Pine Nuts

Are Pignolias really from a Pine Tree? I was curious what the seeds were from that were labeled “Pignolias” and marked on the bag that they came from China. I learned that they do indeed come from some kind of pine trees. Many species of pine can be used to harvest the seeds. The pine cones make a little seed pod containing one or two pine nuts held in place by each woody bract of its pine cone. The bigger pine cones make bigger seeds so although any pine species CAN make pine nuts, the ones you usually buy are from 2 or 3 species of large coned pine.

If you buy pine nuts that come from Europe, you will probably get seeds from the Stone Pine (Pinus pinea). However, most pine nuts I have seen for sale are not this species from Europe, but rather from China. In China, the most common types of pines used are the Korean Pine (Pinus koraiensis) and Chilgoza Pine (Pinus gerardiana). The Korean pine nuts are more egg shaped, while the Stone pine seeds are more slender. There are several minor species that are used as well, but they are unusual gourmet types.

Pine nuts are most commonly used in pesto and as garnishes. They are nutritionally high in calories and full of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. An ounces of nuts (167 kernels) contains 191 calories, 4 g of protein, 19 g of fat, 1 g of fiber and 3.71 carbohydrate. They are called “nuts” in cooking circles but they are actually the seeds of the pine cone.

I learned about a risk in eating pine nuts from China. Some people have reported a metallic taste in their mouth 2-3 days after consuming them. It seems to be a passing thing that slowly goes away. The cause of this is unknown. It may be that the seeds have been treated with an unknown substance to keep the fats stable.

Whatever you call them, Pignolias or Pine nuts, they are delicious.

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