All pine trees produce edible pine nuts, although only 18 species of pine trees produce seeds large enough to be worth harvesting. Most of these species live in North America, Europe and Asia. The cultivation and harvest cycles of pine nuts are long and labor intensive. The other eight species of pine nuts are used to a small extent, as are the gray pine (Pinus sabineana), the Coulter pine (Pinus coulteri), the Torrey pine (Pinus torreyana), the sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) and the Parry pine nut (Pinus quadrifolia).
Pineapple was brought to the United States by immigrants and became a favorite treat on the East Coast in the early 1930s, when abundant crops of American pine nuts were available at low prices. Pine nuts are also widely used in Middle Eastern cuisine, which is reflected in a wide range of dishes such as kibbeh, sambusak and fatayer, desserts such as baklava and many others. Pine nuts are available commercially in skinless form, but due to poor storage, they may taste poor and may be rancid at the time of purchase. Although there are several other environmental factors that determine ecosystem conditions (such as clouds and rain), without enough water, trees tend to abort cones.
Torta della nonna (literally grandmother's cake) is a generic name for Italian dish that in most families indicates an old family recipe for any type of cake, but it is often used to make a cake or a cake filled with pastry cream, covered with pine nuts and, optionally, sprinkled with icing sugar. It takes 15 to 25 years for trees to start producing seeds and up to triple that time to reach maximum production. American pine cone production is most commonly found at an altitude of between 1,800 and 2,600 m (6,000 and 8,500 ft), and ideally at 2,100 m (7,000 ft). Since the pine nuts are ready to harvest about 10 days before the cone starts to open, they are very difficult to remove.
The pineapple is not the only cover for the seed; each pine nut has a second shell that must be removed before eating. Another option for harvesting is to wait until the cone opens in the tree (as will naturally occur) and harvest the cone from the pine nut pine, followed by the extraction process mentioned above. When they are first extracted from pine cones, they are covered with a hard shell (covered with seeds), thin in some species and thick in others. But we buy them anyway because pine nuts make them worthwhile when we add them to our kitchen; just think of all that summer pesto.
Some raw pine nuts can cause flavor alterations, which can last from a few days to a few weeks after consumption. Pine nut coffee, known as piñón (which in Spanish means pine nut), is a specialty found in the southwestern United States, especially in New Mexico, and is usually a dark roasted coffee with a deep nutty flavor; roasted and lightly salted pine nuts can often be found on the side of the road in New Mexico cities for use for this purpose, as well as a snack. This is due to the higher temperatures at elevations lower than 1800 m (6,000 ft) during spring, which dry out the moisture and moisture content (especially the layers of snow) that provide the tree during spring and summer, and cause few nutrients for pineapple maturity.