Pine nuts are edible seeds from the cones of pine trees. Pines are evergreen trees characterized by needle like leaves and production of pine cones. Pine nuts are a source of protein and dietary fiber. They are often added to meat, fish and vegetable dishes. And they are an essential ingredient in Italian pesto sauces. There are 115 different species of pines, but only about 20 of those species are used to harvest pine nuts for culinary purposes. There are other species, of pine, which can also harvest edible pine nuts. However, the seeds are too small and not considered for human consumption. Some pines used to harvest pine nuts are stone, armand, siberian, pinon, torrey, coulter and gray pines.
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Stone pines are harvested in the Mediterranean region of southern Europe. It has been harvested for edible pine nuts since pre-historic times. Their pine cones take about 36 months to fully mature. The pine nuts are large, pale brown, with a powdery black coating. Other names for the stone pine includes the umbrella pine, European nut pine, Italian stone pine and parasol pine.
The Siberian pine belongs to the white pine group and is harvested in Siberia. The Siberian pine cones are 5 to 9 cm long which produce seeds that are 9 to 12 mm with a vestigial wing.
The pinyon pine is harvested in Mexico and Southwest United States. They produce shiny pine cones which grow individually and the end of the branches. When dried, the pinyon cones open and release about two dozen wingless seeds.
The torrey pine grows along the coast San Diego, California in the United States and Santa Rosa Island of Santa Barbara. The torrey pine produces large heavy pine cones which yields large, hard shelled seeds.
Coulter pines are grown in California, United States and Baja California, Mexico. The pine cones, produced from this tree, are nicknamed "widowmakers" and are the largest of all the pine tree species. The spiny cones are about 8 to 16 inches long and weigh 4 to 10 lbs.
The gray pines are grown in California, United States. This tree produces large and heavy pine cones.