167 seeds, compared with six Brazil nuts per serving.
Calories and Fat
One serving of pine nuts contains 190 calories, which is fairly average for nuts. It is best to not exceed more than one serving per sitting to avoid too many calories. This same serving contains 19 grams of fat.
Pine nuts contain many important, healthy nutrients. One serving will provide the following recommended daily amounts of vitamins: iron, 8 percent; magnesium, 20 percent; phosphorus, 16 percent; potassium, 4 percent; zinc, 12 percent; copper 20 percent; manganese, 120 percent; thiamine, 6 percent; riboflavin, 4 percent; niacin, 6 percent; folate, 4 percent; choline, 4 percent; vitamin E, 15 percent.