Scientific name – Pinus pinea
Today, the most common pine nuts in the market place are seeds of the ‘stone pine’, Pinus pinea, but several other pine trees are harvested to some extent. When first extracted from the pine cone, they are covered with a hard shell, thin in some species, thick in others which is removed before eating and the seeds are usually sold already shelled.
Pine nuts are best known for their use in pesto sauce, have a very delicate taste and texture and are high in protein which makes them especially useful in a vegetarian diet. They are often eaten raw, when they have a soft texture and a sweet buttery flavour and are especially good in salads. They are delicious toasted as this brings out their flavour. The native Indian tribes of North America have used them as a staple of the diet for many thousands of years; eaten whole, ground and baked into cakes, or pounded into a butter-like paste. In the Mediterranean countries the nuts are cracked by rollers, and then very lightly roasted, which takes away their natural slight turpentine taste.