Humans have consumed pine nuts since the Palaeolithic times.
Pine nuts, of which there are approximately 20 species, are the edible seeds of fines.
In Asia, two species are widely harvested – Korean pine and Chilgoza pine (Himalayas).
In China, the white pine is popular.
In Europe, the stone pine has been cultivated for more than 6000 years, and eaten longer than those in wild form.
In North America, pine nuts grow in the southwestern part of the U.S.A and are generally harvested by Hopi, Uto-Azteca, Piaiute, and Washoe tribes; Species and terroir yield lightly different shapes, colour, texture, and flavour.
Afghanista is the largest producer of pine nuts, but China, Lebanon, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, and Italy also contribute to the world supply.
Not all pine nuts are created equal.
While Chinese pine nuts are the most popular and the lowest priced, Italians think pinoli (pine nuts) taste best, and Lebanese will tell you no other pine nut is as tasty as theirs.
In practically all Mediterranean cuisines, pine nuts figure largely for texture and flavour. They are used in stuffings for a variety of vegetables i.e tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cabbage or vine leaves. Zucchini, in cookies, baking, tortes, added to fish, meat, poultry and salads.
Small minority of Chinese pine nuts may cause an unpleasant taste that can last for a few days to a few weeks.
Pine nuts are so entrenched in Italian cuisine, that in 1666 the Pope declared an entire plantation of them sacred, located coast near Rome. To this day, pine nuts are used in a variety of dishes in Italian recipes.
This ingredient is expensive as harvesting remains labour intensive process.
Store pine nuts in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator, since at room temperature (20 C) the oily nuts turns rancid.
Always buy pine nuts in bulk from high-turnover stores and insect before buying, Whitish brown nuts are old, those that show oxidized (brown) ends are too old, and have been stored at warm temperatures.
Here is a pesto recipe you can use to flavour your spaghetti, and other similar shapes pastas:
Yield: Sufficient for 600 grams pasta or 2 cups
¼ cup pine nuts
2 cups tightly packed basil elaevs’2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
Coarse sea salt to taste
6 Tbsp grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
2 Tbsp Pecorino, grated
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Toast pine nuts in a pan briefly (five to six minutes). Cool completely.
Rinse basil, and pat dry. Place basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and salt in a mortar and grind with a rotary movement. Add both cheeses and grind to combine.
Transfer to a large bowl and pour oil while whisking.