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Flavor differences of edible pine nuts

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Flavor Differences of Southwestern Pinon nuts, Nevada Pine nuts, Italian pignolia, and Asian varieties..

Piñon Nuts:: Euell Gibbons the famous naturalist from the 1970's (seen on grape nuts commercials), described the New Mexico Piñon nut as being the best tasting wild food in the world. He did not say all pine nuts - only the New Mexico Piñon nut (Pinus Edulis). If you have ever tried one, you would remember the flavor... no pine resin taste, just creamy toasted goodness. There is only one number one wild food in the world - and this is it.

Nevada Pine nuts, are very "resinous" and have a strong pine taste. - you can tell instantly that it is a Pine nut - or could guess even if you never tried one before.. Nevada Pine nuts (Pinus Monophelia) are sold in the Southwest when New Mexico Piñon nuts run out.

Asian Imports: Pine nuts from Korea have a slightly less resinous taste than Nevada Pine nuts, but one could still know they are from a pine tree. China - Blandest tasting pine nuts, unfortunately because of improper handling, or possibly an inherent character of the species, they tend not to store well, and go rancid within 12 months. Many rancid samples have come across my desk.

Italian pignolia Most similar tasting to New Mexico Pinon, very creamy, buttery toasted flavor with the slightest hint of pine taste... but many have blamed over cultivation to the blanding of the flavor of this variety.

Pine trees are common, less known perhaps is the fact that some members of the pine family also bear edible seeds or "nuts". Out of the 100 recognized species of true pines, only a "few produce nuts of sufficient quality and desirable flavor to make them worth eating."

Pine nut varieties that have different names come from different species of Pine trees. Pine nuts from New Mexico are called Pinon nuts or Piñon by Law in New Mexico. Euell Gibbons called the pinon nut "The most palatable of all the wild foods." This is quite a compliment. Pinon is a name derived from the Spanish word for pine nut. Pinon nuts come specifically from the pine tree species: Pinus Edulis. They taste different from other varieties. The pinon pine tree is a two-needled pine which grows wild in high desert mountain areas of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. These edible nuts are not to be confused with the "single needle" pine tree from Nevada. The pinon nut grown primarily on Indian reservations in the Southwest United States is normally roasted in the shell. Their availability is rather scarce, and the pinon nut must first be removed from the shell prior to consumption. New Mexico Pinon nuts are very difficult to harvest, hence their cost.

Pine nut development in North America is modest in comparison with that in Europe. The Italian pine tree, with superior timber, is larger and grows faster than the stunted pinon of the southwestern United States. Italian stone pine plantations are well established in Mediterranean Europe, while the American pinon remains mostly neglected and uncultivated.

About European Pine nuts

The most common in Europe is the "pignolia" nuts of the Italian stone pine, grown for the most part in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and North Africa. In Italian stone pine harvests, the trees are shaken to remove the kernel. Once removed, they are dried further before being processed in a milling station to remove the kernel from its hard outer shell. The kernels and shells are separated by sifting; the testa, or thin skin which still covers the kernel, is then removed. Thereafter, the kernels are graded and sized. Superior, unblemished, shelled kernels, both large and small, are reserved for the export market; the remaining kernels are sold locally or utilized in prepared foods. Although pignolia nuts may be eaten out of hand, raw or roasted, they have the distinction of being the only nuts used predominantly as ingredients for cooking. For many centuries in European cookery, they have been blended with meats, fish and poultry, and have been used in many different sauces.

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