Pine nuts (also called pignoli) are the edible seeds of pine trees. Seeds are the inner part, generally edible, of a hard and inedible shell.
Pine nutsare one of the most expensive nuts on the market due to the time needed to grow them and the effort involved in harvesting the seeds from their protective shell. Pine nuts have been identified as a potentially important source of native foods in many areas of the southwestern United States.
While all pine trees produce seeds, relatively few produce nuts, which are simply seeds, large, edible seeds. Pines aren't completely self-infertile, but trees that “self-feed” (the cones are pollinated with their own pollen) will have poor seed production and lots of empty seeds. Almost all pine nuts are harvested in the wild, and the size and location of the crops vary considerably from year to year and from region to region. However, there are many other pine trees that produce edible nuts; the main reason stone pine and stone pine are widely used is because they produce very large seeds, making them relatively easy to harvest.
Forest seed garden managers often try to stress pine trees so that they produce seed cones. Therefore, the current environmental impact of harvesting pine nuts is much more localized compared to the extensive system of walnut orchards cultivated around the world. Locally sourced shelled pine nuts can be a sustainable alternative to buying imported pine nuts. The potential of pine pine forests to promote food security and sustainability in the 21st century remains largely untapped.
If you want to disconnect from the global pine nut supply chain, you can choose to harvest your own pine nuts. It is not known whether patients who have shown anaphylactic sensitivity to pine nuts and other nuts or seeds do so because of the cross-reaction of antigens or because they simply react separately due to their highly atopic nature. The strong North American and European demand for pine nuts has come at the expense of types of forests abroad. Pines are wind-pollinated, so leave enough space between trees for air to circulate and transport pollen between trees.
A recent review published in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology indicates that the vast majority of people who are allergic to pine nuts are not allergic to nuts. This is because most conifers are species that “dominate”, meaning that seed production varies synchronously within a population from year to year, and large seed harvests (years of masts or abundant harvests) can only be produced once every 3 to 7 years. For example, intensive nut harvesting in coniferous forests has degraded broadleaf forests in parts of Eastern Asia.3.