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What are pine nuts and do they really come from pine trees?

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Pine nuts
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Question: What are pine nuts and do they really come from pine trees?
What are pine nuts and do they really come from pine trees?
Answer: Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees. They are small elongated ivory-colored seeds from pine cones, measuring about 1/2 inch long. When raw, the seeds have a soft texture and a sweet, buttery flavor. They are often lightly toasted to bring out the flavor and to add a little crunch.

The most commonly harvested seeds come from four particular pine tree varieties: the Mexican pinon (Pinus cembroides), the Colorado pinion (P. edulis), the Italian stone pine (P. pinea), and the Chinese nut pine (P. koraiensis). It takes anywhere from 15 to 25 years for the trees to begin producing the seeds and up to triple that time for them to reach top production. The majority of the North American harvest comes from wild, uncultivated trees. For the most part, the seeds are harvested by hand, a contributing factor to their expensive pricetag.

Pine nuts are eaten by many cultures around the world, thus they are known by many names. Probably the most popular use is in pesto or as a crunchy salad topper, but they are also good in desserts. Learn about pine nuts, and get some cooking tips before delving into the pine nut recipes.

More About Pine Nuts and Pine Nut Recipes:

Pine Nut Selection and Storage
Pine Nut Cooking Tips and Measures
What are pine nuts? FAQ
Pine Nut History
Pine Nut Recipes
Pine Nuts Photo © 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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