Pine Nuts

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What are pine nuts?

Pine nuts are the edible seeds that are harvested from certain species of pines. They’re also called pignolias. They grow between the scales of the pine cones. The thickness of the shell varies according to the species of pine. They are typically elongated or teardrop shaped. Pignolias are ivory-colored and generally measure 1/2″ in length. The extracted seeds have a soft texture and a buttery flavor. They can be eaten raw or toasted. Toasting the seeds intensifies their flavor and adds a slight bit of crunchiness to the seed.

Pollination and seed development

There are approximately 20 species of pines that produce seeds that are large enough to be harvested for consumption. The maturity process for the seed varies according to the exact species. It takes a stone pine seeds 36 months to reach maturity. The growth process for some American species begin in early spring with pollination. A small cone will begin to develop around mid-spring and by the end of the summer a premature cone will develop. This premature cone will remain dormant until the following spring. Growth will then resume and continue until it reaches maturity at the end of the summer.

Elevation and pine cone production

There’s a definite correlation between the quantity of pine cone production and the elevation at which it is grown. The ideal elevation level for the American Pinyon pine cone is 7,000 feet. It can be grown successfully at elevations between 6,000 feet and 8,500 feet. The development of cones is more prolific in areas where humidity is high. Therefore, lower elevations are more conducive to cone development and growth. The cones need moisture for nourishment and growth. Lower elevations are also less susceptible to substantial drops in temperature and various other dramatic weather conditions that can adversely affect the growth of the seeds.

Where are pine nuts grown in the United States

Edible pine nuts can be grown in various locations in the United States. To successfully grow edible pines in the United States, it’s essential that the hardiness zone for the species match the area where the tree is planted. For example, the Korean Pine and Swiss Pine are compatible with zone 2 growing conditions but the Pinyon Pine requires the conditions found in zone 4. New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Colorado are states that are well known for growing pine nuts.

Harvesting Pine Nuts

Pine nuts are typically harvested by hand. The cones can be dislodged from the tree using a hook or a commercial tree shaker. Once the cones are picked up they must go through a curing or drying process before the seed can be extracted from the cone. When the cones are dry, they are broken open and the seeds are picked out of them. Pine nuts have a shell that must be removed. The toughness of the shell varies with the species of pine. Generally, the shell can be removed with a nutcracker. The seed will last for several months if frozen. Toasted seeds should be consumed within a couple of weeks.

Interesting facts about pine nuts

  1. Pine nuts are the only nut that is predominately used in cooking.
  2. Pine nuts have been consumed by humans since prehistoric times.
  3. Pine nuts are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world.
  4. About 80% of pine nuts sold in US are imported.
  5. Pine nuts are considered to be a healthy snack choice for growing kids and teens.
  6. The European stone pine nut has the highest protein content of all nut pines.
  7. All pine nuts are edible, but not all are large enough to harvest.

Species Pine Nuts

There are approximately 100 species, as well as numerous varieties and hybrids of pines. The species vary in seed productivity, physical characteristics, nutritional value, taste, texture, shape and color. They all fall under the basic term pine nuts when retailed. Approximately 20 species of pine produce edible seeds for consumption. The P. koraiensis, Korean pine, the P. sibirica, Siberian Pine, the P. pinea, Italian Stone Pine, are internationally important due to their edible seeds. Among the other more popular species of edible pine are the Swiss Pine, Chilgoza Pine and Chinese White Pine.

Pine Kernels Nutrition

Pine kernels offer an extensive number of nutritional benefits. They can be included in diets that are focused on specific goals such as promoting heart health and achieving weight loss A one ounce serving of pine kernels contains 13%RDA of vitamin E. Vitamin E is a valuable antioxidant nutrient. In addition to vitamin E, these nuts also contain antioxidants such as vitamin A, B, C, D and K which help eliminate free radicals thereby helping prevent disease and slowing the aging process. Free radicals are a major cause of age-related deterioration. This includes an increased risk of developing eye diseases such as macular degeneration. Eating shelled pine nuts can be a preventative step toward maintaining eye health and your general overall physical health as your get older. These nuts contain lutein which is vital to the prevention of various vision related issues. Vitamin K is credited for helping form clots to prevent bleeding after an injury. A one ounce serving of pine nuts provides 19% DV of vitamin K. That same size serving provides 123%DV of manganese. Manganese helps support connective tissue and assist in maintaining hormone balance. Buying bulk pine nuts and including these delectable nuts in your culinary dishes is a positive step toward improving your cardiovascular health. Incorporating these nuts into your diet can decrease cholesterol levels and help lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. The iron provided in these nuts helps produce energy, transport oxygen, increase hemoglobin and contribute to cardiovascular health. These nuts are a good source of copper. Copper aids in the body’s absorption of iron and has anti-aging benefits. These nuts are a good source of calcium, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin Folate and phosphorous, B2, and potassium.

Pine nuts are rich in the fatty acids linoleum and pinolenic. These are considered healthy fats. They assist in regulating blood pressure and suppressing the appetite. Buying bulk pine nuts to include in your favorite dishes is an excellent way to increase your fiber intake. Consuming the proper amount of fiber is a good way to keep your digestive system functioning at its optimum level. Staying healthy enables you to function effectively at work and to enjoy your free time in whatever way you choose. Consistently including these nuts in your diet is one way to stay healthy. In 100g of these nuts, you get 58% RDA of zinc. Zinc is revered for the support it provides the immune system. In that same size serving you get 82%RDA phosphorous. Phosphorous is necessary to maintain healthy tissue. It also supports healthy, strong bones and teeth. Phosphorous helps regulate fluid levels in your body and assists in synthesizing proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It’s also a factor in the creation of energy. The magnesium found in these nuts also helps with energy production, the prevention of fatigue and muscle cramps and eases tension.

Carbs in pine nuts

Shelled pine nuts are an acceptable food for those who are focused on a low carbohydrate diet. One ounce of pignolias has 4g of carbohydrates. Eating a low carbohydrate diet can reduce your appetite which can be a boost to a weight loss goal. A low carbohydrate diet can help in the reduction of abdominal fat. A low carbohydrate diet can reduce your blood pressure and help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. It can also help you achieve and maintain the proper insulin level. You can easily find numerous recipes that include pine nuts that will fit perfectly into a low carbohydrate diet.

How much protein in pine kernels?

If you have adopted a low carbohydrate diet as part of an overall weight loss plan, it’s important that you eat get an adequate amount of protein in your daily diet. Pignolias are a good source of protein and are an acceptable item for a low carbohydrate diet, a weight loss diet, a heart-healthy diet and numerous other specialized eating plans. It’s recommended that women get 60g of protein a day and that men get 80g of protein daily. You can acquire almost 14% of the protein you need each day in a 100g serving of pine nuts.

Calories in pine nuts

When you’re on a weight loss diet, you’re likely to be focused on the calorie count of the foods you eat. One ounce of pine nuts has approximately 19 calories. The fat content of one ounce of these nuts is 18g with 5.2g being monounsaturated fat and 9.5g being poly-unsaturated fat. Studies have shown that the fatty acids from pine nuts can lead to the release of cholecystokinin which is a hormone known to suppress the appetite. These nuts also contain pinolenic acid that enhance other hormones which reduce hunger and provide energy. When you’re evaluating a food, such as pine nuts, you’ll want to determine the overall benefits of the food in relation to the benefits it provides to your weight loss plan. A tablespoon of these nuts contains about 60 calories. When you consider all of the benefits they provide, as well as the amazing way they satisfy hunger, you’ll find them to be an ideal quick snack for any time of day.