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Also Known as
Chilgoza, Indian nuts, Pinon, Pignon, Pignolia, Pignoli, Pinolos, Pinhao, and Pignole.
Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees. They are small elongated ivory-colored seeds from pine cones, measuring about 1/2 inches 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.
For the most part, the seeds are harvested by hand, a contributing factor to their expensive price tag.
Take a sharp knife and then cut it into half from the centre. Cut the half portion into another half and remove the seeds from centre. Chop ingredients by cutting them in small pieces approximately ¼ inch in diameter, although the chopped food doesn't need to be exactly the same size. If the recipe calls for the ingredients to be "coarsely chopped," make the pieces slightly larger
How to Select
Roasting pine nuts, in the oven or in the microwave is one of the good ways to avoid addition of fat. It can also be roasted in a pan with continuous stirring to avoid any kind of burnt flavour on a low flame. There's nothing like the taste of freshly roasted pine nuts. Roasted pine nuts make a delightful snacking experience. The sweetness of the pine nut is enhanced by roasting and a light sprinkling of salt.
Pine nuts are most commonly sold already shelled. However, in some areas you can find them in the shell. Seeds in the shell are more likely to last longer. The high oil content makes them turn rancid quickly if not stored properly. If you are buying from a bulk provider, use your nose and avoid any that smell rancid. Purchase from a source with a high turnover to ensure optimum freshnessCulinary Uses
" Pine nuts are eaten by many cultures around the world, thus they are known by many names.
" The most popular use is in pesto or as a crunchy salad topper, but they are also good in desserts.
" Pine nuts may be eaten raw but are usually roasted or toasted.
" Pine nuts, when topped on desserts add a wonderful texture and flavor to the dish.
" Pine nuts are getting attention from today's cooks and restaurants as a new flavor to add to a variety of dishes. Toss them in green salads for crunch and pasta dishes (such as penne with broccoli and pine nuts
" Raw pine nuts are ground and used to make Italian pesto sauce.
" Pine nuts can be roasted in a 350°F (180°C) oven or on top of the stove until golden brown. Pine nuts are used in salads, stuffing, and other savory dishes, and can be used to make cookies, breads, and dessertsHow to Store
To protect the nutritive value of the nut, pine nuts should ideally be stored in - shell.
Both shelled and unshelled pine nuts should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month or in the freezer up to three monthsHealth Benefits
" Pine nuts are actually one of the higher fat nuts, and are often used in rich foods such as pesto. But don't let their small size fool you -- pine nuts are very nutrient dense, and full of vitamins A, C and D.
" The best thing about pine nuts is their high concentration of monounsaturated fat, which paves the way for a healthier cardiovascular system.
" The vitamin D in pine nuts leads to stronger bones and teeth, by improving the body's ability to absorb calcium, and vitamins A and C may sharpen vision and boost the immune system many processed or flavored nuts are high in fat, sugar and sodium, and have added chemicals and preservatives.
" When cooking for guests, be sure to let them know when you cook with pine nuts. Most people who are allergic to more common nuts are also allergic to pine nuts.